We're getting ready to take our annual fishing excursion to our neighbor to the north, Canada. I've checked out the boat, readied our rods and reels, checked the air in the trailer tires and charged the boat battery. All looks good.

I've been getting ready for fishing trips all my life I guess. It started with the day my grandfather and my dad dug me a can of angle worms and headed for the west branch of the Little Sioux River. The small stream that you could spit across could have been an ocean to a 5-year-old. The swirling current, the smell of the creek bottom and the dark, deep pools in which a fish might be hiding were thereby imprinted on my brain cells, and those cells are still active today.

Over the years there have been many first-of-the-year fishing trips. Being raised in corn and bean country, the only water we had to choose from was the Big Sioux River that flowed along the border of western Iowa or the Floyd River, named after the only person who died on Lewis and Clark's expedition to the West Coast.

The Floyd was a murky, slow-moving stream that harbored not much more than an occasional carp or catfish, but it was water nonetheless, and more than one official opening-of-summer fishing trip was taken there.

Now I live in the land of lakes, Minnesota. Fishing in Minnesota was a far off, almost unattainable dream to a kid who had only Buck Hageman's creek to scratch his fishing "itch." I'd heard stories from farmers who had ventured up to "Big Winnie" or Leech Lake or Blackduck Lake. They touted their exploits and sometimes even brought home a large northern pike, just so the neighbors could see those razor sharp teeth. I stuck my finger into one such northern pike at Buck's home one time and managed to slit my finger from tip to first knuckle.

But this year, as in others recently, I find myself absorbed in the thought of venturing north of the border in search of fish. The lake I'm headed for has a name that's about eight syllables long, which in the past has harbored a motherload of walleye, northern pike and crappie. Rarely have my wife and I come away without sating ourselves on fresh fried fish of some type.

And the trip has become more than just a fishing adventure. Having passed through a number of years, I now find myself more relating to the environment around that pristine Canadian lake and landscape. Listening to the cheerful sounds of warblers in the treetops and loons calling across the lake, and seeing majestic eagles soaring overhead somehow have given more meaning to these fishing trips. I no longer think of getting "skunked" on fish. It has become the experience in total.

So, this week I hope to be packing our pickup, hitching up the trailer, checking our passports and heading on another fishing trip. A long way from that three-mile trip to the west branch of the Little Sioux River, but the excitement still seems to be there. It's the first-of-the-year fishing trip.

See you next time. Okay?