A trout fisherman’s creel holds more memories than fish – a fact as verifiable as the DEET on a fisherman’s lips on a North Country spring. The taste for adding more lasts a creel owner’s lifetime. Spring renews this ritual drive, just as it does the greening of forest understory by opening day.
Father’s wicker fishing creel hung on the cabin wall for decades. Useful until its leather bracing cracked, it was eventually relegated to the wall museum – something all North Country deer cabins have. Even then, the latch worked as bottle opener. (Truth be told, on many springs, ‘bottle trout’ were all we caught.)
Speaking of bottles, a Lower Michigan brewery recently named a beer after UP’s Big Two Hearted River – the trout stream Hemingway made famous in his Nick Adams stories. This is how, in America, our creeled memories flow around Consumer Bend, out of sight until a new ‘brand’ floats by.
A traditional man’s wicker fishing creel fit poorly on a woman’s hip or chest. American marketers long ago found a way to feminize the design, however. Here’s one with little remaining from the original design except materials used.
There are designer hand bags for ladies that resemble an actual fishing creel, but without a body harness. Here’s one on Ebay.
I’d read in sportsman’s magazines of bears just out of hibernation, lured to opening day’s sweet fishy creel smells. I thought this was a rural legend until it happened to me on the Popple River one long ago May-Before-Climate-Change.
The yearling bear came splashing toward me, apparition-like across a flickering boulder-strewn riffle. Throw the trout on his side of the river and run toward the other? Or, instead, unbuckle the harness and drop the works on my side of the river, making my get-away as he smashed it open?
Lacking time to study the choices, I instinctively threw the trout on his side of the river (though this be the first time the tale was told). Having kept possession of Dad’s creel, it seemed doubtful anyone would believe my story without a retrieved claw- and tooth-marked creel to show as evidence
Brook trout are in a precarious situation now, with climate change isolating head-water populations and increasing heat stress on the main stems of rivers.
My creel still holds colorful memories. So there’s that.