Sunday, July 19, 2020

Hope's Heartbeat

                                                      Photo by Diane Mikrut
Romans 5: 3-5...but we glory in tribulations also knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience experience; and experience hope: And hope maketh not ashamed because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given to us. 

On a stellar Monday afternoon in June, I drove to Wildcat Access and parked my SUV in the last available slot. As I opened my hatch and grabbed waders and boots, I vaguely referenced a large burly man sitting at a picnic table removing his gear. I sat down at the other table and began to pull mine on. As he walked by, he said with a snarl, “You’re wasting yer time. I’ve tried every fly in my box and haven’t caught a thang. My wife’s down there fishing too and she’s hasn’t caught anything either.”

Somewhat taken aback by his tone, I replied kindly, “Yes, I saw you taking off your waders.” I’ll just show you, I thought. But try as I might, I couldn’t catch a “thang” either. I waded up and down the shoreline, tried multiple flies and met with no success. As the evening turned into dusk, however, the smell of bacon wafted across the river from a nearby resort. Visions of BLTs on fat Texas toast created a mouth-watering picture. I marveled at a heron that appeared, from a distance, taller than I am … his signature long-legged strut always a strange sight. Just as the sun slid down the horizon, six squawking Canadian geese flew over my head … so close I felt like I could reach them with my rod tip. And even though my gratitude didn’t encompass any trout takes, nevertheless, I was blessed by this day away from worries about the Pandemic. By that point I felt a pang of regret for my negative thoughts about the man who failed to see such wonder and magic in this setting. Maybe he just needed a little bit of Jesus! And why hadn’t I provided that witness?

The next day I returned and caught a small brown but nothing else. His size belied his strong fight and I was happy with his efforts. My trip was cut short, however, by a snarled tippet that made an eagle’s nest look tidy. Deciding to quit, I still enjoyed the time I had along the riverbank. On the way back to the car, I was in the process of returning a phone call, when 2 men approached looking woebegone. Cancelling my call, I asked, “Can I help you?”

One said, “You look like someone in the know,” to which I giggled. “We’re here from Michigan staying at a resort up the road and need to know how to fish this place.”
I began by telling them about the various entry points and what flies to try. Then I said, “We used to own a resort and this is what we told our customers: we don’t want to get in your pocket; but you might want to try a …”

One of the men interrupted, “We know … a guide. But we’ve checked with the local fly shop plus our resort people and all theirs are booked.” The two gents shook their heads in disgust. “I knew we should have called a week ago and made arrangements.”
I felt sorry for them and replied, “Let me give you the number of one of our guides.”  Then I suggested some easily remembered guide websites; and told them to use my name when they called.

“Will he take us to catch big fish?” One of the men asked.

“You need to tell him when you call,” I responded. “But it will depend on water levels, weather and a lot of things for him to do that.”

Much happier, they left to go to their car to make the contacts. Maybe I’m just a sucker for people who need help; but we’ve all “been there” anxious to try out a new place without the proper info.

As I returned to my car, I decided that maybe it was no accident that I had to make an early departure. I’d done a good deed for some folks who needed some advice; and maybe after receiving that small act of kindness, they will decide to return to our little slice of heaven.

That night I reviewed the prediction for Wednesday’s generation and was jazzed by the thoughts of minimum flow. Promising myself an early start, I packed my car and set my alarm extra early.

Wednesday I quickly drove to the access and discovered, to my delight, the prediction was true. I could hardly wait to hit the water. As I sat down to slip on waders, two teenage boys walked by and I said a hearty good morning. They responded with a polite greeting. They carried 2 kayaks, set them down along the shoreline and returned to their pickup for life jackets. One stopped to talk as I strung my rod. “I envy you what you’re doing,” he said.

“How’s that?” I said.

“Well you’re going fly fishing and I can’t fly fish from a kayak. I’m gonna have to fish with regular lures today.”

I laughed and retorted, “I can’t fish out of a kayak either. I have to use it as transportation to get to a gravel bar or a spot I can get out and wade.” We both commiserated about our shortcomings for a moment.

Then he said, “But I caught a 26” brown last night at Cotter Access on a black woolly!”

I put my hand over my heart and said, “Oh man I’m so jealous.” He continued to tell me details and how long it fought; then turned to follow his buddy down to their kayaks.

