There's a good fishing report on the Fox River mixed in with
this introspection from Ken Gortowski.
I thought it a well-written, well-structured story and report, worthy of being pulled out as a separate. I will link to it from the main Midwest Fishing Report: Here goes:
"Don't ever think you'll work for one company for the rest of your life because as soon as they have the chance, they'll get rid of you."
With that simple comment I was effectively ruined for life.
I was 18 years old, 36 years ago, and helping my dad out in the garage getting it cleaned up and straightened out. I have no memory of what we were talking about before he said that and no memory of what was said afterward. I remember him stopping what he was doing, standing up straight to make that point, and that's it.
Since then I've never been able to hold a full time job for more than 3 and a half years. I have worked in the graphic arts industry for 27 years, 18 of those running my own freelance business, until April of this year. Then the whole graphics business decided to get rid of me.
I was dwelling on this today as I stood at the back of my car getting suited up in my waders. There were 2 hours of sunlight left, a sky blue sky, fall colors along the Fox River and enough warmth in the air to make for a comfortable time in the water. Part of my brain had registered that there was a wader already in the water. He was about 10 feet out from shore and slowly wading up stream. I remember thinking "wrong way" but not giving it much more thought as I went back to making the mental check of having all my own gear with me when I walked away from my car.
I crossed Route 25 and stood on the bike path overlooking the river. The wader was already past me and never saw me standing there. I could hear the question in my head, "doing any good?", but it never came out of my mouth. I watched as he cast what appeared to be an inline spinner upstream into a slow moving pool and reeled it back too fast. I wasn't up for a conversation comparing gear and presentation and headed down stream down the path.
I started dwelling again on how after 27 years in graphics, I was being told I was too old to bother continuing. The dead silence that met job inquiries over the last few months, dozens of them had been sent out, had numbed me. Just 7 years ago when things slowed down I would make 4 phone calls and have 3 freelance jobs to do. Now phone calls were met with "we have just enough to keep us busy, and not all the time."
I dropped down into the water further up stream than where I usually do. Besides needing to feel flowing water around my legs, the river was lower than I had seen it in 4 years. There was no need to be cautious. I could wade anywhere I felt like going and I took advantage of the opportunity.
Unlike the other angler I cast downstream and let the jig and twister swim around in the current. Reeling was unnecessary, the water did all the work and the little bumps of fish smacking at the lure was a nice respite from my obsessing over work, even if none were hooked. More fish were lost as I continued down stream. Some were just carp that I knew I had rolled my lure across, but some of the others were on for too long to be a simple foul hook.
This past Friday I had quit a job on the spot. I had been working for a Comcast contractor as a field technician and had decided that working for Comcast, even as a contractor, was easily the dumbest thing I had ever done. The work itself wasn't bad and most of the customers were a pleasure to meet, but the whole Comcast business model of meeting outlandish ETA's and Timeframes was pathetic. Work harder, work faster, work 10 to 14 hour days six days a week and oh yeah, this week were cutting your pay rates by 10 to 15 percent. That didn't sit well. Then there's the lies. There are times you have to call in and lie to Comcast dispatch, then convince the sometimes irate customer to go along with the lies, all to save someone's butt for doing a bad job a day or two earlier. Poor quality work is expected considering the business model. I refused to go along with the lies. Enough was enough.
Finally I was standing up stream from a small flat that slid into deeper slower moving water. This was always a gimme spot if you floated your lure correctly in the deeper slower moving water. Missed a couple of fish and caught a couple. Missed a couple of more and finally had a bigger one nail the lure and hug the bottom for a hard up stream swim. The shore was lit up by the setting sun like the stained glass of an old church. The bright fall colors of a sugar maple stood out stark against the deep blue of the sky. Bright green streaks flashed through the remaining tall grasses and a couple of more fish were missed.
I was surprised at where the fish were sitting at times and at my inability to hook and land them. In total, only 4 fish were landed for the 2 hour hike. I should have hooked and landed so many more. But the smells and sights along the river, the landing and some times just hooking of fish, had the effect I was looking for when I came out to the river. To clear my mind even momentarily of current personal events.
I may be too old to continue on in an industry, or so I'm told, but that's just work. I'll find other work doing something. School bus driver is looking pretty good. I like kids.
What I still have in my old age is my balance. The ability to wander around rock laden rivers and not stumble. To sometimes hook and land a smallmouth bass while wandering around. I have the ability to stand at sunset in the middle of a river and soak in the smells and sights of a stunningly beautiful fall day. To feel that comfortable pressure of water around legs and to hear the songs of water over rock.
How do you put a price on that.
I do know one thing though, next time I bring a bucket of minnows, some split shot and some small octopus hooks. It's that time of year you know.