The Brown Trout and the State of Not Expecting

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Mental-health- check- in: Mrs. Brown Trout at your service? This is an unexpected story about an unexpected issue from someone not expecting much…..

So we were on one of my manic excursions with my husband on a lovely fall day after a rough week of relocating, unpacking and a one year old that decided he could no longer sleep through the night. I had discovered the Boise Green Belt, which is a bike path that stretches through a few counties and follows the Boise River. So we set our VZ Navigator and headed out the door. My daughter said on the way,

“Mom, are you ever going to give that lady a break, she must be tired (the voice of the navigator)!”

I laugh because ever since we arrived, I have been driving around a ton trying to get my bearings and find out where the rivers and lakes and places I can “be” are at. No, I’m not a normal mom that would want to figure out schools and doctors first. I want to know where I can get my kids outside to run around and where I can go to de-stress! And yes, my husband understands that I threw my waders in the car and he still agrees to go somewhere where there is water.

The pathway is amazing but we find out quickly that it is not the usual Saturday of exploring that we are used to. The kids ride their bikes and we yell at them when an intense biker comes along- “left side, left side”. I’m afraid we might be too “country” for this city walking adventure as we stumble to keep our kids on the correct side of the path. My 18 month old will try to climb out of his stroller if we do not keep moving which keeps it….entertaining.

Some people think the kid’s inability to follow the rules was cute, but the majority of the foot traffic was annoyed. My husband and daughter are trying to go without training wheels on my daughter’s bike. She keeps trying and trying and it blesses my heart, despite the annoyed looks we received from onlookers. She is so proud and that is all that matters to me.

Our black lab pulls at the ghetto yellow rope we tied around him as he had never really spent much time on a leash on the 80 acres we recently moved from. I take a deep breath and realize this city thing was going to be an adjustment and I was not getting my usual release of stress as I was expecting from a walk in nature!

I was proud of myself for staying in the moment though; despite the fact that I needed a break and especially since there was a trout stream next to me the entire time we paraded through the bike path lanes. Sure, I glanced over a few times to check for fish habitat. I’m like the creepy married man that checks out a girl while he is with his wife. My two pulling hobbies in my life- my family and my outside adventures! Unbecoming, I know. But when a mom needs a break, she needs a break.

Needless to say, we got back to the parking lot and after a time of picnicking and exploration I looked at my husband with the cutest look I could muster and asked,

“Hey babe, do you care if I go fish for a second?”

…Eyes squinted, portraying a look of desperation with a speck of longing and excitement.

Ladies, marry a man that encourages you to do these things. I am so blessed. He said he would play with the kids for a bit so I could go check out the river. I quickly toss a bag of Cheetos on the table and the kids circle in like a pack of wolves. So I dash away and throw on my gear and waddle to the nearest opening in the trees and I excitedly slide on the leaves to get to the river bed.

Very aware of my time constraints, I briefly watch the water and find a smooth riffle that is between two nice pools. I have never fished in the city before and noticed I was right below a bridge as an ambulance stormed over it; which was unlike what I am used to. I found myself easily distracted by the city around me vs. the quiet sounds of trees in the wind. I was a little on edge.

I start to thread my line and realize I have a size 5x tippet on my line that is from summer. I know it is too weak and over-used for what I was going to do, but I use it anyways, thinking ‘the chances I catch something are slim, so I might as well not waste my time’.

After finishing putting a nymph and a dropper nymph on with a pink indicator and weight, I cast upstream and I hold the extra line off of the surface so that the indicator was bobbing along as naturally as possible.  I re-cast carefully avoiding the tree stacked to the right of me. The line lies out nicely and I imagine the little bugs are floating next to each other, looking deliciously vulnerable to any aquatic animal.

While kicking back enjoying my awesome presentation and just appreciating being in a river, my hot pink indicator dives underwater and I quickly snap out of it and set the hook. I hold my rod up high but do not yank too hard on the line because I know I have that stupid worn out 5x on and this is probably the biggest fish I have EVER caught in Idaho. The fish jumps up out of the water and my jaw drops. It’s a big Brown Trout with an orange-red colored stomach and beautiful round spots on its top side. I feel like I have won the lottery I am so thrilled. I try to follow it down stream keeping my rod carefully up and tactfully working to get my extra line rolled in and I finally have it on the reel now. The fish takes some drag out and then jumps out of the water and forcefully yanks its head towards the opposite bank.

