Jan/Feb Article: Taking inventory!

It's that time of year when the books must be balanced. For many, inventory is a headache that's associated with business. What's in stock, what needs to be ordered for the new year; and, not least, it's tax time. I know, I'm sorry I even brought the subject up. After all, you want to read something that's lighter on the mind and certainly on the billfold. For 2012, my inventory has more to do with "did my feet hit the floor this morning?" I'm at an age where I've realized there is more behind me then ahead here on this earth. Being retired, though, does have it's advantages. I spent more time outdoors in 2011 then any other year in my life, with the exception of some years in youth. If you grew up on a subsistence farm in the Ozarks during the 50's and 60's, you know exactly what I mean. If I wasn't plowing soil I was picking corn. In between, I fed cattle and hogs. After that, I fixed fence. I did figure out a way to carry a gun on the tractor though and there was always a cane pole on the pond bank for's important to keep a good inventory when it comes to huntin' and fishin'. More time, health and hopefully, another Christmas with grand kids is about all I need or want this year. I've got a dozen canoes scattered to all four corners of the Ozarks, more fishing tackle then I can wear out in two more lifetimes and I never used four of my guns in 2011. Naturally, that doesn't mean that I do not need more fishing tackle and hunting equipment. Very likely I'll spend considerable time in sporting goods stores in the weeks ahead looking for something "I need" to fish and hunt effectively in 2012. There is always room for one more fishing lure and another box of shotgun shells. I got to do some things in 2011 that I've always wanted to do; but, didn't have the time to do in years past. I spent an entire week in the Boundary Water Canoe Area of northern Minnesota camped out on an island within sight of Canada. There with old friends, we fished so hard that there in the middle of the week catching Northerns and big Smallmouth even grew boring. So, we sat in big lawn chairs, poked the fire, listened to the loons and watched the sun set on the western horizon. Not least, cell phone coverage and honey do lists were miles away. We enjoyed it so much, it's on our "to do" list for 2012. I got to meet several new clients this year. It's amazed me how many fine people there are out there that want to go float fishing. It's a pleasure to introduce non-residents to Ozark streams. Surprisingly, a lot of my new clients come here from out-of-state because they have heard of our streams. Giving them the chance to see the best of the Ozarks will never get old from my point of view. I've learned to pace myself when guiding as I want to enjoy being on the water, too. It's work to haul a couple of men down a river; but, when they appreciate the effort that you make, it makes all the difference. All of them said they hope to be back in 2012. Near all my clients have been going with me now for years, most of them are my age or older. We can all see the time coming when it'll be "the last float fishing trip". That always makes the one we take for the day, that much more valuable. A few of my clients had rough years in 2011, some with health issues, some with business issues. Each and every one of them communicated with me though. They told me about their circumstances and made vows to be out there on our streams in 2012. I have every confidence that each meant exactly what they said and we'll stay in touch with anticipation about our next outdoor adventure. Anticipation is a huge part my inventory process and I hope to never run out of it. Having the health and the strength to continue guiding is becoming a component of my inventory consideration. So far, my health continues to hold and I still have the strength to move 600 lbs. down a river in my canoe while maintaining control. I've learned over the years a lot about what I can and can not do with that much weight in my canoe. The trick is to not over estimate your ability when float fishing. Safety is always my top consideration and when I get to the point that I do not feel safe, I'll stop guiding. After all, I don't need to guide, I just do it because I enjoy it and my clients do too, apparently, as they keep coming back each year. A part of my inventory this year is that I got to add a couple of new streams to my list, both in Southwest Missouri. I like to add new streams, as each has their own characteristics to appreciate and there is just a certain thrill to seeing new water. I've floated well over 200 now across these hills and valleys in three different states. Some streams only have a float or two in them, others have dozens. Each stream is unique and on many streams, there is often a very unique float among those that are available. It's a big part of what keeps me out there. And, even when I'm no longer able to guide I hope to still get out there a few more years on my own or with old friends. What you are able to see and do along our rivers is like nothing else in the outdoors. That's a part of what keeps me long as my feet hit the floor each morning! I hope that your inventory is in good shape for 2012, as well.