Missouri is okay. I kept telling myself that as I made the drive to one of my old haunts. For two years, I had spent every weekend from March-September waist deep in the streams of the Pacific Northwest, probing the depths for West Slope Cutthroat and Native Redband Rainbow trout. For two years, I had been spoiled. And now I was in Missouri. Misery*. My friend Andrew, and the original fishing buddy- Scout the Jack Russell, were with me and we were after anything that would eat a fly or a frog lure. The weather was perfect and the landowner had just burned the pasture, making for easy walking and bank navigation. Regardless, it couldn't be as good as fishing in the mountains.
I tied on a size 6 Autumn Splendor- essentially a ginger beadheaded wooly bugger with yellow rubber legs and a tungsten bead for a head. Andrew went to work with his padcrasher, covering the aquatic vegetation 6-10 feet out from the bank. One cast in and something took my fly before it struck the bottom. Too jiggly to be a bass, but a valiant fighter nonetheless. It was a White Crappie. Every few casts, another crappie would smack the fly either on it's descent or as I stripped it along the bottom. Now Black Crappie were joining the fray. I didn't know a single species of crappie occupied these waters, let alone two.
"Hey, Andrew! Let's try the next pond!" I shouted across the water. He reeled up and Scout began bouncing along the two-track, leading the way. He'd traveled this path many times and remembered it well, even after a two year sabbatical. The next piece of water offered a change in character. Instead of milfoil and moss, it was flooded timber and lily pads. The bass hunkered in the lily pads, eager to take shots at Andrew's green and yellow frog. I nonchalantly made my way to a submerged tree I had "forgotten" to tell him about. Sure enough, it was loaded with largemouth. Spring had definitely arrived; they were deep green and heavily marked. Three species in a day on one fly? I'll be damned.
The sun began crawling towards the horizon. With a mile walk ahead of us and Scout inching his way to the homeward side of the pond, Andrew and I decided to head back. We began to pass the first pond of the day and Andrew and I looked at each other. Telepathically, "one more cast" was agreed upon. To make it count I stripped out a 100ft of my once yellow fly line. Hauling, and then double hauling to get that ragged Autumn Splendor out there, I let fly. Line shot through my guides and the fly plopped into the water. Strip, strip....strip, bump, strip-SET! This thing fought, and fought hard. No jiggle about it; mighty headshakes and runs along the bottom peeled line off my reel. This is no crappie, no bass; it's something else. Andrew rushed over with the net, ready to land this monstrosity. Testing the limits of my 6X tippet, the creature of the deep came to hand. A Channel Cat! Four species, in a single day, on a single fly. Well played, Misery, well played. Misery is okay after all.
This is the part where I convinced myself that I have great insight and that you care what I think or have to say. Enough navel gazing will do that to you. My cliche point is this: Your situation is your situation. Your happiness with the situation is what you make of it. Have you ever considered how people can be happy, or unhappy for that matter, in such diverse circumstances? At the time this story happened, I was very unhappy. The particulars are another story for another time but I was very bitter, resentful, bored, and undisciplined. Which came first, I'm not sure. But I can tell you one thing for certain. Inactivity was my enemy.
Some people can sit and think through their problems in a methodical way without their thought content devolving into chaos. I'm not that strong-minded. Sitting and thinking sent me to a place as black as my lenses in the pictures below. What did help, was fishing- doing something I love. In a strange way, I could be present and absent at the same time. With each strike, I was connected to the life at the end of my line. Between strikes, I was nowhere, not even in my own head. That's the best I can explain it. My hands were moving, years of muscle memory guiding them, but I was nowhere. And I mean exactly that: nowhere. I wasn't somewhere else, I was blank, empty, finally at peace. Is that what meditation is like? Someone tell me.
Here is the strangest part. With relatively little effort, things began to come together for me after these sessions. I got the inclinations to apply to nursing schools, find odd jobs to fill the time and my pockets, tie new fly patterns instead of the same old consistent ones. I acted on those inclinations and my outlook improved. I got into a competitive nursing program, completed my education in less than a year and now have a job on an excellent unit. I pursue my passions of falconry and fly fishing almost daily and I have to admit, I've started to see Missouri* as more than okay. My advice is this: Regardless of whether you are trying to turn your passion into a career or not, pursue it. The effects it will have on the rest of your life cannot be overestimated.