“Snap”.

The line breaks right above my hot pink indicator (bobber). My heart is racing; I was so full of adrenaline from this short, unexpected battle.  What just happened? At first I thought ‘that was so sweet’. Then I thought: this poor beautiful fish now has two hooks, split shot, and a bobber trailing behind it. No one will want to spawn with her! Her friends will make fun of her at school! My messed up mind pictures her swimming to a doctor of sorts underwater that helps her remove the hooks so she can get back to being big and beautiful. That makes me feel better about the fish but “Uhg”. I start to feel annoyed at myself as I think about why I did not put the right size of tippet on! I know it was more than laziness.

The addict in me wants to try for another one but I realize the children are close to temper tantrum zone or otherwise known as nap time. As I hike back downstream to meet up with my posse, I start to analyze this current situation and turn into more of a psychologist than a fisherwoman:

Somehow, this decision to not put the correct line on brings up a deeper issue in my mind as I realize this action mirrors many situations in my life where I choose to ‘not expect much’.  So if things don’t work out, it doesn’t hurt as bad or if I don’t catch anything, it’s because I had a poor set up versus I don’t know how to pick the right fly and I’m a horrible fisher-woman. I’m proud of myself for being out here, but I am actually only half being out here if I still don’t expect much success from myself. It’s almost like I treat myself like I don’t deserve it or I’m not worth the time. ? This is unexpected and a little dramatic, but true!

This leads me start to think about people in general, how we all at times in our lives, after really hard things have happened, we decide to live a half-life or a sheltered life of ‘not good enough’ or ‘why even try’ or what counselors call a state of “safety mode”. How stupid of our minds to choose to listen to the bad happenings versus the good encouraging happenings in our lives! Why did I not come to the river thinking- I will possibly catch a monster trout today, I’m going to make sure I go after it? This brown trout made me realize I needed to do a mental health self pep talk!

As I’m moving through the frigid water, I go even deeper with this issue and out of nowhere a Southern Baptist preacher shows up in my mind and tells me:

“Who is telling you that you cannot go after that ‘big trout in life’? It is you from the past? The person that hurt you before? The team you didn’t make? The ways you don’t think you measure up?”

“Sister, God has made you new! Get out there and show up with your big girl panties on and expect big things, love in a big way- even if you might get hurt. God doesn’t approve of safety mode- only go out and he will help you mode.  Expect big things!”

Yes, I criticize how many times he says ‘big’, but I am mostly just saying “amen brother” and agreeing with him. I realize that moving to a new place and taking care of everyone has been a lot harder than I can admit to anyone- along with some other really hard things that happened right before we moved. I was at the place of either hiding and feeling sorry for myself or stepping up to the plate and trusting God and making a way for me to find time to take care of myself and heal.

As I come around the corner I find my little family playing in the leaves and greeting people walking by them. I realize these deep thoughts from my brown trout were probably also spurred on by watching my little girl fall on her bike earlier and how I thought, “There has got to be some easier way for her to learn”.  But the only way for her to learn, was to be able to fall a few times and learn that she could find her balance eventually and ride without training wheels.

I think some of us stop even trying to ride the bike because it is scary and we never know if it will work out. But what is worse- falling, or never knowing how it feels to ride that bike?

Even though I lost my big brown trout, I am grateful for the lesson she taught me and for the southern Baptist preacher that rose up in my ear today to encourage me to fight the battle in my mind. After all, you cannot catch a fish unless you go fishing; and likewise, you cannot have success in life without letting go of fear and stepping out in faith.

Another Side Note: When I got home I googled what happens to hooks in a fish and I found out that since I was using a barb-less hook, the fish more than likely did not have any problem getting it out once the tension on the line snapped. It made me feel a little better. If you know otherwise, please don’t tell me. Brown trout, I’m sorry.

Catch and release baby…well sort of release on this one…don’t judge me.

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Trout Picture Credit:”Fine Art Prints Brown Trout Lake Fishing Nature” by Baslee Troutman Fine Art Prints,

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