As they reached their boats, I yelled in my best hillbilly accent, “I ain’t yore Momma, but wear those life jackets instead of sittin’ on ‘em.”  They laughed; but as they paddled away, I was pleased to see the vests attached.

By this time, I was ready to go--somewhat buoyed by an enjoyable conversation with two fine young men. I began to fish, vowing to try some different flies and achieve more success than my other 2 days. I tried soft hackles and various other creations with no results. Then I remembered the young fisher’s suggestion. I tied on a black woolly with sparkle in the body and flash in the tail. I found a place where a large dark rock was visible in deeper water and two flat white rocks were embedded in the gravel. As soon as my fly drifted by the rock and into shallow water, a ferocious take rewarded me and I soon had a hefty thick rainbow in my net. The funny thing was, I’d done one of my “normal” operations and tied on an extra-long tippet. I would almost get the fish in and then he’d dart away with too much line to scoop him into my net. Finally I maneuvered him into lower water and made a dip and had him captured. I briefly admired and released him. Within a couple of more casts, I’d garnered his older brother, another stout fellow, with a passion for strong tugs and a brave heart.

By now, I was excited and stood in that same spot catching 5 more, some of the small stocker variety. In my zest, I missed another 7. Finally my aching back reminded me it was time to leave. So I took off for my car, thinking what a fine time I’d had and that I’d managed to last about an hour longer than I usually did.

My husband pulled up in his truck to check on me. “I was getting worried,” he said.

“I caught 7 fish and missed that many more, I said catching my breath. I’d have stayed longer but my back was hollering.”

“Just as long as you’re okay,” he said and drove away.

On the short drive home, I pondered my 3 days on the river. Even though I was unsuccessful the first 2 days, I’d fellowshipped, helped others and given what I hoped was good advice. I was out of the house away from TV’s frightening statistics about the Pandemic. I’d enjoyed sparkling water, glorious sunshine and perfect weather. In addition, I’d had a good dose of some “Joy that comes in the morning.”  I reflected about the man from the first day and that he might benefit from the scripture Ecclesiastes 3: 1 that says “To every thing there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”  Like many of us, he thought it was all about catching fish. Instead the sights and sounds of the river are a gift God’s given us to uplift our spirits and bring us hope. And cherishing those blessings is never a waste of time.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Forwarding Favors

Isaiah 9:6
For unto us a child is born ... His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

In early November I rejoiced over a warm Sunday and some wadable water at Wildcat Shoals. When I arrived, I noticed my friend Ron McQuay’s truck parked near the boat ramp, with its distinguishable logo Ron’s Fly Fishing 101 Lessons for Beginners on the camper shell. However I saw no sign of Ron and walked upriver to my favorite spot. As I passed by the first good water near the boat ramp, I noticed a fly fisher; and his graceful roll cast caught my attention. I didn’t bother him; and began fishing, enjoying the soft winter sunshine on my face and a few small trout that found my fly appealing.

Later, I overheard a conversation between him and a guide who asked for help jump starting his truck after failing to turn off his lights earlier that foggy morning. The fisherman willingly stopped fishing and they soon had the guide’s truck started. The afternoon passed too soon and the sun’s crawl over the horizon told me it was time to go.

As I passed the same fisher near the boat ramp, he was bent over, appeared to be searching for something, and seemed agitated.  “Did you do any good?” I asked.

“I’ve caught a 23” brown and I can’t find my phone,” he said. “Gotta get him back in the water. Phone might be in the truck.” He pointed to Ron’s pickup.

“Want me to bring it to you?” I asked. His positive answer made me rush to the open window of the pickup, where I spied the phone and brought it back.

“Darn it, not sure if I even remember how to work the thing,” he said.

“Well how about I take a picture on my phone and send it to Ron? We need to get the fish back in the water.”

“Oh I sure would appreciate it,” he said. Within a few seconds I’d taken 2 shots and he waded out, revived the fish and let the behemoth go. We both breathed a sigh of relief.

“Man I’m so jealous,” I said. “What a great fish!” As we talked, I learned he was Ron’s son, Jerry.

Over the course of the next several weeks, I would often see him attempting to catch another giant brown. I would speak and head upriver to try my own luck. During the rest of November, I caught mostly small fish, a few dinks, a stocker or two, but nothing of any size. I was happy to be out, however, after a long summer hiatus. Then the Sunday before Thanksgiving, everything changed. I again noticed Ron’s trunk but no Ron. I saw a lone fisher near the boat ramp but didn’t recognize him.

