A Change of Cast

Just a wee change…

Like a long time golfer who takes a periodic lesson, I arranged to take a class with Ian Colin James, guide and fly casting guru http://www3.sympatico.ca/ianjames/, to improve my casting.  After 20 or more years of fishing, I still have things to learn…but hopefully not too much.

Considering where to cast.

Considering where to cast.

McDougall Cottage in Cambridge was the gathering place for the 7 students and Ian. We were supposed to head down to Paris and spend the afternoon on the river, but high water levels meant dangerous wading conditions. Instead, we’d  just stand in the park near the river to work on our casts.

The in-class session was interesting but not a lot of new stuff for me. Except, of course, when Ian talked about throwing out your tapered leaders and simply using 20 feet of 6 pound fluorocarbon to do the same thing. That little change was going to save me time and money. Brilliant.

We all loaded into a van and drove to Paris. Being surrounded by like-minded people is always a treat. We speak the same language and value the same things – tight lines, releasing fish, and just standing in a river. As we rigged up in the parking lot, I had a feeling of confidence. I had lots of fishing experience, in Ontario, Alberta, Nova Scotia, and I know a lot about rivers. I really wasn’t prepared to change a lot about my cast.

Boy, was I in for a surprise!

Ian had us all stand in the field, just sending line out and casting like we were in the river. He’d plant himself next to someone and just chat. Then he’d provide a word of advice or an idea and move on. Nothing too intimidating, and you were bound to laugh at his stories.

When he reached me, he politely suggested I might want to stand differently. Then could I possibly move my arm differently, not shift my weight like I usually do, hold the line a bit differently….hold on, he was changing everything! I WAS NOT PLEASED!!! I was used to shifting my weight, to throwing the line a certain way, moving my shoulders…and now he wants me to change all this stuff? This is nuts!

But I had to listen to him. For heavens sakes, he was standing right next to me, wrapping his fingers around my line, explaining patiently that it would work if I just tried, and it would eventually be even better than my old way. I threw a few casts, just to get him to move to the next person. It wasn’t bad, but it was hard to adjust. Then a few more. He stepped away, telling me what to keep doing. I would forget now and then, and I’d go back to my old ways. But every time I did what he suggested, my line went straighter, further and it was easier.

This is so cool.

After about an hour, I was convinced. Ian would stroll back now and then, answer whatever question I had at the moment, tell me a story, and ask how I was doing. My biggest complaint was that I had to think about it, every time I retrieved the line.  But when I did, it was just easier and better. I whined to Ian and he promised eventually, it would be second nature. I just had to keep doing it, over and over.

Change. Why are we so afraid of change? In the change management workshop I recently ran, we talked about fear of the unknown, fear of failure, of commitment, of leaving our comfort zone. In my casting experience, I didn’t know what this new cast would do, and how I would handle it. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to adjust. I was worried about leaving my old technique behind and committing to the new one. But most of all, I was comfortable with my old cast. I didn’t have to think. This new approach made me think. A lot.

But it worked.

And it was fun.

And perhaps thinking, done in moderation, is a good thing!

A change of cast brings a brookie!

A change of cast brings a brookie!


101 Things!

I just delivered a Team Training session for my NRCan friends in Ottawa. To prepare for it, I hauled out some of my old training materials, but also ventured into some newer research about teams and team building. Before I knew it, I had found a reference to Rolf Smith http://www.fastcompany.com/62628/rolf-smith. Somewhere in his site, I learned he had his “students” create a list 101 things they want to do before they die. A bucket list of sorts.

Making music with friends is truly priceless

Making music with friends is truly priceless

I decided to create my list.

I sat down with my journal and a pencil, and started writing. The first items on the list were easy. But by the time I got to about 15, I started to really think about the idea of WANT itself. By the time I reached 20, I was running out of things to write. How bizarre is that. Does that mean I’m actually happy with my life as it is now, or that my vision and outlook on life is just too narrow to see beyond my immediate borders?

What I found really interesting were the questions I would ask myself in order to try to fill up the 101 blank spaces on the page. This is how I approached it:

  1. What do I want to do?
  2. What do I need to make my life better?
  3. What do I want to make my life better?

My answers to the first question seemed like they would be straight forward. Okay, I want to fly fish in Patagonia. I want to keep skiing in Whistler. I want to travel to Russia and Mongolia. I want to visit a place with a radically different culture from the one I live in, like China or India.

Headlamp sometimes necessary while cooking on fishing trips.

Headlamp sometimes necessary while cooking on fishing trips.

Do you see a pattern emerging there? Apparently, what I want to do revolves around where I want to go. So where do I want to go, other than Patagonia, Whistler, Russia, Mongolia, China or India? Ummmmm. Well, places where I can fly fish, where I can ski, where I can hike and where I can experience different things. (This was enlightening in and of itself, because I realized that traveling was obviously very important to me, almost to the exclusion of anything else.)

Okay, what do I need to make my life better?  I’m stumped. My father is alive and loves me (thankfully), my children amaze and delight me more each day, my friends hold me close in their hearts every day. So what else do I need? Really, nothing.

What else do I want? Now that’s a loaded question. And here is where I really stopped to (like Winnie the Pooh), think, think, think. Sure, I want to have a lot of Port Ellen single malt whiskey. And some good skis. I want to play the fiddle really, really well and make music wherever I go. And I want to be able to fish on the Margaree River. But do those things that I want make my life better?


What do I want to make my life better? Here’s my list:

  • Patience – I want to learn to be more patient, with others but more importantly, with myself.
  • Impact – I want to make a positive impact on as many people as I can.
  • Joy – I want to be joyful and share that joy with as many people as I can.
  • Understanding – I want to be loving enough to understand others’ perspectives, and not impose mine on anyone.

You see, I can’t buy any of those things. I can only continue to live and learn and move along that path. Wish me luck.

And I challenge you to do the same – start and finish your list of 101 things. Find the commonalities and discover what is really, truly important to you. You may be surprised.

(Of course, I’d like to find all those things while I’m fly fishing in Patagonia, or hiking in Ireland, savouring single malt and making music with my friends!)

Sharing laughter, single malt and a Steamwhistle with my most wonderful pal Gail!

Sharing laughter, single malt and a Steam Whistle with my most wonderful pal Gail!