This has been a difficult week for many of us
here on FAOL. The news of Al Campbell's illness
shook the foundation of stability that we all feel
when we are cozy, comfy, and secure. We all have
posted notes, said prayers, made phone calls,
visited, and even tied a fly or two in his honor.
But Al, being the man that he is, is still helping
Sometimes the lesson you learn is one that
needs to be taught, even if the subject
matter makes you uncomfortable. Today's
lesson from the "master" is, "What are you
doing with your passion for flyfishing?"
Al is a man who loves to fish. He loves to tie
flies. He loves to teach. And that makes him a
man who loves to teach the art of flyfishing
and tying. He's taught me well. He's taught
many of the FAOL faithful a thing or two (or
three). When you read one of his tutorials
on tying a fly pattern, you hear Al when you
read the text. It's like having Al looking
over your shoulder as you spin the Elk Hair
around the hook, even though it's supposed to
stay on top. You can almost imagine the look
on his face when you get it wrong for the third
time. You can definitely imagine the look of
satisfaction he has when you finally get it right.
You can almost feel him patting you on the back
and sharing your joy at learning it well and
doing it right. You definitely know he enjoys
your success as if it were his own.
But first and foremost, Al is a fly fisherman.
He wrote an article this summer entitled,
"The Non-Fisherman". It was a story on how
living that roller coaster ride called life
sometimes gets in the way of our passion. One
paragraph went as follows:
This has truly been one heck of a summer. If
we start in April, I haven't had a weekend or
day off completely free except for that trip
to the Bighorn. And, I won't have a weekend
off until sometime in September or maybe October,
except the Idaho Fish-In. And, the fish-in is
still in doubt, but looking better than it was
several weeks ago. I suppose someone will have
to teach me how to cast when I get there.
Tonight, while talking to Al's wife Patty, we
discussed the miracle of Al coming through the
surgery and keeping his motor skills intact.
"That was what he wanted," she had said. That
is what he got. We talked about his prognosis,
which depends largely on the pathology report.
But whatever news it may hold regarding Al's future,
Patty, summed it up with one wish. "I hope he
goes fishing every day", she said.
We've followed Al on his fishing adventures,
catching nice trout and visiting rivers and
streams most of us dream about more than actually
fish. We've also followed him as he replaced
the big picture window, which, by the way, I
would have taken if I had a place to put it
(and Al came and helped install it). The name
of that article was, "I'm Worn Out." At the
end of it, he said he might even get to go
fishing if the weather allowed. I hope it
did and I hope he went.
I was starting to see a pattern. Al worked a
lot. Al had several commitments and was dedicated
to working around the house, too. The message
that started coming through is that fishing, a
major part of Al's life, was becoming a minor
part of his activities. How many times have we
said to ourselves, "I wish I had more time for
fishing?" I've said that more times than I care
to remember. But the cold, hard reality of it
is that I do have the time. I just don't take
advantage of it. I wonder why that is?
I could list several reasons why I can't fish
more than I do. But truth be told, I have chosen
other things over casting a fly to a hungry brown
trout. Sometimes, they are unavoidable, like work.
Others, though, are choices. One that comes to
mind is watching the Cubs, which is, more often
than not, an exercise in frustration equal to or
greater than a 20 MPH headwind on a 3 weight set-up.
But three hours of quality fishing time gets gobbled
up by Sammy Sosa swinging at an 0-2 curve ball.
I ask myself why I bother to watch. When the day
is done, I usually ask myself why I didn't go
fishing, and I almost always come up with an
acceptably lame excuse.
"I hope he goes fishing every day", she said.
More than once, actually. I love fishing, too.
This week, I've thought a lot about what the
future holds for Al. I've also thought a great
deal on what the future holds for me. Another
annual wake-up call, more commonly referred to
as a birthday, hit my calendar this week. While
I will always remain young-at-heart, it's tough
to completely ignore the beads on the abacus,
which all seem to be moving to the other side.
I suppose it's possible the birthday deal got
me looking inward. Really though, it's been Al.
So what did Al teach me this week? He taught me
that you must make time for your passion, whatever
it may be. He also taught me that I need more of
a passion towards my responsibilities at home.
Watching the Cubs may be fun, but take the time
to live up to your responsibilities. And most
importantly, fight, with a vengence, against
anything or anyone (especially yourself), that
keeps you from your passion.
"I hope he goes fishing every day." So do I,
Patty. And I hope to be the one who drives
him to the creek. ~ Elliott Warshaw (ilmbaba)