A few of us were sitting on the patio having a beer and talking about good days — what makes them and why we value them and how you don’t always recognize them until they sneak up and surprise you. You might not realize you had a good day until much later.
It reminded me of a morning last summer when my friend James McCullough stopped by unexpectedly. Strapped to the top of his truck was his old fiberglass canoe — he calls it “The Green Meany” because it’s covered with scars and weighs hundreds of pounds.
It was a Saturday and I already had plans, but James was insistent. I grabbed my fishing gear and jumped in the truck.
We drove to the end of a lake we’d fished together a few times in the past. It’s the narrow, shallow arm of much larger lake and is lined with lily pads and reeds. James announced he would paddle and I would fish, so I took the bow seat and rigged my rod, tying on a fake frog made of deer hair.
For the next few hours James paddled us along the shore while I caught and released a couple dozen largemouth bass up to three pounds. It was early summer and the fish were in the vegetation where they could ambush prey as it wandered past. I cast the frog into the thickest salad and made it run over the top of the lily pads as if it were desperate to escape — and more often than not, the bass hiding below tried to kill it as it skittered overhead. I’d set the hook and the bass would come out of the water shaking their heads and go crazy for a few minutes.
It was a bluebird day in early June, warm and nearly windless. Just about perfect. Late in the afternoon, the wind came up. First we noticed wispy fingers of fog winding through the woods. Behind the fog came a wall of cold air off Lake Michigan.
Suddenly, the temperature dropped 20 degrees in 20 seconds, and we found ourselves shivering in our shorts and tee-shirts.
The wind grew stronger until whitecaps covered the lake, and I finally put my rod down and took up one of James’ big beavertail paddles. We set off downwind as hard as we could paddle. I’m sure it was the fastest the Green Meany has ever gone. Even then, the waves ran beneath us from the stern, and whitecaps streamed banners of spray around and past us.
And we started laughing. It was pure joy. We laughed because of the fish we had caught. Because of the fog through the trees. Because of the cold and wind. Because we were flying down the lake in an absurdly heavy canoe while our friendship grew stronger by the moment.
Yes, that was a good day.
Reflections columnist Jerry Dennis lives near Traverse City. His many books include “Canoeing Michigan Rivers,” “From a Wooden Canoe” and “The Living Great Lakes.” Visit him at jerrydennis.net.