Relatively low water kept the nearby home’s yard grass from trapping my boot cleats and gave me hope of a better catch. Bright sunshine turned the water to glistening highlights as I threw out a size 16 olive woolly. Within a few seconds, I caught a decent stocker, followed by a tiny rainbow no more than about 6 inches.

I moved further downstream, found a small bit of moving water diagonal to the grass beds and thunder struck in the form of a stout fish. For the first time in months I had a worthy adversary on my line. He made several surges and caused my drag to issue a most satisfying hum. When I dipped him into the net, I was proud of his spirit and character. My choice of water was apparently a wise one, because I soon had another feisty fellow giving me a tussle. My drag sang for the second time and he actually swam toward the shoreline almost getting behind me. I gently guided him back out front and after several more dives, he finally surfaced just in time for me to swoop him into the net. A righteous 16 inches with a sizable girth and enough heft to bring a grin to my face, he was the best rainbow I’d caught in at least a year. I fished another 20 minutes or so but couldn’t duplicate my success. The day started to wane, but I decided to try a girdle bug and a midge dropper. Getting the rig gathered up and attached to my tippet has always been a bit daunting to me but I managed it. Somehow my multi-tasking wasn’t up to par, however, because in holding on to all the pieces, I dropped my bag of strike indicators and before I could react, it sailed downriver.

I yelled down to the nearest fisher, “My strike indicator bag is coming right toward you. Help me please!”

He nodded, turned, gave me a thumbs up and waded just enough toward shore to intercept it. I exited the water and met him near his part of the shoreline. Then I thought I recognized him. (Different hat same guy). “Jerry, is that you?”

“Sure is,” he said and handed me the bag.

“Thanks so much. That’s about $20 worth, right there. One good turn … right?” We both laughed.

I went back upriver but didn’t get a single take on my dropper rig and decided to call it a day. As I passed, I yelled, “Well I’ll leave the rest of them to you, Jerry."

After I walked up the hill and returned to my car, I thought about the joy of this day. Outsiders who don’t understand fly fishers say we’re arrogant, pride ourselves on expensive gear, are unfriendly, unwilling to share, etc. But I say, we’re a compassionate helpful group who take time to give advice, share flies, and assist wherever needed. I’ve found this to be true whether on the Norfork or the White. I’ve lost count of the people who’ve shared kindnesses too numerous to count.

As we enjoy this season of Advent, it’s an appropriate time to celebrate the ideas of sharing, giving and compassion. For the stars still shine silently over Bethlehem. The manger’s message yet prevails: Peace and Good Will still abound on the earth.


Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Calibrating Crooked Creek

Calibrating Crooked Creek


John 15:11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.


With late spring flooding sending generation quantities through the roof on both Norfork and White Rivers, wadable water seemed impossible until November. Determined to find an alternative location to fish, I’d driven twice to the new Mark Oliver access on Crooked Creek to check water levels.  At last, an opportunity. The pristine setting has all the amenities other accesses lack: concrete boat launch, sturdy wooden wheelchair ramp, concrete pier, two picnics tables under large shade trees and most important for us ladies, a brand new porta pot. On a late August morning, I found it low enough to wade.

I’d heard about Woolly Buggers versus the often touted Clouser minnows. I began with a strawberry blonde woolly and within a couple of casts, felt a mini tug resulting in a tiny smallmouth of about 4”.  On the other trips I’d made here, I’d observed a quick green streak out from the cement wall and had wondered if it were a baby smallie. Sure enough, the evidence wiggled on the end of my line. Delighted to be on the water after a long hiatus, I smiled at such a small success.

A man stopped with a pickup and canoe attached and was confused on whether he was at the right location to meet his shuttle. I tried to help but didn’t realize he’d said Georges Creek; and he left disgusted with his failure. 

In a few minutes he returned, realizing after a phone call that he was indeed in the right place to launch his canoe for Kelly’s access. He and the outfitter who would shuttle were now in sync and even with his late start, he was enthused about his trip.

