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Gone Fishing

There are sorts of bumper stickers, quotes and little sayings that capture the spirit of fishing. One of my favorites is “a bad day fishing is better than a good day at work.” And of course, one I can relate to, “this vehicle stops at all fishing holes.” People all over the world fish. Some fish to survive, others for profit, and many like myself, fish because we love it. But, trying to identify the reason why we like it so much can be a bit challenging.

For some people, fishing is a bonding experience. Fathers and sons, and fathers and daughters, often hold their memories of time spent fishing together particularly dear. There is something about holding a rod and reel waiting for something to bite that seems to make it easier to talk. It breaks down barriers, and for a little while makes it possible to put aside some of the worries of world. They’re still there: the fear about losing a job; worries over a parent; or an upcoming test in school are still present, but there is something about going fishing that allows us to put these concerns on the back burner; at least for a little while.

But not everyone goes fishing in groups. Sometimes, it’s a matter of going out in a boat or finding a nice perch along a stream and dropping a line. If you’re the average fisherman, the costs are low; the price of a rod and reel and some bait, and in our region, if you want to go fishing, you can do it just about any hour of the day.

I used to give my uncle a hard time about watching golf. With apologies to Uncle Gus and all the fine golfers out there, golf on TV, to this viewer at least, can be a little slow; ok, downright plodding. Of course, having said that, I’ve been known to watch competitive fishing. Yes, there is competitive fishing on TV. All thanks to cable television. It’s rarely live, unlike golf, so they tend to cut out all the really dull parts, but it’s still a lot of guys gunning their boats from one part of a lake or river to another, all while trying to catch the biggest fish of the day. These tournaments can be highly competitive; tempers can flare. The boats are expensive and so is the fishing equipment. There are even fishermen who make their living in this kind of competition. However, having said that, I think it will be some time before the International Olympic Committee puts competitive bass fishing on their list of approved sports.

There is one type of fishing I enjoy a great deal, but I have to be honest, I have never caught anything while trying it; and that’s ocean casting. I have this monstrously long fishing rod, some heavy weights, and usually buy fresh squid at a bait shop. I’ve fished at Virginia Beach, the Outer Banks and on Chincoteague. It’s a wonderful adventure. The terrifically long casts, the crashing surf and the prospect of catching something really exotic. Thing is, save for one that got away and a few nibbles, I have yet to catch anything.

Interestingly enough, many of my fellow ocean casters don’t seem to do any better at it than I do. Perhaps, it’s just an excuse to sit with your cooler, enjoy the surf, and a little like panning for gold, hope that some creature out there in the deep takes your bait.

In the 21st century, some people make their fishing scientific. I can’t deny I enjoy using a little technology; I have a fish finder, based on a technology that in World War II was top secret that can spot fish for several yards. Sometimes it helps, sometimes it doesn’t. My favorite fishing rod is a made of a composite material just like they make airplanes out of. It’s very high tech. But then I think back to my grandfather, who told me that in the summer of 1900, he and his brother took up fishing at Buckeye Lake in Columbus, Ohio. The tools of their adventure- some heavy wire bent into the shape of a hook, some string and a pole. Oh yes, and some worms they dug up. He said that sometimes the two boys would catch as many a dozen small fish, and their Mom, in this turn of the last century story, would fry them up for lunch or dinner. That’s a story that’s been passed down through the family, and maybe it’s the kind of experience that draws so many of us to age old tradition.

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