Returning home after another somewhat unsuccessful day on the hard water yesterday evening, I stopped by the grocery store and bumped into an old friend with whom I shared great times with back in the day. As is often the case with many friend interactions now, meetings are fleeting and conversation is frivolous. Don’t get me wrong, this person is someone I hold in high esteem. It’s just that I couldn’t help but get the sense she felt she was performing a civic duty by talking to me. There was something hasty about her mannerisms; like something was amiss (or afire). Either that, or I was just being paranoid, or projecting or something like that. Come to think of it, that’s quite possible too.
She has two beautiful kids now who both looked like the grocery store was the last place they wanted to be. I suppose that’s understandable. As they tugged aways at mom’s sleeves, unsuccessfully pleading for anything and everything, I couldn’t help but think of what it would be like to trade lives, if only for a few days. “-Do you still fish all the time”, her question threw me off guard. “Yeah, pretty much” I answered unimaginatively. I’ll spare you the remainder of the exchange.
That night as I lay in bed navigating a whirlwind of incoherent thoughts in an attempt to get some sleep, my brain honed in on my friend’s question from the grocery store. Why did I fish so much? I mean, yes to catch fish (duh), and hopefully catch a big one and brag about it. You know, like we all do. But does that in itself explain the hundreds of hours of our lives spent chasing bites? Does the possibility of catching a few fish explain forgoing other social occasions? And what about those thousands of dollars spent on gear? Surely there is something more to fishing than just fishing.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest we fish to get away from the mundane, the ordinary and the predicable. But I think there is more to it than just that. I believe we go fishing to allow ourselves to dream, to imagine and to check out from time to time. If we can’t be on the water that day we’re day-dreaming about the next cast and fantasizing about that next big bite. And when we feel like we’re drowning in everyday problems and stress, that pull only gets stronger.
Ask yourself how many times you’ve seen a grown adult genuinely excited in the last year. I mean, look at Dave Mercer, you just can’t fake that level of excitement, and you’d be hard pressed to find a social situation where that kind of enthusiasm is not only acceptable, but also endearing and contagious. Fishing provides emotion, sometimes elation, other times despair. The important thing is that it makes us feel something. What else, other than fishing can be both a way to spend some quality spare time, and a way to figure out what to do with one’s spare time? Some days fishing brings us back to our roots, it reminds us that we’re awesome, that we’re providers, that we can be successful and that we can achieve. Yet on other days it cruelly brings the most stoic among us to our knees scratching our heads. Those days can convince us we’re a glutton for punishment, yet deep down inside, we somehow know it to be a necessary lesson.
At times we fish to put things in perspective, to take time aside to understand a loved one’s point of view. At others we seek the bigger picture with nothing specific in mind a day on the water seems to often unpretentiously and graciously provide. Sometimes we fish simply to kill time, but often also to attempt to slow its pace. A day on the water can provide a sense of pride and accomplishment when something has you feeling down. Fishing can create confidence yet also has the uncanny ability to keep you grounded and profoundly humble. We fish to feel a deep sense of interconnection with nature, to feel like we a part of something bigger. We fish to watch the sunrise and sunset on the longest day of the year.
We fish to get to know ourselves, to compete with, poke fun at, and get to know one another. In doing so, we create lasting friendships and get to know people at their very best. Fishing is a challenge. It allows us to seize the day, to battle the elements but more importantly to learn that when we want, we can if we put in a little effort. We fish to allow a picture-perfect morning to live up to its potential in a most natural way, to learn to let things unfold as they may. We fish to have stories to tell.
In seeking the next bite, sure we look to catch a fish, but in our quest we gain much more than just a meal, or the excitement of that moment. What we truly gain is wisdom, respect and humility. Each time we hit the water we learn something, we become better versions of ourselves and grow as human beings. The gift we receive in exchange is to have the privilege to share this knowledge with our sons, daughters, husbands, wives, friends and anyone else we hold close to our hearts. This is why we fish.
Most important of all however, we fish to be free.
Until next time, Stay Outside!