You’ll have to forgive me, I’m going to tell you a story you might not want to hear.
On more occasions than I care to count I have found myself the subject of judgment if not out right scorn from strangers, colleagues and even family over the amount of time I spend fishing. Sound familiar? Chances are, if you fish as much as I do you’ve run into the odd individual who, for what ever reason, feels that you owe them an explanation for what you’ve chosen to do with your life. I’ve seen people galled that I am “wasting my life”. Folks, sometimes visibly angry with me when I tell them I spend well over a hundred days a year on the water, demanding an explanation. As if they were a disappointed parent. This used to irritate me but I have come to see this jealousy as an opportunity to have some fun at their expense. I taunt them a little. I draw them in and let them get really comfortable with the idea that I am a worthless fool and they are setting me straight before I explain it. And because I don’t like being judged I enjoy watching their faces drop when they hear the answer.
My father was a pilot. He had his pilot’s license at fourteen but he had already been flying for years. He flew the F86 for the Air Force. He could do things with a plane that scared the pants off of experienced pilots. He was truly gifted and he loved it. It was his purpose for living. When he got out of the service he could have flown for a living but his father had started a business and asked him to come to work for him. He would have done anything for his Dad so he did and he hated it every day.
He chain smoked and after suffering a heart attack in his forties, reluctantly, he gave up his pilot’s license. He put his energy into golf. He was always athletic and competitive. He loved to gamble and always won. Gambling, it seems is only a problem if you lose. My brother tells the story of seeing my father win fifteen-hundred dollars on a single hand of cards then give the money to the local girl scout leader to take the girls to camp. That’s how he was. When he passed away about all he owned were his clothes, an old Chevy and his golf clubs. His family and friends never wanted.
At fifty-nine my father had all he could take and retired early, leaving his brother to look after the business. The youngest of three kids, I had just graduated college. He had spent forty years working at his father’s business, raising us kids and taking care of my Mom and he was finally going to live a little. My Mom was an avid golfer too. They were frequently men’s and women’s club champions. They made a plan to travel and play all the great courses they had always wanted to play. They were as excited as kids at Christmas. It was winter and first course on the list was the Doral. They packed up the car and headed to Florida. They played golf the first day and on the second they went to a you pick ’em orange grove. Never one to act his age, my father climbed into a tree to reach some oranges and fell, cracking a rib. He went to a local clinic for an x-ray. Along with the cracked rib they found small cell lung cancer. He was gone in four months. He never played another round of golf or flew in another airplane.
Given the opportunity, I don’t know that my father would do anything different but after watching him waste away far too early I learned a valuable lesson. I was never going to put off doing the things that I wanted to do. I traveled, made art and made good friends. It took a while but eventually I found that where I belonged was on the water. There has been a fair amount of sacrifice that’s gone along with that choice. I’ve made peace with the idea that I’ll never have a big house or a nice car. I love my Subaru and I found a wonderful woman who I love too. She gets me and never complains about all the time I spend chasing fish.
I know a lot of guys that have a fly fishing bucket list with all the places they want to fish before they die. I actually sat down to make one. I put the first river on it, then got to thinking and called up Kent. Before long we were fishing that river and I never finished that list but I’ve fished some amazing water and made great friends. I can’t see trading that for a list in a notebook somewhere.
Not that you need my advice, but here it is. Don’t put off until tomorrow water that you can fish today. If you find yourself at work daydreaming of fishing some place, take the hint and get your ass in the car or on a plane or what ever it takes as soon as possible. It’s often not convenient or easy or affordable but figure it out. They may build a pebble mine or something and that place you’ve been dreaming of may not be around any longer. Worse, maybe you or I won’t be either. Like I said, it might be a story you don’t want to hear.
If you have a fly fishing bucket list, please share it with us. Post a comment and tell us the place you most want to fish.Louis Cahill Gink & Gasoline www.ginkandgasoline.com firstname.lastname@example.org Sign Up For Our Weekly Newsletter!