Retirement — more time to get skunked...
By Eric Sharp/AuSable Trout
Much to my surprise, and my wife's aggravation, this retirement gig took a few months to get used to. After 50 years of mostly-gainful employment as a newspaper reporter, living without deadlines and the need to be at certain places at certain times seemed sybaritic at first.
But after a winter, spring and early summer spent fishing for redfish and tarpon and other inshore species in Florida, trout in Michigan and Montana and bass in New York; hiking in Montana and the Everglades and the Upper Peninsula; spending long days making some great bird photographs, and writing a few magazine pieces with a deadline of weeks and not hours, I'm thinking a guy could get used to this.
I'm also delighted that Craig Porter, a close friend and companion for almost 40 years in adventures both journalistic and sporting, decided to start this website after he hung up his cameras, at least metaphorically.
For the past 11 years he was no longer a "shooter" (a term photographers hate but is handy for pulling his chain.) Instead, he decided to become a grown-up and served as the Director of Photography and Video at the Detroit Free Press, where I was the outdoors writer for 23 years. After he sold out to management he no longer got much time to play outside.
Now he can spend weeks at a time at his cabin on the North Branch, and often does. When I spent a few days with him there last summer the hatches were virtually non-existent. But instead of flailing the water to foam with streamers, as we would have done in the days when he was lucky to get a weekend at the cabin, we relaxed and watched the river whisper by, happy in the knowledge that when the hatches started again we'd have lots of time to enjoy them.
Around Christmas, three months after retiring, someone asked if I missed living in Grayling, where my wife, Susan, and I had spent 23 years in a home on Lake Margrethe just minutes from the headwaters of both the Au Sable and Manistee Rivers.
Looking at the palm trees in our yard in Fort Myers, Fla., where I was about to hop into my boat to fish for seatrout and snook in some mangrove creeks, I was ready to answer, "Hell, no!"
Then something funny happened: I realized that I really had missed the fabulous fall fishing for trout and salmon, and sitting in a treestand in October, waiting with a bow across my lap for a deer that was dumber than me, and walking the woods for grouse.
This year I intend to enjoy all those things, hopefully much of the time in Craig's company. And just as hopefully we can both continue working to make people aware of what a precious resource they have in northern Michigan's trout streams, and help in the fight to protect them from people too greedy or stupid to care about preserving the wild places and wild creatures.
Craig was one of the best photographers I ever worked with. That's saying a lot, because I was privileged to know some great ones in a career that included stints at The Buffalo Evening News, The Associated Press, The Miami Herald and the Freep.
When videos became an important element for newspaper a decade ago Craig jumped in with both feet. He not only led his staff to four National and numerous regional Emmy's, he became a skilled videographer and editor in his own right.
Now I hope we both can use the skills we learned in many decades as newsmen to continue to show and tell others, especially younger people, how valuable, fragile and vulnerable are the wild places and creatures we value so much.
And it means I get to enjoy more outdoors adventures with Craig, although he probably doesn't always look back on our past ramblings with the same enthusiasm.
Like the time when he was just out of Michigan State and still single, and I insisted he stop the car while returning from a trip up north so I could cut the tail off a road-killed skunk to make authentic Earl Madsen skunk streamers.
Of course, I had to step on the body to hold it still while cutting, and a fair amount of eau de woods pussy transferred to the carpet of his car.
He had a date that night, and she apparently would lift her head now and then, sniff the air and ask, "Are you sure you don't smell something?"
Ah, good times.
Editor's note: Eric Sharp recently retired after 23 years as the Outdoors Writer at the Detroit Free Press.
Now based in Florida, Eric will contribute occasional essays to AuSableTrout.com when the mangrove creeks aren't calling his name.
You can email him at Eric@AuSableTrout.com