USEFUL DISCONTENTMENT

Countless times over the last few years, I’ve bemoaned explained in backyard BBQ conversations that while transplanting from the desert to the PNW means access to endless bodies of water, it has actually proven more difficult than expected to find waters worth a walk and stalk. I know my lofty expectations have been perhaps misshaped by my time on a world class trout stream, but I’d also say that I don’t need much to love something enough to come back for its punishments over and over.

I don’t get out like I used to. Miles and costs and asks of the ever-patient wife are greater. Fewer days on the water has left me with a deeper thankfulness for the days I do get waist-deep. But it also stirs in me heightened desires around those sparse chances being what I need them to be. I don’t need a trophy every trip. But like the rest of life, things can and certainly do go wrong.

Fishing less has simultaneously left me more and less content. The folly of discontentment generally speaking is clear, but so its usefulness…the frustration with time passed since my last memorable experience is what fuels the pursuit of new waters, new methods, new partners, and an openness to learning more. The discontentment serves a purpose, even if I pay its taxes more steeply than like to admit.

There is a discontentment that drives us towards that which is better. It seems a healthy amount, a measured dose of the stuff, pointed in the right direction, can be useful to us. But I am also wary of convincing myself I am yielding it well…blinded that I am consumed by it and in the process, will forfeit the sweet returns of being outside, combining art and science to outsmart a fellow chordate.

Many view fly-fishing as an escape. But for me (and I suspect for others as well) it is also a running toward something. I feel nearer to some things in me when I am out, not just further away.

Yes, it’s just fishing.

But I’d like to do it, for all the reasons it matters to me, well. Always learning a bit more, always forming new friendships with fellow anglers, always, watching to apply the skills from mistakes made to the next opportunity. Closing to hand the one that was out of my league a short time ago. I want that to continue as long as I am able, no matter where I live, no matter how many options are at my reach.

With all of life’s current responsibilities and demands, most of which I genuinely treasure, the frequency of days fished these days is in strong correlation to the number of invitations from trusted friends. And I am grateful those invitations come at all. But for the sake of just getting out there, I may need some of that discontentment in me too.

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