If memory serves, 1999 was the year the Federal Bureau
of Investigation moved its Kansas City Office from the
old U.S. Courthouse at 811 Grand downtown into a spiffy,
brand new building at the west fringe of downtown, a
handsome building that sits on a bluff overlooking the
As a GSA Service Contract Inspector, one of my tasks is to
monitor our moving contractor during large square foot federal
agency moves. The FBI move was definitely a large one; it
involved well over a hundred people, not to mention the
transfer and protection of extremely sensitive investigative
files, communications gear, weapons and ammo and Lord knows
At the old courthouse ("origin" in federal moves parlance) the
FBI occupied the entire 3rd Floor. Over the years so many new
Special Agents, equipment and expanded files had been shoehorned
into the space that I and my fellow GSA Inspectors, called the
3rd Floor "the submarine." The place was packed so full of stuff,
agents could hardly move down the corridors without dinging an
elbow or banging a shin. When Moving Day arrived the agents
were in such great haste to relocate into their spacious new
building that for three days running they practically shouldered
aside our professional crew and commandeered the move. Coming
to work dressed in jogging suits and other casual attire, the
agents rolled equipment off the freight elevator into moving
trucks so fast they looked like a track team wearing service
As the move began winding down, during lunch break one day three
agents came out on the loading dock, sat on some chairs near
where I was standing and began visiting. I didn't mean to
eavesdrop but the words "trout" and "fly fishing" kept snagging
my attention. So I sidled over closer to where I could
participate in their conversation if the opportunity arose.
They didn't mind and soon all four of us were talking fishing.
Now this was more like it!
I was particularly interested in their conversation because in
1999 I wasn't yet a fly fisher. One agent, a gray-haired
grandfatherly-looking guy nicknamed "Sully" who was getting
real close to retirement, he had been a fly fisher for many
years. The other two agents were much younger men but they
both had some experience fishing, I could tell from their
comments. You know you're getting old when FBI agents look
like high school kids. So this thing turned into a deal
where you've got a pilgrim (me) and two Jedi knights (the
young agents) sitting at the feet of Yoda while he expounds.
A time or two the following day I had a chance to talk
fishing some more with Sully, just he and I out on the
freight dock. In his deadpan style, he told a fishing
story that cracks me up every time I think about it.
Surely he is retired now, and I hope his agency doesn't
object because I'd like to relate Sully's favorite fishing
trip to FAOL readers. I'll recall the trip's background
and tell his story as best I can.
Back in the 1980s or thereabouts, somebody someplace got
the brilliant idea that Branson, Missouri could become the
next Nashville - another country music Mecca where the very
best older and the very best new country stars could perform
and record their music, and thousands of paying fans would
come listen and enjoy. Once this entertainment vision grew
legs it wasn't long before all sorts of big-scale projects
began sprouting up in and around Branson, a town which prior
to this activity had been a sleepy Ozark berg so small that
everybody pretty much knew everybody else.
Now suddenly and at a bewildering pace, Branson was seeing
dozens of multi-million dollar concert theatres, theme parks
and such pop up everywhere you looked. The town was changing
dramatically, irreversibly, and for the most part this was
welcomed by lifelong Branson residents because these various
developments would create all sorts of new job opportunities.
It was all very exciting.
However, the scale of startup construction and particularly
the magnitude of money pouring into town was a source of
concern for Branson's civic leaders. Jobs and prosperity
were fine; what they did not want and were in no mood to
tolerate was having Branson become a giant repository for
illegally obtained wealth, or to have it be corrupted by
incoming criminal enterprises. With so many millions a-swirl
the town's leaders and many citizens perceived a potential
for serious criminal entry.
An inquiry was therefore sent to the Justice Department:
Could the FBI please come to Branson and very discretely
bird dog the development environment to make sure that the
chirping sounds emanating from all those weedy draws were
quail and not rats?
In the Kansas City FBI Office shortly after, the Special
Agent in Charge (SAC) called an all-hands meeting. Sitting
in a conference room filled with FBI agents was Sully, who
at that moment was in the dark like everyone else as to why
the SAC had called this meeting. The reason was soon explained.
