Take a deep breath, hold it in, now close your eyes and slowly release. Breathe in deep. Imagine a place all your own, a place of peace and serenity, calm and tranquility. Feel the breeze, smell the soft air, hear the sounds that surround you, feel the excitement and energy.

If you are anything at all like myself, most of us were knee deep at the end of a cool running riffle, a gentle breeze at your back in the early evening with the sun prepping purple and golden hues upon the horizon. The fragrance of freshly muddled watercress from your path into the stream and genuine cedar sachet wafting through the air as we eagerly await the first bug to take flight and the dimples on the river’s surface soon thereafter.

Many of you may already know me, our paths have crossed either on the stream of life or actually in the water doing some great work for the benefit of our cold water denizens. My name is Brian Kozminski, my friends call me ‘Koz’ — Miller VanWinkle TU ex-officio — lifelong advocate for all cold water streams in North America and GreenFish Ambassador — promoting proper techniques for catch and release. I carry the message of Cold, Clean and Clear everywhere I go. I have been in the service industry my entire life, which allows me the flexibility to volunteer at school for first grade daughter (Simone), spend time with the family (Lesley Koz) and our two labs (Roxy & Stella), while managing to get my waders wet once in a while. Hospitality has taught me how to interact with guests and make new acquaintances. From Bar Tending to Serving to Management, I have met some of the best individuals from all over the Mid-West and many of those have been anglers. If I have made your acquaintance at one of the restaurants I have worked, we probably have made the riparian connection and the passion that immediately follows.

I have met hundreds of people who have never even heard of TU, or what they do; soon they become aware of such issues as water withdrawal, Asian Carp, Fracking, Pebble Mine, wild versus farmed salmon and dam removal to mention just a few. Hopefully, in meeting so many new individuals, I have persuaded them to go home and look up their local TU and get involved with various conservation efforts or to begin a lifelong passion of fly tying or fly fishing, while crossing another item off the bucket List. Trout Unlimited also has great programs like Stream Explorers (Junior TU membership) Salmon in the Classroom and Trout in the Classroom (where permitted). I have been involved for the past 3 years with our local elementary schools SIC and would like to share what the children and teachers of this learning event have benefitted.

I belong to a very exclusive and private club of anglers who may lynch and stone me if I were to mention any specific details about some of the rivers we frequent. In order to protect myself and family, the names of such rivers may be changed to the Bugs Bunny River or the Warner Brothers section, in order to keep the tone light and comical. I believe they are both in the Nunya watershed system. It is a delicate balance for me, I love to share my joy and love for the outdoors, my father taught me to give it away at an early age, but I also know I need to protect what is sacred, or it won’t be for very long. Sometimes these sacred places need to be shared in order to protect or restore them to a once better place in time, otherwise, it would be like caging an injured animal just to watch it die. Then what are you left with? An empty river, devoid of life and beyond salvage.

My background is like many; fell in love with trout with my first brook trout caught on a yellow and red Panther Martin in Grayling many decades ago, discovered untouched waterfalls in Canada teeming with ‘specks’. Grew up, went to college, started my career at a members only club in Grand Rapids, and fishing became less frequent. Many years later, I re-discovered what it was that truly made me ‘happy’– water between my legs and the eternal chance that I may dupe that picky trout rising to miniscule bwo’s upstream of me. I submersed myself, began tying flies with tenacity, chasing salmon and steelhead sometimes 5 days a week. Being a bartender does have its advantages if you don’t stay and entertain all hours of the night. I had the perfect life, fishing by day, working at night, making great money in the heyday of the 90’s when people had the tendency to be less frivolous, and enjoying every minute of it. Soon, I met my wife to-be, and after we married, she suggested we move north to Petoskey, I told her my bags were packed and ready to go. We do live in paradise. In a little over an hour, I can be either on the Manistee, the Au Sable, or a myriad of smaller rivers in the tip of the mitt or in the UP.

I am not a teacher – although have taught a few how to tie a fly and many newcomers the nuance of a good roll-cast.

I am not a ‘guide’ – although have taken a few fortunate individuals fishing who were high bid at local charities such as Habitat for Humanity, Women’s Resource Center, Crooked Tree Art Center D’Art for Art and a few others.

I am not biologist – although I have taken a few classes and love macro-invertebrate studies.

I am not a writer – the closest correlation I have is that I work in a place where Hemingway allegedly scribbled on bar napkins for a few novels. But this wonderful opportunity came along, my wife and others said “It is totally you! You should do it.” So here we are. I hope to keep many items the same, we look forward to many more river/guide reports, I may dabble a bit on some conservation/environmental topics to keep myself abreast of current events and add a little flavor here and there. I hope you will join me on this journey and pass this on to your friends, fishing buddies and family. I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Wonderful New Year!!

Tight Lines & Tighter Loops,