Michael’s Story: Knowing What To Ask For
by Scott Sparrow
If you were asked the question, "What do you want, more than anything else?" could you answer it? Could you name the most precious thing to you without hesitating? I think it is important for us all to consider this question, so that we can face the world each day with clarity of mind and singleness of purpose.
This occurred to me several years ago while I was manning a booth for our fly fishing lodge at a boating and fishing show. A gentleman named Al came up to talk with me, and told me that his 10-year-old son Michael wanted to learn to fly fish. I am always impressed when a child that young expresses a desire to learn a method of fishing that most adults consider too difficult. So I offered to give Michael lessons whenever his father could bring him to our lodge in Arroyo City.
Then Al paused a moment and said, "I know about the books you've written. So I think you might like to hear this story about Michael."
He went on to tell me about a fishing trip that had taken place a year before at Falcon Lake. He said that the family had fished all day, and that everyone had caught bass except Michael. When Al went to bed that night, he was awakened a while later to the sound of Michael's voice. At first he thought that Michael was talking in his sleep, but when he listened more carefully, he realized that Michael was praying. He said that he heard Michael say,
"God, this is Michael. Everyone caught fish today but me. I really would like to catch a fish. Please God, help me catch a fish, too. I only want one."
The father says that he was so touched by Michael's prayer that he decided that he would do his best to help Michael catch that fish.
The next day, Michael and his brother and cousins were standing in knee-deep water next to a drop-off, using subsurface spinning lures. Since Falcon Lake has a lot of submerged trees, the kids would get their lures hung up from time to time, and Al would swim out to retrieve them, since the lures cost so much to replace.
Al heard Michael yell that he'd gotten hung up again, so Al waded over to help him. At that point, a huge bass came out of the water, trying to shake Michael's lure free. Al thought what anyone would think: No way he's going to land that fish.
Michael was using a kid's rod with a reel spooled with eight-pound test line, so his chances were slim to none when it came to landing a fish like that in a tree-infested lake. But Michael gave it his best. At one point, he fell over backward into the water, but got back up and kept fighting the fish. Suddenly, the fish's head came out of the water again, as if it was going to jump again. Al said that it was as if the fish saw Michael and ceased all efforts to free itself. It turned and swam straight for shore until it had almost beached itself. Al jumped in the water and grabbed the fish, ran over to the ice chest, dropped it in,and slammed the lid.
In total disbelief, Al opened the ice chest just to make sure the fish was real. It was, and it weighed nine and a half pounds. They mounted the fish, needless to say.
To those of us who have fished for largemouth bass, it is clear that Michael's catch was a gift of inconceivable proportions. Most fishermen go all their lives without ever landing such a fish.
As a postscript to this story, Michael and his dad came to fish with me when Michael had just turned 18. Michael had never caught a redfish on a fly, nor had he ever casted a fly to one. When he arrived, I looked at his line, and saw that it was dirty and frayed on the end. I said, “What have you been doing with this fly line?!” “Practicing,” Michael replied. He went on to tell me that he’s practiced day after day in his front yard, in preparation for his first fly fishing trip.
Needless to say, I was impressed, because most of my clients “practice” only when they are casting to visible fish, and you know what happens then.
I said, “Well, the line’s destroyed, but that’s okay because you can use mine.”
Michael proceeded to catch eight redfish on his first outing. Only one other client has done so well with so little experience. But you know what? I wasn’t surprised at all!
Knowing what we want, and being willing to devote ourselves fully to the task of getting it, is the “secret” that so many of us have never learned, or have forgotten. On that day, Michael reminded me of what really matters.