WHILE SOME MIGHT argue it is possible that there is never an absolutely perfect day, I had a couple last week that would heartily dispute them.

Finally looking like spring should look like in early May, I got the hankering to go catch a trout fish last Friday. The hankering was strong enough that I found I couldn’t wait for Wisconsin’s season to open Saturday so I did the next best thing, heeding the advice of Herbert Greeley, the unknown brother of Horace, who said “Go north young man, go north.”

Don’t look in any history books to find mention of Greeley, as historians traditionally have ignored the fact there may have been such a brother, but if he did exist, I am inclined to believe he said to go north.

A beautiful, sunny Friday afternoon, Gordie, Molly and I piled into our truck and headed north to the famed trout waters of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. My destination was a little lake up Houghton, Mich., way where I have caught many trout in the past.

I launched my kayak, leaving the two canines to sleep in the truck after a 15-minute excited ramble through the surrounding woods. I had a little trouble getting away from the launch as the remnants of winter shelf ice had the landing almost blocked.

The bottom of the kayak crunched over the top of submerged ice, but unlike the Titanic, it suffered no damage and in short order, I had a line in the water. I headed for a 12-foot bar that drops off to more than 30 feet mid-lake to see if the trout were in their normal place. They might have been, but after two hours of trying that spot and slowly paddle-trolling with a floating jig and minnow rig around the rest of the lake with no success, I concluded that they either weren’t there or weren’t interested in a free meal.

Fish or no, to paddle around a beautiful, secluded Upper Peninsula lake seemingly a million miles from civilization left me in a perfect mood. Balsam scent was abundant along the shore along with that of cedar, second only in my book to that of balsam, as the most pleasant scent in all of the outdoors.

Working along not too far out from shore on the way back to the truck, I finally had a fish hit. Setting the hook, I thought for a brief second that I had the grandpa of all grandpas of trout on the line, but alas, that was not to be. After a brief battle, an 18-inch, deep-bellied smallmouth bass was brought aboard. His fight was far less than one would normally expect from what I regard as the top brawler of all north country fish. I quickly concluded the ice cold water was the reason for his lethargic effort.

After admiring his bronze-backed beauty, I slid him back into the water and watched as he slowly drifted into the depths from whence he came. Though not the trout I sought, he provided a nearly-perfect ending to a perfectly beautiful spring afternoon.

The next day was, as we all know, the opening day for Wisconsin fishermen. My hankering to catch a trout fish, still unfulfilled, led me to a beautiful trout haven some 60 miles north in Iron County. On a nearly unspoiled lake surrounded by huge hardwood trees interspersed with balsam and cedar, I once again set sail, so to speak, in my kayak. After a lengthy run in the surrounding woods, Gordie and Mollie once again settled down for a nap in the truck while I fished.

For more than an hour, the trout in this lake ignored me much as their Michigan cousins had the day before. The honorable president of the Old Duck Hunters’ Association would have been proud of me for my efforts. I started out as he would have, throwing live bait at the trout early on, switching to spinners and other such artificals later, back to wax worms after that and finally, with desperation setting in, to a wooden wabbler such as “Hizzoner” favored.

I knew there had to be trout waiting to be caught and I was right. They eventually liked that wooden wabbler; they liked it a lot. It took about 10,000 casts to find a trout with a hankering as strong for that wabbler as my hankering was to catch him, but it was worth the effort.

A hard strike and a spirited struggle resulted in a 13-inch rainbow with bright crimson streaks running lengthwise along his flanks being scooped up by my small net. A perfect late morning on a perfect sunny day had just become even more perfect.

How good it felt to slide the first trout of the year into an old wicker creel that just barely fits in the small cockpit of my kayak; how good it felt to have a warm sun beat down on my shoulders on a lake which not another soul shared with me; how good it felt to be trout fishing another opening day.

But as Hizzoner would say, a 13-incher hardly qualifies as a kitchen sink fish. On went my quest to find such a behemoth. For another hour, I worked that wooden wabbler and during that time, I caught and released — some of them prereleasing themselves before I could get them aboard — a dozen more rainbows. They were — as another trout angler of another era, Robert Traver, would call them — wizened fryers. 

I threw most back, but finally admitting I would have to accept fryers to have the makings of a fish fry, I kept four more of the 8- to 10-inch variety. With great reluctance I said goodbye to my gorgeous little lake.

After sniffing the hatful of trout I poured out on dry grass back at the truck, the dogs signaled their approval, contingent on their being allowed to make another spirited tour of the surrounding woods.

Then, it was homeward bound in early afternoon where a rake, wheelbarrow, and lots of pine needles and dry leaves were waiting for me. 

Forced labor aside, savoring trout grilled to perfection over a wood fire that evening was indeed a perfect ending to a perfect day.