LAST WEEK WAS a pilgrimage for me, long overdue, to the Bois Brule River in Douglas County. Gordon MacQuarrie, for those who have not had the great good fortune of reading his many stories of The Old Duck Hunters Association Inc., was an extraordinary writer of outdoor tales, many of which are regarded as among the best ever written by any American author.

The stories were centered on his birthplace of Superior, and evolved to include the counties of Douglas, Bayfield, Sawyer, Washburn and Ashland. His greatest loves were the Brule River and the Middle Eau Claire Lake area, where he had a cabin that was headquarters for many of his outdoor adventures, especially those devoted to trout fishing at the Brule.

I have fished a fair amount, not nearly enough, in those counties. My love affair with the Brule began in August of 1966. My dad wanted to take me on my first excursion to the Brule and thanks to an understanding Eagle River High School head football coach, Chuck Hanke, I was given two nights off from preseason practice to go on the adventure.

It was on that trip that I caught my first ever trout on dry flies, though I had for several years fooled my share of them with wet flies like my favorite, a No. 8 Muddler Minnow.

We arrived at my first trip to the Brule River campground an August afternoon when the sun beat down from a cloudless sky and the temperature rose into the 80s, much as was the case last Monday, when my wife and I set up our little camper on Site No. 13.

The instant she and I stepped out of the truck we discovered all the mosquitoes from six states and four Canadian provinces had migrated to the Brule campground. There were enough of them to carry away small children and large dogs. We survived only because we were armed with not one, but two fully loaded cans of bug dope.

It was a joyous five days and four nights at the Brule despite the mosquitoes. We practically had the entire campground to ourselves, with only one other site filled each night. One of those nights the other site housed two friends from St. Germain who were on a two-day canoe outing with two of their buddies, paddling from Stone’s Bridge to the Copper Range campground several miles farther downstream. The two other buddies were going to experience all the Brule’s wonders including some Class II rapids downstream on the way to Lake Superior.

It would have been totally dishonorable to the Brule and MacQuarrie if I had not spent time in chest waders navigating a beautiful stretch of the Brule from the ranger station upstream to Little Joe’s Rapids and beyond for my first try at trout.

Soaked with bug dope, I made my way down a steep ridge to step into the flowing waters of the Brule. On this trip there would be no fly fishing for me. An unregenerate backslider, I gave up fly fishing years ago out of pure laziness and took up with a promiscuous mistress otherwise known as an ultra-light spinning rod. Not completely without principles, I have yet to sink low enough to fish with live bait and on that I stake my right to fish that hallowed stream.

Just like MacQuarrie and untold other numbers of fishermen in waders, I stepped mighty careful on what was quite often a bed of smooth, round and ungodly slippery stones and rocks. Get too hasty trying to get in casting position to a promising trout hole or otherwise showing the slightest bit of disrespect for the river and the erring angler will likely get a soaking; maybe even an unplanned swim downstream until reaching a plateau of shallower water.

I fished that day with the temperature near 80 under an intermittent sun, because as the right president of the Old Duck Hunters often opined, anyone who would wait solely for the cooling of evening and darkening of sky to try for Brule trout, without suffering sunburn, thirst and other maladies in the bright of day, had no right to take trout from the river.

I didn’t catch many trout that morning of casting a tiny bucktail, but I was rewarded for braving mosquitoes, heat and bright sun with a dandy rainbow of 13 inches and two brooks of about 9 inches. None were kept and I hoped that show of respect would curry favor with the river for a later outing in the evening.

Returning to the campground, I gathered up spouse and dogs for a trip by vehicle to the very mouth of the Brule at Lake Superior. I did not fish there, but we did watch another caster standing in waders nearly to his armpits some 50 yards out into the lake itself, hoping for some action from a lunker trout cruising close in.

Despite the mosquitoes and late-week rain, it was a wonderful stay at the Brule. I visited different places along the deep valley through which it flows almost from its headwaters, at each place remembering those times in years past when the river granted me its favors.

It was with much reluctance that we hitched up the camper and headed farther north for Pattison State Park outside of Superior, where my lovely wife and I spent two days camping with our two children, their spouses and two guys named Brian, along with their spouses.

Last Saturday marked 50 years to the day when the Brians were groomsmen for our wedding. With such good company, we enjoyed two more days with much food, a few spirits, hikes to Big and Little Manitou Falls, and many stories, again, with some of them containing a few grains of truth.

We could not have spent that time with better friends.