The mission for fishing is quite simple. Land a lunker.
The pursuit of that tends to make most anglers single-minded. They want to go on the water, get lines in the water and put largemouth bass, catfish or whatever they're chasing into their live well.
How often do they take the time to look around and soak in the beauty and uniqueness of the land around them?
Not often enough.
So a road trip to check the status of one of my favorite fishing holes along the Mississippi River north of Quincy led me to checking out everything along the way.
Driving along a relatively quiet blacktop road, I began to notice the colors pop. Purples and yellows and oranges in a variety of shades, shapes and sizes.
I won't begin to tell you I could identify each and every plant I encountered. That's where having an older brother who is a botanist comes in handy.
My oldest brother, Steve, lives in New Jersey and has spent the last four decades studying every kind of plant imaginable. Show him a picture of a plant, and without the aid of Google or any other search engine the rest of us might use, he can spout off the genus, origin, where they tend to grow and the best environment for their growth.
That's why I tapped into his mental plant encyclopedia.
On my drive through the river bottoms, I stopped to take a myriad of photos. Some captured plant stalks swaying with the wind. Some were subtle close-ups of flowers.
And then there were the insects sucking the nectar from those flowers.
The bees ignored me completely as I moved closer to the roadside plants and worked to get them into focus.
I snapped shot after shot of the insects moving from one flower to another and then coming back to the biggest bud.
The pink color was vibrant. The petals were needle-like. That should have been my clue to figuring out what it was.
Luckily, my brother cured my curiosity in short order.
It was a bull thistle.
"Technically, it's a weed," he told me. "It's not native to the United States, and it usually grows along roadsides. The flowers are beautiful, even though it is actually a weed."
I drove around for an hour or more looking at the variety of plants along the roadside, near the drainage ditches and along the paths to the Mississippi River banks.
They were so mesmerizing I nearly forgot about my original mission. I wanted to check the water and debris in my favorite fishing hole.
It looked as if no one had been fishing there, and during the few minutes I sat there with my dog, Buster, we saw a couple of fish pluck waterbugs off the surface. It was the sign I needed to hurry back with my gear and get my lines in the water.
Landing lunkers will be the mission when I return, but it was definitely worthwhile to take the time to look around and see what I could be missing.
You don't have to stop and smell the roses every time.
You just have to notice they are there.