Brown Trout Fishing

April 27, 2010 by  

It’s What We Make of It

By Nick Simonson

A year ago this very morning I was sitting across from my old boss in a conference room as he explained the layoff benefits the company would be providing me until they’d run out or until economic conditions improved. As I had been the one handling the unemployment benefit issues for hundreds of workers who had been idled over the previous three months at the facility, I had been reading the writing on the wall for some time. But when it was my turn to face the music, I wrestled with a flurry of questions and a surge of unpleasant emotions.

Is this really happening!? Would the funds I had saved for this very possibility be enough to get through a year of unemployment? What about two!? Should I just look for a new job, or wait and hope for recall? Fine. Whatever. I’m out of here, and I’m not coming back. This is their loss!

Denial. Fear. Anger. The usual range of reactions to a negative life-altering event. It all blurred together until I found myself standing on the steps of the office building holding a cardboard box full of my things, including two diplomas, a curling trophy, a wall clock, a plant and some fishing pictures.

I marked the anniversary of the event by stepping into the cool waters of a trout stream. Wading the unfamiliar flow, and casting with no success, I looked ahead to where the river came out from around a tree-covered bank and waded upstream against the current. I stumbled over the rocky bottom, caught myself and regained my footing. I took in a deep breath of the misty spring air, let it out slowly, and placed my cast between the fast water and the eddy just behind a big red boulder.

As my little woolly bugger drifted downstream, tossed and bumped around by the unpredictable currents, my mind was pulled from the difficulties of the previous year and into the rush that flowed around my legs, which were now planted firmly in the gravel bottom of the stream. I was soothed by the murmur of the water, the rhythm of a chickadee’s call and the chatter of a nearby kingfisher that was hopping from branch to branch.

I watched my line catch in the fast water. I lifted my rod tip and mended it, correcting the drift. Once. Twice. Three flips of the tip, and then the line jumped. I pulled up and set the hook and a ten-inch brown trout splashed his way across the little stream, never giving up until I wet my hand and he slid into my grasp. With a slight tweak from my forceps, the hook slipped loose and the fish shot back into the flow.

How many times had I done this over the years – in good times and bad, routine days and uncertain ones? Hundreds. Maybe thousands. The stress of each day, whether nonexistent or nagging, drifted away each time as I set out on the water searching for smallmouth, walleye, or trout. Angling has always been my outlet.

And what have I learned from half a lifetime of fishing? I’ve learned that there are many things beyond my control, like the weather (particularly the conditions on any given walleye opener). Wind. Water levels. Cold fronts. Things that can sometimes make fishing difficult. As my old boss was fond of saying, “It is what it is.”

However, I also know there are many more elements that I can control. Lure selection, presentation, location, and the mental attitude that a fish can be caught, anywhere, anytime thanks to what I know. What I’ve read. What I’ve experienced. What I’ve learned from others. And no matter what weather or water conditions I’m faced with, I’m always sure I can find a way. I’ve always believed that nothing “is what it is.” It is what we make of it.
And so it is with life. Trying times eventually find us all. Maybe it’s a diagnosis. The loss of a loved one. An economic downturn.

But a firm foundation, holding us steady in uncertain waters, helps us through these unpleasant realities until the rain subsides, the winds quiet down and the sun comes out again. Maybe that foundation is family. Maybe it’s the advice of good friends. Maybe it is our faith, our work, or our hobbies. We rely on our own experiences or the things we learn from others, and what they’ve dealt with in the past. Or maybe we take the lessons from what we enjoy doing and use that knowledge to overcome. Whether it was finding a new job where my input and talent are valued, or exploring new waters like the little trout stream, this past year has been what I have made it to be.

Relying on your knowledge, your foundations and the mindset that you can – and will – overcome makes all the difference in getting through the tough times. Whether it’s a bad day, or a bad year, the idea that peace, joy or the next opportunity might be just one bend away in life’s river is an attitude I’ve adopted from the lessons I have learned…in our outdoors.


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