Sunday Classic / Don’t Put Off Your Bucket List

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Photo by Louis Cahill

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
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26 thoughts on “Sunday Classic / Don’t Put Off Your Bucket List

  1. Louis there are some very powerful words you offered this morning. Similarly, my father was a D Day vet who worked in the steel industry for nearly 33 years, along the way he was exposed to asbestos and developed pulmonary fibrosis, a very debilitating lung disease. He was a serious fisherman, maybe the most serious I ever knew. Heck he was fishing when I was born. He become a very successful charter boat guy in Ocean City, Md, so did I. He offered some very poignant words before he passed away after a nearly 9 year battle. Never stop, never give up, don’t become sedentary, and by all means do what you want to do before you can’t. I remembered those words and have scratched a couple things off my bucket list like taking up diving, fly fishing Ambergris this year, attending the Sturgis motorcycle rally last year. I’m not done yet, but I’m making a dent. I’d advise everyone to listen to Louis and my father, tight lines.

  2. Simply put, I am a cancer survivor. I learned one important lesson. That is today is a good day, regardless of what happens or who says what or what I have to deal with; it’s a good day. Every day is a good day so make the most of it. There are no guarantees. Go fishing and don’t look back!

        • And now that this is my 17th year taking people to Kamchatka it seems every year the list of dead guys i have talked to and always wanted to o but put it off too long.
          Kamchatka is changing, it is harder to find the untouched places. For instance the Zhupanova River has billboards in Petro to go fishing there, no longer untouched but over run. The real untouched stuff is 4oo miles north and hard to get to. – Where we fish.

  3. St. Brandons Atoll
    Louisiana Marsh
    Andros, Bahamas
    Yucatan, Mexico
    White River
    New Zealand
    Missouri River
    Henry’s Fork
    Montauk in the fall
    Key West

  4. Wise words, Louis.

    When choosing a way to spend your valuable time, is there a better, cleaner, and more decent way to make good friends and share a passion than fly fishing? I think not. I am happy you and Kent found it and even happier that I did as well.

  5. My dad died of cancer at 58. Way too young. It has been a magic number for men on that side of the family. It has triggered me to fish more and more as I approach that age. 50 days a year is my target. Driftless area of WI, CO and the Truckee River are getting hit this year. Louis, we should fish some day. I have Subaru’s and a wonderful woman, too!

  6. I knew a man (well into his seventies) who had never seen a kingfisher in his life and dearly wished he could.

    I used to fish a wonderful small trout and grayling river in SW England and every time I fished I saw at least one kingfisher. In fact once I was playing a grayling and two kingfishers came flying down the river at the same time, like exocet missiles they knew every bend and turn in the river. One went above the rod, one below. Amazing experience.

    If you want your “kingfisher moment” you have to be out there doing it!

  7. Hey guys, ive had a great run this year. Lots of trout, smallies, large mouths, and saw some really beautiful new places. Met alot of cool people on the way. Got pretty sick recently, and this article speaks the truth. Life is short, do what you love in excess, leave no regrets.

  8. Thanks for a lovely article. Even though my dad and brother are avid fisherman..i am not, but I think that’s ok and I understand their passion. Myself and a friend in a few months time are doing a motorbike trip up the east coast of south africa to sodwana then into mozambique and across to Zimbabwe…before getting.on.a train with our bikes and heading back to cape town, where we are from.
    Reading your story..makes me even more inspired to pursue those dreams. Thank you for that. Happy fishing and cheers for now. Craig.
    Ps..maybe think of adding “tiger fishing on Lake Kariba”…to your ‘water list’. Just a thought.

  9. Louis, Jeff in OR here.

    Man, I not only agree with what you related, I am living it. I got up one day years ago and said, “Life is too short to not LIVE it!” I walked in and quit my job at the peak of a successful career, my wife and I sold our custom home lock stock and barrel, we bought a very nice RV and a beach townhouse on the Oregon coast and we started travelling and fishing every darn river that seemed even remotely inviting. Now I have narrowed the list to some favorites that we go back to almost every year in OR, ID, MT, CO, TX, NM and hit the river. But we continue to look for new water when on the road.

