By Tom Coble
Another summer adventure in the Alaskan wilderness has ended with a valuable lesson. This year’s dominant lesson was how opportunities and goals sometimes blind us to what is right in front of us at the moment.
There is a place on one of the rivers we float that is one of my favorite dry fly-fishing spots on this planet. Anyone who has been there before looks forward to returning.
Dry fly fishing can be an exacting and a sometimes-frustrating activity, but not so here. in late August, large numbers of trout congregate on this channel on their way to their spawning grounds. This is truly something to look forward to if you like to catch large fish on a dry fly.
The day of our float to the “spot” was great. A clear picture of past experience reinforced our vision and added to our anticipation. As we came closer to the special place, we found great fishing so we hurried on in anticipation that if it was this good upriver, it must be incredibly good at our “spot.”
When we got there, we found fish, but not as we had anticipated. I always find nature’s little quirks to be a learning opportunity. The river had changed, the fish had moved, and we floated past exactly what we had been looking for about 3-4 miles upstream (not something you can change when you have no motor, just your arms, back, and two oars).
Anticipation of what was coming left us blind to the greatness of the moment. We missed what we sought because we thought we knew where to find it. We all had a great time, and, by any measure, the fishing was successful, but it wasn’t what it had been nor what we had anticipated. Each of us learned that goals are good, but they can blind us to what we really want if we try to make them fit a preconceived idea of what we are after.
Next summer, instead of a location goal, we have created a specific quality goal. Wherever we find the quality is where we’ll stop. We will not shoot for the location in anticipation that it will provide the quality of fishing we seek. We will be open and receptive to what is in front of us, not what we want it to be. We will be open to what the river and the fish are telling us at the moment.
Have you ever set a work or organizational goal so specific that you missed what you were really after? Goals are important and focus is great as long as they do not blind us to opportunity.
Next summer, we will find that constantly moving ideal “spot” if we listen to what the river is telling us.
Are you listening to what your river is telling you?