"What I remember most was the SAC's voice; he was almost
apologetic. I think he felt he was asking us to do something
none of us wanted to do."
The SAC took a breath and asked the gathering if anyone would
be willing to volunteer for a month-long general investigative
assignment in Branson, Missouri.
"When he said 'Branson' I just about had a heart attack," Sully
told me. "Branson is surrounded by outstanding trout fishing
water, and I knew this better than anyone in that room because
I'd gone down there so many times.
"But I couldn't just jump up and volunteer. If I did, one of
the other guys might realize why I wanted the assignment and
then they might volunteer, too."
Sully cautiously looked around the conference room. The other
agents were quietly examining their fingernails, adjusting their
ties, clearing their throats. The SAC was looking glum. From
the silent response it was clear to Sully - and the SAC - that
these mostly younger agents strongly preferred working the Kansas
City Metro Area where criminal and investigative action offers a
target-rich environment. Whereas way down at sleepy little
small-town Branson...whatta they got?
"I waited as long as I could, and it was tough," Sully related.
"The thing is, I couldn't wait too long because if nobody
volunteered the SAC was gonna assign somebody. One of the
other guys would get picked and that would be that. I kept
watching the others, and let what I figured was a decent amount
of time pass. Still nobody made a move, so I tried to look sad
and then real slow I raised my arm and said, 'Aw, hell, I'll go'.
"Man, I went down to Branson and tore those trout UP," Sully
went on, his eyes starting to glaze over thinking back on it.
"I'd get up real early every morning and fish the White River
before dawn. That river is full of trout. I fished every
morning for a few hours. Then I'd run back into town and do
my thing checking stuff out. In the evenings after work I'd
run back out to the river and fish for a few more hours. On
days off, well, I was already down there so those days I got
to fish all day long. And the whole time, every day, I was
catching some really good trout; rainbows and browns.
"I was down at Branson for a month. A whole month. And I'm
on assignment, right; all my meals and motel room are covered?
The FBI paid for the best fishing trip I ever had. It was just
a fantastic trip."
"Wow, that is just too cool," I said. "Hey, if you don't mind
me asking, did..."
"No," Sully answered, anticipating my question. "There was
nothing illegal going on down there. Everything was on the
up and up. That was good, too."
Shortly after this conversation took place I went on a family
vacation to McCall, Idaho. During our stay there I bought a
2-piece, 3-wt. 7 ½-ft. fly rod at McCall Fly Shop. It was my
first serious, correctly balanced "real" fly rig. After
returning to Kansas, I took it to a nearby lake and immediately
was into bluegills and little crappie using some tiny nymphs
I'd bought in Idaho.
A few weeks later I brought that cased rod and reel to work
one day, intending to drive over to the new FBI Building and
show it to Sully, and thank him and his two buddies for helping
me get into fly-fishing. But the FBI move was completed now,
making me just another civilian visitor they'd have to
thoroughly screen prior to my entry. I doubted the security
guard would allow something as weird as a fly rod through
the detector station.
Then I got to thinking: maybe it's best not to take my rig
inside even if I could. Because then they'd call Sully away
from his job and he'd start drooling on someone's fly rod,
after which the SAC might get onto him and never again let
himself get finessed into sending Sully on a trout-rich
mission. That wouldn't do anybody any good. That would
be a crime. ~ Joe
From Douglas County, Kansas, Joe is a former municipal and
federal police officer. In addition to fishing, he hunts
upland birds and waterfowl, and for the last 15 years
has pursued the sport of solo canoeing. On the nearby
Kansas River he has now logged nearly 5,000 river miles
while doing some 400 wilderness style canoe camping
trips. A musician/singer/songwriter as well, Joe's
'day job' is with the U.S. General Services Adminstration.
Joe at one time was a freelance photojournalist who wrote the
Sunday Outdoors column for his city newspaper. Outdoor
sports, writing and music have never earned him any money,
but remain priceless activities essential to surviving the