Here’s a True Big Fish Story

When people tell me they want to write a book, become a speaker or launch their own business I do my best to encourage them and point them in the right direction. They have lots of questions about who, what, when, where and how but I tell them those are not the most important questions. The single most important question has to do with why.

When Bryan McMurry found the answer to the why question the impact it had on his life was immediate. Within minutes Bryan found himself sitting in front of his computer writing the first chapter of what would become his new book, It’s Not About the Fish. 

Here’s the rest of the story in Bryan’s own words…

Travel it long enough and the highway of preparation eventually leads to a crossroad of opportunity. At the crossroad, if prepared, you lift the rod and set the hook on one of life’s milestones. Standing squarely at success’s intersection you land that elusive dream and then bask in the euphoria of arrival. But the highway of preparation is perpetual, so the journey continues. And somewhere down the road, just over the hill, perhaps, is the crossroad of purpose.

The rippling water sparkled in the mid day sun as I struggled to learn the technique. Little did I know that that day at the edge of Rock Creek would forever alter my path through life. How could I have known? After all it was just a fly fishing lesson on a warm summer day.

I read extensively about the sport and developed an interest in the stories and an appreciation for the writing.  Then on a frigid December day, still unaware of the path I was traveling I began writing a story about a particularly memorable fishing trip. I sent that story to several friends. They liked it and encouraged me to write more stories, so I did.

I wrote another story titled Know Who Your Friends Are and sent it to Betty Jo Gigot, the publisher of Calf News. To my surprise she asked if she could publish it. I began writing other stories that were published by Working Ranch magazine and others. But it was the story published in Calf News that connected me to the Whitt and Wisdom columnist and owner of Purpose Unlimited, Jim Whitt. Jim called to tell me how much he liked my story. After explaining his purpose in life he offered to send me his book, Riding for the Brand: The Power of Purposeful Leadership.

The small night light attached to the headboard was just bright enough to read by. I was leisurely reading the last chapter of Jim’s book while my wife slept soundly beside me.  Suddenly the short passage on page 123 knotted my stomach. My eyes began to well up and I had to set the book down.  He’s talking to me, I thought. Not Jim — God! I sobbed uncontrollably.

I wiped my eyes with a tissue and blew my nose then reread what the protagonist, Bob Fooshee had said. “It occurred to me that my purpose revolved around telling people’s stories. And the stories I write impact the lives of the people who read them. My purpose in life is to tell stories that positively impact people’s lives.”

That last line got me. Just like Bob, that was my epiphany. I grabbed another tissue and finished the last two pages of the book. Then I put it down and stared at the ceiling, wide awake. At that very moment my path materialized, I had arrived at my purpose.  Like it states in Jim’s book, your purpose isn’t something you define, it’s something you find. I took a deep breath, exhaled through my mouth, turned and looked at the clock on the bedside table, 1:17 a.m. 

Unable to sleep from the excitement I got up, started the coffee and turned on my computer. The memory of a recent fly fishing trip bounced around in my head, so I sat down at my computer and began to type. Even though I had arrived at the crossroads, a new journey had begun and the heavy lifting lay ahead. Because it was my purpose, writing the book was the lightest load I’ve ever carried. The story I wrote that night is a chapter titled “Steelhead Alley” in my new book; It’s Not about the Fish

Editor’s Note: Go to to read an excerpt from It’s Not about the Fish. You’ll find yourself knee deep in a mountain stream with Bryan McMurry teaching you life lessons with a fly-rod.

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