Joy and the Virtue of a Fishless Day

By State Council Chair, Scott Allen.


Entering this holiday season we are greeted, more often confronted, with “Joy.” It is printed, televised, broadcasted, embossed, illuminated, scripted in cursive light.


To a trout fisher knee deep in the other season, joy can mean a 20-fish day. Joy can mean bringing to net a record fish. Joy, as the protagonist of our fishing season, has its antagonist lurking in the riffle, bend or pool. Never oversell a fishing trip, be it an afternoon on your home water or a week in the mountains, and we all know why: it’s that black and white odiferous interloper that has a way of shouldering the salmonids aside and having its’ way with your line, all day. But even some modicum of joy can be seen in a skunk; like so many people, they are approachable without getting sprayed. But a skunk has a way of garnering respect even when it erases your ambitions for the day.


That fishless outing gives us pause and reason to revisit the true meaning of joy in the work we put forth with Trout Unlimited. Borrowing from Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk, he defines joy as “the happiness that doesn’t depend on what happens. It is the grateful response to the opportunity that life offers you at this moment.” Coming from a 97-year-old who is as lucid and spry as many half his age, who endured life in Nazi occupied Austria, who was forcibly conscripted into the Wehrmacht, I’m comfortable listening to him and taking notes. Brother David goes on to add “the root of joy is gratefulness... It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.” 


I’m grateful for those fishless days (just a few, thank you) and choose to set aside my kvetching, pining and foibles for the joy of living in a state with so many outdoor opportunities and donating my time for an organization that makes our corner of the world a better place.


The Trout Unlimited Awards Banquet will take place Feb. 3 in Oshkosh. Of course, the highlight of the evening will be a tribute to a handful of individuals we can all be grateful to and recognize the joy they bring to our organization. To many of them, every day is a metaphorical fishless day. They are grateful for the opportunity to serve. And that is the meaning of joy. I hope you can join us there. If not, please set aside some time to get to know them a little better through the pages of Wisconsin Trout and to be grateful they are among us.