    Those of my family and friends who understand are thrilled for us. Then there are those who think I have turned into a bum. If anyone out there is remotely thinking of doing the same as I have done and Louis did, to coin a line from an old pizza commercial, :Just do it.” And don’t look back!

  10. I have a small list of moments, whether it was a lights-out mahogany spinner fall; or finding absolute peace and solitude in a dense urban area; or catching my family a breakfast of stocked rainbows on a camping trip; walking into a diner with 7 other guys all in waders…

    I seek these moments as much as I seek places to fish. They happen at most once a year. And they mean a lot more to me than any big name river marked off a checklist.

  11. Bone fish on the fly in the Bahamas…this has been on the top of my list since I found out about the species and how much fun they can be. As an 18 year old still in high school (going into my senior year this august) I don’t have the financial opportunity, and probably will never have the opportunity since the economy is gonna crash next summer. Ever since I’ve started reading this blog (December of 2013) I just cant seem to get Bonefish out of my head…and knowing my dad would never even consider going to San Andros for even a day. just makes it seem like its impossible.

    • Dude look into DIY bonefish …… you can make it happen at a very reasonable price for yourself. Might not catch as many but you’ll see them and land them and feel twice as good about it for a fraction of the cost.

  12. In my line of work I see life taken away on an almost daily basis. It’s never expected, and can happen in the blink of an eye. It has certainly given me a different perspective. If there’s a few things my job has taught me over the years, it’s to enjoy the day you have in front of you, don’t sweat the small things, and to enjoy your passions in life as much as possible. I know my time will come one day when I’ll get called up by the big guy. Hopefully it will be a long time from now, but you never know. Certainly, nothing is guaranteed. But until then you can bet your ass I’ll be living life and enjoying the good times. Great stuff Louis. This is what G&G is all about!

  13. Dad said all his life, “someday, I’m going to Alaska.”
    On his death bed , I asked, “any regets?”
    His said, “Yep. Never made it to Alaska.”

  14. Great article Louis. Life is too short, and the excuse that life gets in the way of doing the things you want to do, just doesn’ t wash. The things you want to do ARE life. I’m certainly planning to write up my bucket list and start ticking things off – not just fishing either. My wife has never been to Paris, so stockpiling money now, and a Paris trip for our wedding anniversary will earn me some brownie points for a fishing trip next year 🙂

  15. Well done, My father died when he was 59, also of cancer, just as his career was starting to pay off and give him some financial room in life. I watched that and learned to live now, not some decades hence.

    I’ve been fishing since I was 12 with some long breaks. In the last 10 years I got into fly fishing with a passion. Now I’m 68 and I finally arranged to go bone fishing in the Bahamas for a week. It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was a teen and read about bone fishing in Field and Stream. In addition, I’m going to do a partial retirement next year and celebrate by doing a three month road trip fishing my way from Massachusetts to Oregon. I’m blessed with good health and expect to still be around having good days next year. These are the start of my bucket list. It’s a kind of liberation to start on it.

    I may some day get to Kamchatka, Patagonia or similar in South America, Alaska. However, the exotic destinations are becoming less important to me. As long as there’s good fishing and quality time on and near the water, beautiful rivers and mountains or laid back islands, I’m happy.

  16. Pingback: Fly Fishing Articles from Other Web Sites

  17. I agree with all you say. I am 73, having fished since I was 8! Now retired, having fished, fishing and to fish those iconic rivers I dreamed about over those years.
    Vazuga ,Ponoi, Yokanga, Kola (Russia), Vosso, Aaroy, (Norway), Moisie, Grand Cascapedia (Canada), Wye, Tay, North Esk (UK),Alagnak, Kanektok (Alaska), Rio Grande (Patagonia). There is no sport which offers such adventure and can continue to be enjoyed into later life, health permitting. Notwithstanding back and knees have cracked up, will keep going so long as I can see, hear and move.
    Is this any different from those of my acquaintance who play golf two or three days a week.
    Enjoy what you do.

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