Missouri Trout Hunter

Blog for sharing thoughts, beliefs and opinions on issues affecting the world of trout fishing in the Ozarks.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Golf Junkies and Trout Bums

They say obsession is generally a bad thing, and I can understand that philosophy. After all, obsessive thoughts can distract you from what really matters: family, health, happiness. Hell, it can distract you from things like eating, sleeping and even bathing, and it can be seriously distressing to you and to those around you.

I remember an elderly man I once knew who bragged about how he chased after a particularly pretty girl for months and months before she finally gave in. He followed her everywhere, sent her flowers several times each week, even camped in her front yard. He won her heart, and they were married for more than 60 years. As you already know, that type of obsessive behavior is now known as stalking, and it’s generally viewed as somewhat frightening, not to mention illegal.

So, knowing it’s generally considered unhealthy, why do people allow themselves to become obsessed? Simple: it feels good to focus on just one thing, one all-encompassing object of interest, especially when it seems that most everything else in our lives is awash in uncertainty. For most of us, money is often tight, job security is often questionable, and protection for our family may not be guaranteed. You’re stressed out. Imagine if you could focus all your mental energy on one enjoyable fixation for several hours at a time, thinking of nothing but what you are doing right at that moment. Would the daily stressors go away for a while? Sure they would. If you’re suffering from a lot of daily stress – "I hate my job", "I hate my boss", etc. – would a break to engage in the recreational obsession of your choice make it easier for you return to your stressful life? Of course it would! You need something to obsess about – just make sure it’s something that’s good for you and won’t get you arrested.

I am personally obsessed with fly-fishing. I prefer trout, but thoroughly enjoy chasing Ozark spring creek Smallmouth and panfish as well. I was once on my way to becoming a true "trout bum" when I first met my wife. Gosh darn it, love stole that dream from me. Now, I’m a respectable family man with responsibilities and a mortgage. I suppose I simply traded one dream for another.

About 16 years ago I met a man in Hot Sulphur Springs, Colorado by the name of Ed Bennett. He was the proprietor of a little shop called Riverside Flies. I coveted Ed’s life. He worked out a deal with the local hotel’s owner. He would work in the kitchen and make beds, and in return, the owner allowed him to use an exterior storage room to set up his little fly shop. The front door to the shop was about 50 feet from the water’s edge of the Colorado River, just downstream from Byer’s Canyon. He tied and sold flies to visiting fisherman, and chased rainbows everyday. His net income in 1989 was $3500, and he was the happiest man I’ve ever met. He is a true trout bum in every sense of the word. I got to know him fairly well, and visited him every June until the hotel owner decided to kick him out. I’ve no doubt he’s settled on the bank of another river full of fish, selling flies, guiding yuppies onto the water, and maybe washing dishes in a diner to support his obsession. I envy him still.

I’m sure you’ve heard of people like Ed but have probably never actually known one. You may have heard the somewhat common story of a "golf junkie" with a college degree who works as a groundskeeper (or pool man, dishwasher, etc.) at a local country club just so he can golf for free every evening. People who live this lifestyle generally have very little stress. They have focused on a simple life objective, and they pursue it without apology. Good for them, I say.

The purpose of this article, you ask? Two points. The first point is directed at you. If you are obsessed with fly-fishing, as I hope you are, then good for you. Do not be ashamed of this obsession. Stop apologizing to your spouse. Embrace your love of the art. If you're not already obsessed, find something fun that you can become truly obsessed with. Golf and fly-fishing are the two biggest recreational obsessions out there, but choose anything that appeals to you and immerse yourself in it. Try gardening, woodworking, photography, anything. Subscribe to magazines on the subject. Join a local social club that is dedicated to the subject. If you decide you cannot become obsessive about that interest, try another one. When someone asks, "what do you do for fun", your answer should jump out with fervor and passion. You’ll be shocked at how much happier your life will be.

My second point is directed at my wife and all the spouses of obsessed hobbyists out there. When you hear yourself saying, "Good Lord! Tell me you’re not going fishing again today," remember one thing. At least I’m not stalking anyone.


Blogger pb said...

You know, you should emphasize that people who fish should continue to fish, regardless of their spouse's objections. My father-in-law stopped fishing and sold his boat because my mother-in-law was against it. Well, he went into mourning over his boat (he thought), but I say it was over the loss of lifestyle. Rivers and lakes are like lovely ladies to the fisherman (handsome guys for the fisherladies!). Losing them is like a death, and should not occur lightly. I love my mother-in-law, but if I can afford it, the old man gets another boat, should she be the first to pass on.

Little Pond

11:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

AMEN TO THAT, BROTHER!! Anyone who would try to force someone to give up a hobby that brings pleasure, relaxation, a sense of accomplishment, etc. should be truly ashamed of themselves. I can understand when a spouse nags, because you're fishing or golfing 3x per week, but to demand that you stop your hobby completely is just plain selfish and smacks of jealousy. I'd be curious to hear if your mother-in-law has any hobbies of her own. I betting not.


2:02 PM  
Anonymous Garet S. said...

I'm a young man, of the age of 19. I work in a job that is hard enough for the average adult much less a kid straight out of high school. It's definently not easy and I find myself stressed quit often. My refuge? Fly-fishing. I would like to consider myself a trout bum but I'm not. I simply don't get to fish as much as I would like. I often have dreams of owning a flyshop in Colorado and living my dreams of doing nothing but fishing. I also enjoy scuba diving, moutain biking, and rock climbing. All these things bring tremedous joy to my life. I often sit and ponder what it would be like if these things were taken away. Life would almost seem meaningless. I love my family and friends but life without the outdoors would very difficult. I then think of how it would be married to a woman who didn't want me to continue that which pleases me. I frown upon that thought and tell myself... she better like to fish. It will take a special woman to make me happy but for now I will stick to what I love most... chasing a little fish known as a trout.

So long for now

11:36 AM  
Anonymous George said...

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1:03 AM  

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