He removed his canoe and after several trips to his truck to remove his gear, he rigged his rod and made ready to shove off. Before he left, he shared he was from Missouri, had fished for smallies there and recommended flies like crawfish or poppers. “I have some of those,” I said, "and will try your recommendation later.” Then I told him I’d heard it was farther to Kelly’s Access than the supposed 2 miles listed on the signage.

By this time, he was ready to start his journey. Smiled, shrugged and said, “I don’t care.”

I chortled, “Well at least you won’t have trouble finding this access next time.” He joined my laughter and off he went. 

Once again, with the meandering water all to myself, I carefully moved across and downstream, picking my way along the rocky bottom. The monotonous mantra of the cicadas almost made me drowsy but bird songs I’d never heard at my feeders added a wakeup call. I tried a brown woolly and was rewarded with another miniature smallmouth plus a sunfish about the size of my hand—its colors as vibrant as Joseph’s coat.

Once again, as I often do on these trips, I marveled at the gifts God has given me: the soul-satisfying tranquility found on this stream; songs to lift my heart and the satisfaction of catching fish. After all, I thought, Jesus built many of his messages around fishing, water, and the sights and sounds of nature’s glory.

Finally I chose a large Clouser, black with red resembling a leech I’d seen on some of the “up north” TV fly fishing shows. No takes graced my rod. Also tried a gray crawfish then a green Clouser with no luck.

 By this time I eyed my little cooler left on shore, regretting my decision to forgo the small canteen I usually clip to my vest. Sweat trickled down my back and I decided it was time to wade back across. The obvious quickest route seemed too swift; and remembering my fall at the Narrows, I walked a bit upstream till I found a smoother spot and crossed safely. As I exited the water, I saw a tiny taupe colored frog who blended into the sand quite well until he leapt up the rocky rip-rap. He jumped with not a care in the world.

Spicebush butterflies drank the boat ramp moisture and I stopped to take a quick pic. Two fly fishers arrived and I trudged up the hill where I shared my modest story; then launched into a litany of my unsuccessful flies: Clousers, crawfish, etc. One looked at the other and said, “Well I guess we wasted our money at the fly shop.”

“Maybe not,” I said. “You might do better than I did.”

The same fellow asked if I’d tried the big riffle yet and I said no as this was my first trip. “Think I’ll walk upcreek to it. I did well there last time,” he said.

Good info, I thought, as I slugged down half a water bottle; then began to put away my gear. Double checking to make sure I hadn’t left anything, I drove away thinking what a perfect morning it had been: catching fish in a new location where  I had low expectations, receiving fly tips from the canoe guy and a better wading spot idea from the two men.

Pondering the ideas and advice I’d received, I recalled a sermon from a former pastor who now preaches at heaven’s gates. He said, “Little is much when God is in it.”

Finally I understood God’s message via the miniscule frog: happiness grows from the petite events in our lives like tiny catches, dazzling butterflies and the chance to fish another day.





Saturday, May 20, 2017

Nasty Narrows

Isaiah 43:2
When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers they shall not overflow thee.

Last year on a hot summer’s day, I drove to the Narrows access. The larger island entertains numerous rock beds and drop-offs. Once known for big browns and quality fish, the flooding of the past several years has taken its toll on the “fishability” of the main island.

I rigged up in the small parking lot. As I always do, I tread carefully down the rock steps; and as I moved off the last one, I realized I’d forgotten my Ziploc bag in which I usually store my phone. Oh well, I thought anxious to fish, it’s zipped in my wader pocket. No problem.

The run next to the island has deepened since the Dec. ‘15 flood so that the former safe crossing spots are treacherous. I found this out when I attempted to wade across a place I perceived as safe. Since I’m a lightweight, I’ve always utilized a sidestep approach that has served me well in past fishing trips. I trekked halfway across and suddenly realized I was in a poor position, balance-wise, to the current. Quickly perceiving the danger, I knew better than to turn around, but instead attempted to anchor my wading staff and one foot then move the other foot along attaining a more stable position. In the blink of a baby’s eyelash I was down and twirling like an out-of-control drum major’s baton. My first thought was don’t let go of your rod. My second was don’t drown!

The water wasn’t deeper than about 2 feet, which didn’t keep me from tumbling under even with my life vest. Each time I attempted to rise, the swift current thrust me back down. The more I tried to get my feet under me, the less successful I became. I didn’t think I would drown as long as I didn’t hit the steep drop-off where the water accessed the main channel. But at the rate I was progressing, that became more tenuous. Somehow I finally managed to get on my knees and crawl up the bank.

