Humility (and why there’s nothing quite like family)

I have a book. Advance copies arrived just before Christmas, and for the first time I was able to hold the product of two years of work– 84,000 words and 384 pages – in my hands. It’s finally tangible. A chunk, even. It exceeds expectations, most ways.

The air-freighted carton arrived on my doorstep about the same time I rolled-in from a week on the boat. I poured a glass of Writers Tears Irish Whiskey, and dug in, savoring the moment. My wife was excited. My kids were excited. The wee, family celebration stretched into the evening hours.

The family celebration was in full-swing until I texted this photo to my cousin and fishing buddy Bobby. Ever see a scene in a movie or TV show in which the music comes to a jumbled halt? It was sort of like that.
Photo by Aaron Reed

There’s nothing quite like the admiration of family.

At some point before the boys’ bedtime, as I texted out photos of pages I was particularly excited about to various friends, I flipped back to page 43: a full-page photo of an older gentlemen, resting at the edge of the Guadalupe River. In his hands, he holds a classic (and, these days, hard-to-find and pricey) Diamondback rod. Well-used waders are tucked into a pair of Converse All-Star high tops.

I remember the day well; Jim Youngblood and my cousin Bobby Albin (my most consistent fishing buddy over the past four decades) drove up from Rockport to sample the southernmost year-round trout fishery in the nation with me. Jim, a veteran angler, had long ago figured-out that the canvas sneakers in a size larger than normal make fine wading boots. For extra-slippery surfaces, he slides surgical booties over them.

I thought it was a brilliant hack – the sort of thing only someone who had been at this for decades would come up with – and resolved to include it in the book.

On the river and over barbecue plates in Canyon Lake, our easy conversation ranged far and wide, but much of it centered on another Rockport friend, a fellow who chases redfish during his winter residency in Texas, and huge, wild cutthroat in small streams back in Wyoming the rest of the year.

That celebratory evening just before Christmas, I snapped a photo of the page and sent it to Bobby. He must have had his phone in his hand. Less than a minute later, he replied: “Oops! That’s Jim Youngblood…”

Well, yeah. Then I looked at the caption. I had identified Jim as Charlie Goodrich, the Pinedale, Wyoming, native we had admiringly discussed that day. In the final, hectic days of tying up loose ends and details for the book; in the five or six rounds of revisions, I flubbed the caption.

I gotta tell you, I was feeling pretty good about the book and all the work that went into it up until that moment. My arm was sore from patting myself on the back. That text back from Bobby was … deflating.

There’s nothing quite like the honesty of family.

Winter is no excuse to not fish in Texas. Here, the author practices his humility on Onion Creek.
Photo by Cory Sorel

So far as I know, that’s the only factual error in the entire 384 pages. But it’s particularly embarrassing because Jim (Charlie, too, for that matter) is one of nicest guys you could meet on the water. How would I feel, I wondered, if I spent a day on the river with a guy and he couldn’t remember my name?

There are a handful of typos that slipped through, too (not many, considering the manuscript was 84,000 words). All of it will, presumably, be fixed in a second printing.

Thinking back to that caption, my preference is that I would not have done something so boneheaded, but having been a bonehead, it was useful to be reminded that I’m not, in fact, a super genius, that I’m all-too-fallible. It was a humbling moment, a reminder that in so many ways I’m – still and always – a work in progress.

There’s nothing quite like family to keep you humble.

Research by social scientists into humility, a trait “characterized by an ability to accurately acknowledge one’s limitations and abilities, and an interpersonal stance that is other-oriented rather than self-focused” is relatively new, but it’s something I think I’ve always instinctively wished I had more of.

Fly fishing helps. Armed with hundreds of dollars of equipment, a big brain, lots of information, time, and a significant advantage in both height and mobility, I still fail to fool fish pretty regularly. Fish are small, not particularly bright, and they are bounded in space and time. I have the advantage of dipping into the collective experience of other anglers and I know more about these critters than they do themselves, I think; it should be easier than this.

Fatherhood helps me maintain humility, too, for many of the same reasons. I challenge you: take your kids fishing and see how well your pride is holding up at the end of the trip.

Review copies are out now, across the state and the continent. Over the next few months, I expect that relative strangers will begin offering their opinions of Fly Fishing Austin & Central Texas. I hope they see the value in the book and that I was able to clearly communicate why we should all care about these extraordinary waters so close to home.

But, if I somehow failed, or if the book just isn’t to a particular reviewer’s taste, I hope I’ll remember how much I think I value humility. And after the book is released to the public May 1, if you see me at an event somewhere, feel free to remind me that I’m not, as the kids say, “all that.”

In my experience, fly fishing is good for the ego (in a Buddhist sense): it’s a humility factory. This early January day on the winter Lampasas was no exception. Still … a fine day on the water.
Photo by Aaron Reed

Aaron Reed

Aaron Reed

Aaron Reed is an award-winning outdoor writer and Army veteran. He currently splits his time between his native Texas Gulf coast, where he drives a tugboat, and his home near the San Gabriel River in Georgetown, Texas. When he is not working, chances are you can find him knee-deep in a stream somewhere around Austin, often with his wife and one or more of his three boys, trying like heck to become a better fly fisherman. His stories and photos have appeared in Southwest Fly Fishing, This is Fly, Kayak Angler, Texas Outdoors Journal, Texas Sporting Journal, Texas Fish & Game, Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine, Lone Star Outdoor News, Austin American-Statesman, Austin Business Journal, the Taylor Press, Soldiers magazine, Leatherneck magazine, Liguorian magazine, The Washington Times, and elsewhere.

5 thoughts to “Humility (and why there’s nothing quite like family)”

  1. Ahh..the lessons in humility. Don’t be too hard on yourself. In my opinion, you are “all that” and a bag of chips. Another great read!

  2. Good read, Aaron. Humility is something my wife often reminds me about when she is sick of hearing me yammer on. She kindly reminds me of this virtue by telling me, “Please shut up, you don’t know what you’re talking about.” She’s usually right about that. Looking forward to getting my hands on the book.

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