Around my work and my neighborhood (and of course, my home), Iíve developed a reputation as someone whoís gonzo crazy about fishing. Maybe itís all the fishing paraphernalia and kitsch stuff I keep around me. Or maybe itís because thatís what I naturally slip into when Iím looking to make conversation. I think itís more interesting than the weather. Or maybe itís because I spend so much of my free time fishing.
WhateverÖI do have that reputation. With the reputation comes some responsibility. By that I mean the responsibility to answer somewhat convincingly the question "Why do you like fishing so much?"
Itís an important question, and one that deserves a better answer than the trite "well, it gets me outdoors," or cliched "itís the only way I get any peace and quiet."
Sure, those are important elements of fishing. They are a big part of the reason we do it. But thereís more to it than that, things that any real fisherman knows intuitively, and that any non-fisherman is always going to struggle to understand.
A big part of it is the mental down-time that comes with fishing. I donít mean you put your brain to sleep; any fisherman will tell you that if youíre not thinking about what youíre doing, you probably arenít catching many. But there is one similarity with sleep. Fishing takes all of the stuff about work and bills, worries and responsibilities, and pushes it right out of my brain.
Thereís just no room for it in there when Iím fishing. Iím concentrating on handling my boat, setting my lines, maintaining speed, watching the weather, selecting baits and all of the other dozen or so things I need to pay attention to. Fishing, more than anything else, takes me out of one world and places me fully in another, even if itís just for a couple of hours. And itís a real world, unlike trying to lose myself in a book or movie. Itís all around me, and it demands my attention.
The kind of fishing I like best is big-water trolling for salmon and steelhead. Itís hard work running multiple lines, especially if there are any seas running to toss me around a little bit. So no matter what kind of day I had at work today, or whatever I might be facing tomorrow, when Iím fishing my mind is locked down on right here, right now.
Thereís a lot to be said for that.
The other big part of fishing, at least for me, is the enormous sense of potential that I feel every time I leave the dock. I may have been skunked my last three or four times out, but when I throw off the dock lines and gun the boat out toward the open water, I donít believe for one second that Iím going to get skunked. Anythingís possible; today could be the day I put five trophies in the boat, back-to-back, all within an hour. Or the day when my partner and I are fighting doubles, or triples, and laughing our heads off at the pure exhilaration of it.
We live in a cynical age, and the idea of wide-open possibilities can be a hard one to buy if you make your living by walking into a factory or an office cubicle every day. The chance to feel unfettered optimism is something of great value, at least to me, and I get to feel it every time I put a rod in my hands.
Itís been like that for me since I was ten or eleven years old, and it hasnít diminished at all. How many pieces of our spirits to we get to have, that remain unchanged and intact from the time we are children? Not many, Iíd have to say. So when I get one like this I consider it priceless and I hold on to it for all Iím worth.
Then, thereís the basic thrill of winning a contest. We all love to win at something, at anything! From spelling beeís to spittiní contests, from chili cook-offs to bathtub races up the local creek, weíll find endless ways of earning bragging rights.
Why? Because winning feels so damn good. The old Wide World of Sports television program used to always open with the phrase about "the thrill of victory," and I always thought that was one of most accurate phrases used on TV. Because there are many things we think are thrilling, or that we want to provide us with a thrill, but few things actually do. Winning at something is one of them.
When a big king salmon slams my lure and heads the other way, if I donít know anything else, I know Iím in for a contest. With the drag singing and the line burning off the reel, I donít know how itís going to come out. But my skill and a fair amount of luck are going to determine whether or not that fish is going to end up in the net. Skill and luck, the main ingredients of any contest.
If I win, that big boy does slide into the net for a brief stop on its way to my cooler. If thereís someone else in the boat, there might be high-fives, especially if itís the first fish of the dayóthe one that drives the skunk out of the box. Itís as good as a touchdown, a home run, or getting on the green in two shots. Itís winning, and itís as good as it gets.
Those are the things I tell people when they ask me why I like fishing so much. If youíre not a fisherman, I hope that helps clear it up for you. If you are, Iíll just give you a wink because I know itís nothing you havenít already felt yourself on many, many fishing days.