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What the Caney Fork River Is Teaching Me About My Business

Mending a line 

In my mind, there are few things as peaceful as fly fishing. It is a chance to get away from the daily grind, enjoy nature and think. I don’t often take off of work for self indulgences, but the close proximity of the Caney Fork River from my office near the Nashville Airport during a particularly troublesome week seemed appealing as I wrestled with some business problems at 2:00 o’clock in the morning. Before heading to work, I threw my 5 weight fly rod and my Robertson fly box into the back of my car along with a pair of waders, inflatable PFD and a warm jacket.  

I have known for some time that I have been working too hard in my business and I needed to start working “on” my business. I had read a book by Michael Geber called the E-Myth that made a lot of sense to me. It was clearly time for me to change the way I run my business if it was to flourish. It seems the faster my business went the more I got behind. 

On this warm winter morning, I started for the office planning on heading for the river later in the day. As I approached the entrance ramp for I-40, I decided to go eastbound toward the Caney Fork River instead of my normal westbound trek to the office.   Forty-five minutes later, I was pulling into the parking area at Betty’s Island, a popular fishing spot. I was the only car there this Thursday morning. As I sandwiched myself between the front passenger door and the rear passenger door to change from my business attire into by fishing garb, I started to worry about all of the things I needed to do this morning. I had a sense of guilt wash over me, but I was here so I went fishing. 

As I walked down the concrete ramp toward the river, there was a fog rising above the water. The still morning air was about 55° already, but the water was icy cold causing the morning fog. The river was lazy. There was some current, but it was moving slowly from my left to the right. I knew that would change with the scheduled release of water from the Center Hill Dam nine miles upstream.  

After wading to my first fishing spot, I tied on a tiny blue wing olive fly and made my first cast. I watched as the fly floated downstream toward an area where I had caught fish before. For those of you that are not fly fisherpersons, it is important that the fly float freely and naturally in the current. If there is any drag on the fly line from the current, it pulls on the fly and you will not be able to fool a trout. On this morning, floating the fly naturally was easy, the current was very slow and even. But that was about to change. Like business, the Caney Fork changes and changes quickly. Sometimes the river is lazy, sometimes it is fierce and impossible to deal with.  

I know that it takes about two and half hours for the wave of water to travel from Center Hill Dam to Betty’s Island once they open the generating gates at the dam. As I fished, I noticed the current was increasing in velocity as the water level was rising. The current near the bank was much slower than the current in the middle of the river. I had to pay closer attention to make the fly float naturally through the strike zone. I had to “mend the line” more often as the velocity of the current increased.   Mending a line is almost a fly fishing art form. The faster the current, the more effect it has on the fly line, that in turn tugs on the fly making it look unnatural. By picking the floating fly line up and flipping it upstream as required by the velocity of the current, you increase your chances of success.  

As I fished that morning, the level of the river continued to rise and the velocity of the current increased. I realized that the same thing was happening in my business. As the velocity of business activity increases, I am starting to get dragged down stream. I need to pay closer attention to my business and mend the line. Meaning, I have to work “on” my business to get things to float naturally and increase my chances for success. I also noticed that as the water began to rise there were eddys forming behind the rocks. Trout instinctively know that they can find refuge and take a break from the fast currents behind the rocks. That is what I was indeed doing myself when I went Eastbound on I-40 to go fishing; I was getting out of the current.  

That morning was a morning well spent. I like traveling Eastbound on I-40 to go to work “on” my business. I am going to go to work in that direction more often!

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