I sat and surveyed the damage: multiple water droplets sparkled under my IPhone cover (so much for the expensive “waterproof” case); my wader feet squished in my boots; but my wet sleeves would dry. I emptied my boots and stood on shaky legs. I would survive I thought and headed around the island to begin fishing. I threw my first fly of the day, one similar to a crackleback in a lime green color. The beauty of this fly, given me by a friend, is that it can be fished wet or dry; and I’d never had an opportunity to try it in this venue. When no takes rewarded my cast near the first rock pile, I decided to try something different.

Reaching for my fly box, I found only an empty pocket. This was my favorite filled with 10 years of flies both store-bought and those given me by friends, like Bob Krause, Ron McQuay, young Michael Schrader and others. Sick at heart, I knew they couldn’t be replaced. Discouraged I returned to the spot where I’d sat after falling, hoping the box would be there. It wasn’t. Disconsolate, I decided to forgo fishing and instead concentrate on a safe place to cross and return to my car. I kept walking upstream along the edge of the treacherous run and found a “softer, gentler,” spot. As I exited into ankle deep water, 2 fly fishers met me. I told them of my disastrous morning and urged caution, saying in a mocking tone, “I guess I just didn’t have enough lead in my butt.”

One of the guys, a most skinny fellow muttered, “Well I’ve got enough in mine.” The other guy stopped and commiserated with me when I told him of my lost fly box; and I begged him to return it to Dally’s fly shop in case he recovered it. As I left, I turned around to watch the first lean fisher. He crossed near the spot of my disaster and seemed to stiffen his legs and stalk as he waded, almost like a Blue Heron when it searches the shallows. The sight would have been comical under normal circumstances, but not today.

Chagrined all over again, I tromped back to the car and removed all my gear, thinking of my losses for the day: a full fly box and heaps of dignity and pride. I resolved to come back but stopped at my favorite Sonic Drive-in where I drowned my sorrows in a diet drink.

Two weeks later, I returned, determined to “get back on the proverbial horse”. I crossed at the better spot with no problems, only to behold a fallen tree that blocked the way around the island, unless I tried the swift current again. Refusing to quit, I waded back across and considered slogging the opposite way around the island; then realized it was uncharted territory in terms of current and distance. I chose instead to fish the lesser island where I’d never been before.

I tried several flies but with no results. A guide boat anchored below me but I saw no fish captured in their net either. However, I found some slight drop-offs, some sloping gravel bars and encountered new possibilities there. By this time, the hot temps convinced me to return to the parking lot and call it a morning.

Reviewing the outing, I thought about spiritual lessons God tried to teach me. The struggle to get on my knees to save myself was one of the more obvious. I have an active prayer life and often feel as though I’m chatting with a friend rather than entreating God for a request. Had I lost consistency and continuity in my prayer endeavors?  Has my prayer list not received the devotion those people deserved?  I contemplated David’s words in a new light—“thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” My fly fishing equipment is valuable but not as cherished as my salvation. What have I clutched to myself rather than sharing the story of the cross? In warning the 2 fishers about my catastrophe, had I been a Good Samaritan, while at the same time, seeking empathy from my fellow men or was I just throwing a pity party? These topics deserved further study and thoughtfulness.

But the outings weren’t a total loss. I’d conquered my anxiety about the crossing, found different locations to fish and realized new potential in The Narrows. Most people see only the beauty of fly fishing. I’d witnessed some of the ugliness and lived to tell about it, thanks to God’s grace and protection. Those thoughts lightened my heart and kept my resolve firm. I’d be back.

Monday, September 26, 2016

September's Silly Sucker


Corinthians 4:7-8

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in desperation.


A fine September day found me immersed in river water to my knees, anxious to fish after the inconsistent generation patterns of the summer months. Perfect weather, floating leaves and a sense of peace flooded my brain as I made my first cast with a Partridge and Orange. With no success, I changed to a Little Randy and felt a small bump but missed it. I flung it back into the spot and waited a bit longer before setting the hook. The fish jumped and I could tell it was small. However, after waiting months to fish, even a dink sounded good to me. As I reeled it in, a rasping noise assaulted my ears. Eager to capture the fish, I should have looked at my rod butt. But in a few short seconds, it was too late as my reel unseated and flopped into the water. Could my rookie days have come back to haunt me? I made a grab for the reel trying at the same time to keep tension on the part of the line that held the fish. My problems only multiplied as the reel sank further and I finally managed to grab it after submerging my arm to the elbow. I couldn’t believe it but could still feel a flopping fish on the now restored line. When I finally managed to get it in, I found a small sucker on the other end. No wonder I didn’t lose this ugly creature. Those thick lips were there to stay.

