I suppose I live a life of inspiration.
I build cedar strip canoes, I guide flyfishing, teach those arts to those who are interested, and I write. It isn’t something for everybody by any means. As a matter of fact, there are few people that I have ever met that have had the will to follow out a dream like mine. But in a world of corporations, a government concerned with only themselves, and new movements that are more confused than anything else, I hope this tale will inspire others.
“Go and do.” “Do less with more.” “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” “Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.” These phrases haunted me. I sat in the spare bedroom of my apartment in Mobile, rolling them over and over. I sat in front of my lap top and my fly-tying vice, slumped over my desk, sipping a beer. I listlessly looked out the window while The Black Keys played in the back ground. It was around 3 in the afternoon that Thursday in June, and I was off work for the weekend. After four years of college and working my way through it, I realized something: I was miserable. I spent my spare time doing nothing that I truly wanted to do. I’d had a chance to guide out in Montana that spring, but I let it slip through my fingers. I had sold my kayak to buy a canoe that I never bought. I had been guiding a few trips here and there in local creeks for people that were headed to the place I wanted to be. My trips were their warm-up, you could say.
I did the occasional seminar on flyfishing and taught fly-tying and casting on the side, but I was stuck. I was still there in Mobile, doing nothing except working and dreaming. I finally leaned back in my chair and took the fly out of the vice. Not a bad pattern really. A white and green Stealth Bomber, size 8. I finished off my beer, stood up, and stretched. I would be damned if I was going to spend another afternoon in that apartment. So I grabbed my fly rod and headed for the truck. I rode down to Three Mile Creek. It was a creek that inspired me. It ran right through the heart of Mobile and refused to die. It abounded with life and, no matter what it seemed the city did to the creek, it kept on living.
The banks of the creek were cut away, making it looked much like a river running through the prairie. A trout stream really. But there were no trout here, just largemouth bass and a menagerie of bream and other sunfish. I made a steeple cast and allowed the fly to land a couple of inches from the bank to start its drift. As the fly drifted down stream, so did my thoughts. I had been in the same relationship for years and it, like me, was going nowhere. I threw a mend into the line as the fly passed a point. The mend helped the fly to maintain its distance from the bank. As it passed the point a bream came up and hit the fly, I set the hook and missed the fish. I roll cast the line back and started the drift over again this time a little farther up stream.
Another miss, just like my current situation, a series of missed opportunities and denied dreams. My girlfriend even told me that all I did was let each dream I had pass me by. Even there, if I wasn’t careful, I would lose my best friend due to that very relationship. We had started out as friends, dated, moved in together, and as result of me not being me, the fire had died. And now we were just roommates in a “relationship”, and both of us missed our friend.
Another cast, this time over a pool of slack water. As my mind began to drift again, I slowly made short strips on the line, making the fly dive. I knew that soon the lease would be up, and with that, I knew it was time for me to leave. I knew that if I didn’t stop lying to myself I would be stuck in that city and every dream I dreamed would die. I resolved right then and there to stop denying myself of what it was that I wanted to do, and to start being me.
My attention returned to the fly, and suddenly, as the fly floated back to the surface and I made ready to cast, the water around the fly erupted! My line shot off across the creek as the fish ran for deeper water. I pulled against the fish, forcing it to turn, and it went airborne. A nice healthy bass, about two pounds. After a few moments of struggle, I brought it to hand and released it. I then knew I would be me. I was going to stop trying to run a race I didn’t want to be a part of.
Finally, I made it down to the manmade waterfall that controlled the waters of the creek in the spring. Beside one of the runs was a pool banked by tall grass. I waded closer and watched rise after rise as bass came up slurping down grass hoppers. I finally got close enough, made my cast, and it landed in the run and shot away from the feeding fish. I lifted the rod and made another cast, and this time, I had thrown a reach into that cast and gained a better position. Soon the belly of the fly line was pulled downstream. As soon as the fly began its drift, it was inhaled by a bass leaping out of the water. It shot downstream, and I knew if I wasn’t careful, this fish would break off. (I was only using a six pound tippet and had not retied all day.) Finally, after a few more leaps in the fading sun, I brought her to hand. She was about 19 to 20 inches in length, and she was beautiful and beautifully timed.
I walked back to my truck down the bank of the creek. I felt better than I had in years. It was to be my last night in Mobile. My girlfriend and I sat down and finally voiced our thoughts to each other. We lost a relationship but regained our friendship. The next morning when I left, it was a day I never expected. A day that I lived just for me. A day that would change the rest of my life. The day I gave in to my inspirations. It was the day I became the bass that rose to a dry fly.
As I drove back up Hwy. 43, I could almost hear Andre Gide whisper in my ear, “It is now, and in this world, that we must live.”