Celebrate the other guy’s success.

by Scott Sadil

I wish I were better at this.

First: While I’m at home dinking around with – what? – words and wooden boat parts and worries about whether I can justify another plane flight to somebody’s promise of beyond-the-border sport, I get a text from my buddy, Chas, with a video attached — an edited six-minute clip of him fighting and landing and displaying two of those exquisite wild steelhead, within days and scent of the salt, that have disturbed my sleep for as long as I can remember.

It seems Chas drove up while the last big winter storm knocked out every river from California to British Columbia, put himself in position for things to drop back into shape, and when they did, was right where he needed to be to find fish, bigger and brighter than you can imagine, fresh out of the sea.

It practically breaks my heart.

Then: After two days getting skunked on a trout river I sometimes visit this time of year, I return home and settle back into a routine, one that includes dawn workouts at the neighborhood pool. Second day back I see K, the all but retired doc, who said, last time I saw him, that he was headed to the same river, scene of my recent humiliations.  

How’d he do? I ask.

“You wouldn’t believe it.” 

He shakes his head, a sheepish or maybe dung-eating grin mixed in with the usual expression of early-morning bewilderment old guys share while waiting around poolside in their Speedos.  

“If somebody told me they got as many fish – and as many big ones – as we got, I’d say they were full of BS. How did you do?”

Of course, I have excuses. Plenty of excuses. Good excuses: High water. Dark water. Low visibility. Dawn temps in the ‘teens. Not a bug to be seen.

But . . . . really? How many fish over twenty inches?

I feel sick to my stomach.

fly fishing
Guides like catching fish, too.

It’s an attitude I’m not proud of. I certainly want others to celebrate my success. And, the truth is, I’ve always kind of wanted to catch all the good fish, all the good waves.

No doubt it’s a disease. One symptom is to make liars out of otherwise decent people. Ten around the bend!  But that’s a lightweight case; it’s not about what the other guy thinks. If you’ve got it bad – greed, avarice, and covetousness rolled into one – it eats you up in the dark night of the soul, leaving behind a bottomless pit that no fish, or numbers of fish, can ever quite fill.

Or maybe that’s just me.

The good news is, I sense, at last, I’m improving. And I didn’t have to resort to smoking toad. My bouts are shorter, less severe. Times being what they are, I’m glad to hear of anyone catching a steelhead.

Life’s too short to live in a barely concealed state of desire, to resent the accomplishment of others, to have so much and still beg for more.

At least that’s what I tell myself when, tossing and turning, I roll over in bed, in the middle of the night, and switch on the BBC.


Gray’s Angling Editor Scott Sadil finds nothing about fishing overrated.