OUR LONG WINTER of discontent may finally be nearing an end. At least as far as camping in Wisconsin state parks and forests, it might be.

So far, I missed out on trout fishing and camping in Florence and Bayfield counties because of national forest campground closures, and my wife and I will have missed out on camping with our daughter and son-in-law at Gov. Tommy Thompson State Park.

Don’t get me wrong. I fully agree with the closure of those facilities. I may be an old guy already, but I would prefer to become an even much more older guy by avoiding COVID-19.

But the good news is that at least some, not sure if it’s all, Wisconsin state forest and park campgrounds will be open by early June. Happy, happy, happy; that’s what my lovely wife and I are with that, as we have a reservation for June 4-7 at Brule River State Forest.

The Brule is a special place for me. It was there, just before my senior year of high school, that my dad and I went on what I consider the best trout fishing and camping expedition he and I ever enjoyed. It was my introduction to the Brule; my first visit, but hardly my last.

We got to the Brule campground on a hot August afternoon. Bright sun and temps in the 80s did not make for an ideal trout fishing outing, but off to the river we went. The first part of our effort was spent on the Brule below and above the campground. Dry flies drifted while fishing upstream and wet flies jerked, rather clumsily by me, while fishing downstream yielded equal results. No fish; not even a hit.

Later, we went south, carrying our canoe down a long, steep hill across a strip of state land to a widening of the river called Big Lake. There, our luck changed dramatically.

It was a trout fishing tale for the ages. It also was a time for me to get some much needed expert instruction from my dad on the art of presenting dry flies on a flat, calm surface.

We fished the very upper end of Big Lake. Dad paddled and I fished. I won’t swear to it, but I like to consider it an accurate remembrance that my first offerings were with a Royal Coachman. It might well have been as that was my favorite fly.

Fishing where a bit of shadow was being cast by trees on the west side of the lake, I sent out my casts. Mr. Coachman proved to be a stout ally. Though some of my casts resulted in my fly landing with all the genteel plop of an anvil, native brook trout didn’t seem to mind.

I caught a few and missed a few. Eventually, after a stop for sandwiches and a cold drink on shore, I paddled and dad fished. When he fished, trout were brought to the canoe on a much more frequent schedule.

Toward dark, as mosquitoes became dinner for swishing bats, trout began rising in earnest. Big, as Gordon MacQuarrie would call them, lantern-jawed trout began feeding. As a taxidermist and lifelong trout fisherman, my dad could estimate the honest size of trout better than most. He figured some of those deep-bellied browns flopping as close as a paddle length from the canoe were all of 6 pounds, maybe bigger.

We broke off a couple in that size range with our very light leaders. The largest we actually landed were a couple in the upper teens for length. It was then and still is, the most dramatic rise of trout I have ever seen.

That day and evening on the Brule was the start of my love affair with the river. Whether way up the river heading downstream from Stone’s Bridge or on stretches below the northernmost Brule River campground, and even at the very mouth where it meets Gitche Gumee, I have fished and loved the Brule, especially when the social hordes of opening day or holiday weekends are nowhere to be found.

I’ll never know the Brule as MacQuarrie or Mr. President of the Old Duck Hunters Association Inc. did, but I love it as much as my favorite author, MacQuarrie, did.

Actually, it wasn’t until many years after that first trip that I first became aware of MacQuarrie’s writing, but ever since, I have read everything he wrote that was published in book form no less than 100 times and that is no exaggeration.

Which leads me to one more reason why our upcoming camping trip means so much to me. As a paid-up member of the Barnes Area Historical Association, which houses in its museum the largest collection of MacQuarrie memorabilia to be found, I am eagerly anticipating my first visit to that building on our camping trip.

Aside from that, the fishing and setting wader boot-clad feet into the river, I am really looking forward to the simple pleasures of camping, sitting by a small campfire in the evening, looking up at a million stars overhead and sharing the quiet with my wife. Those will make up for the dark, disturbing days we have been living through.

Maybe, just maybe, while looking up at the stars, I will catch a glimpse of MacQuarrie smiling down at us.