Much chagrined at this point, I removed the Little Randy and switched to a purple wooly. No success there either, so my new choice was a White River special. An over-zealous guide sped by almost swamping me with his wake. The next people were more courteous. The two fly fishers recommended an olive wooly. I observed their success as they caught fish after fish and I quickly tied one on. Within a few minutes I hooked a stout Rainbow with a robust fight equal to my racing heart. Its vibrant colors graced my day with a beauty to fill any canvas and the 16” length gave me a sense of purpose. The friendly fly fishers were spot-on and another take brought a tussle similar to the first. About the same size and color, he challenged my skills and soon flopped in my net for a quick look and release. The third fish was much smaller but no less appreciated. Since my success rate had been poor during the summer, I was thrilled and several more missed fish kept my enthusiasm going. Somehow, I’d experienced a one-two-three sucker punch in reverse. Could the old thick-lipped piscatorial character have brought me luck?

God often touches our lives in ways we don’t understand. A troubling experience points the way to renewal. A difficult time sends us a friend who needs our wisdom. He is in control though the path we’re traveling seems unbearable at that moment. I often want my difficulties to be removed rather than to learn the insight of the lesson. God is waiting to teach me the difference.

Before the day’s end, my friend Scott Branyan (a.k.a. The Fly Flinger) rowed his drift boat by with 2 fishers and we exchanged hellos across the river. Life could be no better than this: an enchanting day on the water, an incident to give me patience, several strong fish to stretch my line and greeting an old friend. Blessed beyond measure, I finished the day, took one more look around and made my way back home.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Birthday Bamboozle

Psalm 116: 6
The Lord preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me.

An April Sunday after church I waited till late afternoon for my birthday wish--to fish along the edge of our campground. High water conditions hadn’t allowed me to wade in months. Although I was out of practice, everything went smoothly until I stepped into the water.

The landscape had drastically changed after the December floods had deepened the holes beyond the boat ramp. Where I had previously waded through gravel beds to a shallow place, I now encountered sticky sand and drop-offs. I backed up and began to cast, forgetting about the tree limbs over my head, After 2 casts I snagged one. Climbing up a muddy bank to reach the tree. I was lucky enough to bend the branch down and retrieve my fly.

Thinking I was good to go, I stepped back into the water. Failing to check that my fly was secured to the rod, I soon discovered it lodged on the back side of my boot. This fly was a new creation given me to try. I intended to accomplish that mission. However, the hook was so deeply embedded that when I attempted to pull it out with my forceps, it broke off.

On my way to full-fledged exasperation, I tied on another one of the same type and within a few moments managed to snag a different tree behind me. This time it was too high to reach and I snapped the second fly along with the tippet. 

About this time my husband rode up on the four wheeler to innocently ask how I was doing. I went into full-blown whine and recounted my poor techniques. He offered to tie on more tippet and I gratefully accepted.

Finally after thanking him and breathing deep, I set off to try again. He wisely left and I found a new path through the water near a giant tree root left gnarled by the flooding. With one cast my 3rd fly of the set managed to discreetly land in the water unencumbered by any more obstacles. Lo and behold, I felt a strong take and a few seconds later captured a small female brown. Even though she garnered no prizes, she fought with a courageous heart and I thankfully accepted my birthday gift.

I wondered briefly how Job endured all the tests God put before him. Surely my difficulties this day couldn’t compare with his tribulations and yet he managed to keep his faith. My hope was to measure up in tiny increments and the challenge was to meet the travail with gratitude.

No other fish graced my net that day; but neither did I bury my boots in sucking sand or embarrass myself further. Memories of my rookie days beckoned but I resisted.

Maybe this birthday was special after all. I’d learned some patience, caught a fish and arrived back at my starting point without tumbling into the water.

Light the candles and bring on the cake. I’m done!