Al Campbell, Field Editor

October 18th, 2004

Always the Teacher(Guest Column)
By Elliott Warshaw, Rapid City, SD

This has been a difficult week for many of us here on FAOL. The news of Al Campbell's illness shook the foundation of stability that we all feel when we are cozy, comfy, and secure. We all have posted notes, said prayers, made phone calls, visited, and even tied a fly or two in his honor. But Al, being the man that he is, is still helping us learn.

Sometimes the lesson you learn is one that needs to be taught, even if the subject matter makes you uncomfortable. Today's lesson from the "master" is, "What are you doing with your passion for flyfishing?"

Al is a man who loves to fish. He loves to tie flies. He loves to teach. And that makes him a man who loves to teach the art of flyfishing and tying. He's taught me well. He's taught many of the FAOL faithful a thing or two (or three). When you read one of his tutorials on tying a fly pattern, you hear Al when you read the text. It's like having Al looking over your shoulder as you spin the Elk Hair around the hook, even though it's supposed to stay on top. You can almost imagine the look on his face when you get it wrong for the third time. You can definitely imagine the look of satisfaction he has when you finally get it right. You can almost feel him patting you on the back and sharing your joy at learning it well and doing it right. You definitely know he enjoys your success as if it were his own.

But first and foremost, Al is a fly fisherman. He wrote an article this summer entitled, "The Non-Fisherman". It was a story on how living that roller coaster ride called life sometimes gets in the way of our passion. One paragraph went as follows:

This has truly been one heck of a summer. If we start in April, I haven't had a weekend or day off completely free except for that trip to the Bighorn. And, I won't have a weekend off until sometime in September or maybe October, except the Idaho Fish-In. And, the fish-in is still in doubt, but looking better than it was several weeks ago. I suppose someone will have to teach me how to cast when I get there.

Tonight, while talking to Al's wife Patty, we discussed the miracle of Al coming through the surgery and keeping his motor skills intact. "That was what he wanted," she had said. That is what he got. We talked about his prognosis, which depends largely on the pathology report. But whatever news it may hold regarding Al's future, Patty, summed it up with one wish. "I hope he goes fishing every day", she said.

We've followed Al on his fishing adventures, catching nice trout and visiting rivers and streams most of us dream about more than actually fish. We've also followed him as he replaced the big picture window, which, by the way, I would have taken if I had a place to put it (and Al came and helped install it). The name of that article was, "I'm Worn Out." At the end of it, he said he might even get to go fishing if the weather allowed. I hope it did and I hope he went.

I was starting to see a pattern. Al worked a lot. Al had several commitments and was dedicated to working around the house, too. The message that started coming through is that fishing, a major part of Al's life, was becoming a minor part of his activities. How many times have we said to ourselves, "I wish I had more time for fishing?" I've said that more times than I care to remember. But the cold, hard reality of it is that I do have the time. I just don't take advantage of it. I wonder why that is?

I could list several reasons why I can't fish more than I do. But truth be told, I have chosen other things over casting a fly to a hungry brown trout. Sometimes, they are unavoidable, like work. Others, though, are choices. One that comes to mind is watching the Cubs, which is, more often than not, an exercise in frustration equal to or greater than a 20 MPH headwind on a 3 weight set-up. But three hours of quality fishing time gets gobbled up by Sammy Sosa swinging at an 0-2 curve ball. I ask myself why I bother to watch. When the day is done, I usually ask myself why I didn't go fishing, and I almost always come up with an acceptably lame excuse.

"I hope he goes fishing every day", she said. More than once, actually. I love fishing, too. This week, I've thought a lot about what the future holds for Al. I've also thought a great deal on what the future holds for me. Another annual wake-up call, more commonly referred to as a birthday, hit my calendar this week. While I will always remain young-at-heart, it's tough to completely ignore the beads on the abacus, which all seem to be moving to the other side.

I suppose it's possible the birthday deal got me looking inward. Really though, it's been Al. So what did Al teach me this week? He taught me that you must make time for your passion, whatever it may be. He also taught me that I need more of a passion towards my responsibilities at home. Watching the Cubs may be fun, but take the time to live up to your responsibilities. And most importantly, fight, with a vengence, against anything or anyone (especially yourself), that keeps you from your passion.

"I hope he goes fishing every day." So do I, Patty. And I hope to be the one who drives him to the creek. ~ Elliott Warshaw (ilmbaba)

Previous Al Campell Columns

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