Rainy Day Trophy

After fishing for most of the week and throughout a long, rainy day, the author caught this magnificent muskellunge. This was just a wonderful fish, a prize, a trophy, a gift of infinite worth. To have finally succeeded in a quest that seemed fruitless, to have overcome all obstacles, most of all discouragement and finally triumph, is many things, but most of all is the joy and appreciation of a very special moment.

As I think back over the years, I find it easy, like the great majority of us, to remember opportunities lost, poor decisions made, relationships that should have been cherished much more than they were, loving words that weren’t spoken.

Being human isn’t easy, and pride, ambition and oftentimes arrogance can and will take their deadly toll. Looking back can make us squirm. If you don’t have such thoughts you’ve much to learn, for life is constantly pushing us to improve. Unpleasant consequences are the inevitable results of poor decision making, but conversely a compelling reason to improve.

On the other side of the coin, though, I have a larger stock of fantastic memories, which is a good thing. In fact, I feel a great and deep gratitude for the family I was born into and the guiding hand of my maker throughout my life. Looking back at my astonishing lack of wisdom over the years I can see clearly where the guidance I received was far beyond what I was capable of or could comprehend and where key people intervened to guide.

Thanks to all.

BUT, ONE of my greatest loves has always been the outdoors. Other than family my thoughts are always upon the forest, lakes, streams and rivers. I believe I was born with that love and have been fortunate enough to follow it all my life. Whenever I see someone really passionate about any type of pursuit I identify with them. Enthusiasts are interesting, but fanatics are irresistible. When a person’s eyes light up and they begin gushing information on any subject I just have to listen and enjoy.

Sometimes this drive is a little ridiculous. Just the other day I stood on a trout stream when it was still almost completely dark. It was very cold, windy, a few flakes of snow flew by, and when we began casting, the line froze to our rod tips often. I suddenly laughed out loud at this inner compulsion and, glancing over at Scott Neely, said we didn’t have to be crazy to be here at this hour, but it sure helped.

Scott simply shook his head, laughed and said we both had to be nuts. Sticking my frozen fingers into a pocket to warm up a bit I had to agree. But, we had the limit soon and were on our way home before any others were on the creek. Could we have caught five trout later in the day when it was warmer? I’m sure we could, but we just couldn’t help ourselves. How many mornings have I suffered in such weather at the crack of dawn? Too many to count. Why do my crazy friends and I do it? Simple, we’re fanatics, driven by the love of the pursuit and the rewards they bring.

Perhaps, the fanatics needing sound psychological assistance more than any others are spring turkey hunters. Why anyone would repeatedly rise before dawn and suffer fruitless morning after morning, slowly turning into walking zombies from repeated sleep deprivation, who wake up and irritate their wives each rising and then endure frustration and defeat for 30 days, is a baffling thing. But, many do and to a reasonable person this makes no sense. Yet, to refuse this privilege to one of these deranged individuals would be a torture worse than the fruitless hunt itself. It’s a love-hate relationship, but we see that in many other aspects of life as well.

ANOTHER highly demanding, but seldom successful quest is muskie fishing. Hours, days, weeks on the water and many times you never see a lunge. Muskies have become known as the fish of 10,000 casts and I have little doubt some fanatic actually counted them. Again, hours and hours of dedicated effort, endless research, notes, study, trends and the unexpected for the opportunity to wrestle with this elusive fish. Crazy, yes, I know.

But, strange as this may seem to some, I am deeply appreciative of the difficulties experienced in any of these pursuits. What, you say? Appreciative? You’ve lost it, man, you’re over the edge.

I’m not going to argue that point, for sure. But, the prize must be worth the quest. The scriptures mention the Pearl of Great Price where a collector sold all that he had that he might possess such a rarity. This treasure had value above all other riches to him. It was his obsession, the driving force in his life, the longed-for object which, once in his possession, was appreciated and cherished above anything else he owned.

With these thoughts in mind, why else would any hunting/fishing/outdoor addict spend the time, money, countless hours, pain, boredom, heat, cold, wind, physical exertion, planning, practice and study needed to bag a fish or animal? What drives them to such extremes?

It sounds funny, perhaps, to say it’s appreciation. In fact, such a remark might make any of the above fanatics look at you a little funny, as if you’re crazy. But, they haven’t thought it all the way through.

When you’re holding the big gobbler, gazing with awed eyes at your 30-pound muskie, marveling at the antlers on that trophy buck, you’re on a high like no other. Everything you did over that year or perhaps, years and years, which lead to this point in time, when your dream is actually in your hands is a thrill, reward and vindication like no other. The outcome was never guaranteed no matter the effort and the trophy, therefore, of immeasurable value. Bagging a trophy without paying the price of the quest is relatively an empty victory. You don’t know or appreciate what you really have.

A deep, soul-felt appreciation for that elusive gift, honoring it, having paid to the utmost whatever the quest has demanded over the years is, in my opinion, three quarters of any trophy and bestows upon the sportsmen or women a true comprehension of its infinite value.

It’s not just a trophy animal or a fish, but a symbol of your journey and passion.

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