It was a warm November afternoon, the Central Oregon sun was shining, a soft breeze was blowing, and birds were chirping. This was one of those fall days that take you back to summertime and almost make you forget about the cold winter that is quickly approaching. It was the weekend, and I found myself fly fishing on the Crooked River. As I put on my chest waders and slipped quietly into the water, all of my worries began to fade away.

I made my first cast, carefully watching my fly drift down the river. For just a moment, I took my eyes off the water to take in the scenery around me. I was fishing in a canyon, surrounded by beautiful ponderosa pines. I began to think about everything that had happened for me to be in that scenario and realized how incredibly blessed I was.

You see, this fishing trip came after a full week of Leadership Tour, where I had the opportunity to interact with some incredible students around the Central Oregon District. Teaching in classrooms is one of those experiences where, unless you take time to intentionally reflect on each moment, it is impossible to truly appreciate them. In reality, this fishing trip wasn’t about the fish, it was about allowing myself to reflect. As the river gently flowed around me, I was able to recognize how many blessings had been brought to my life through State Office. I was blessed to be able to teach in classrooms, blessed to connect with so many amazing people, and blessed to be a part of such a life-changing organization. 

All of a sudden, the sound of a small splash stirred me from my state of reflection. I looked up, just in time to see my fly being taken under the surface by a hungry trout. I quickly set the hook. Now, the fight was on. I kept tension on my line as I pulled the trout closer and closer until I could net it. I eagerly looked into the net and was mesmerized by the beautiful rainbow trout that lay inside. Its sleek, silver body was covered in dark spots, with splashes of color throughout. I quickly unhooked the fish, snapped a picture, and released it back into the river it called home. As I watched it swim back into the depths I whispered to myself, “What a blessing.”

Life is full of blessings, but if we never take the time to reflect on them we can never truly appreciate them. It redirects our focus from what’s lacking to what we already have, which provides a mindset of positivity and contentment. Whether you’re wetting a line, driving a tractor, or simply lying in bed, we can all take a little bit of time to count our blessings because all of us have something to be grateful for.

Forever Grateful,

Ryan P. Mizee

2023-2024 Oregon FFA State Secretary