The older I get the more I define angling success on my own terms. As a young buck I had predetermined sizes of certain species that I felt would be trophies and would somehow make me feel more accomplished as an angler. Over the years I’ve reached some of the benchmarks I’ve set for certain species while others have eluded me for decades.
As soon as I turned sixteen years old I fished at a feverish pace and kept that up until my early thirties. I thoroughly enjoyed those years and caught plenty of fish including quite a few big fish, but it always felt I was missing something. Ignorant youth had me thinking the missing piece was bigger fish.
In search of that missing piece I started studying more and fishing even harder. It got to the point that fishing completely consumed me in an unhealthy way. I was too busy trying to be the fisherman I wanted to be to enjoy fishing. I didn’t give myself an opportunity to enjoy anything I accomplished, laugh at myself when I did something stupid, or savor the moment when all the puzzle pieces game together and fishing was easy. I was catching more and bigger fish while still feeling like there was something missing or a bit off.
A handful of years ago I received a phone call from a buddy that wanted me to take him fishing. He also added I don’t want to do anything crazy I want to sit on a chair, catch a few trout, and cook them after while drinking a few beers. I told him I could make all that happed but I’d let him handling the cooking part. We drove up to a Pinewood, set up two lawn chairs, tossed out powerbait on the bottom, and relaxed.
After about a half hour I started going through the little tackle box looking for something else to use when my buddy grabbed the box out of my hand and said stop. “Look dude I wanted to come up here to catch up not watch you spaz out walking up and down the bank acting pissed off the fish aren’t biting. If they bite great but if they don’t it doesn’t mean we can’t sit here and enjoy ourselves. If we catch 2 fish or twenty we’ll still eat a good meal after we’re done, and the beer will still be cold.” I started laughing and said okay, but the first hour after that I was still thinking about catching fish.
It was maybe two hours in when we started getting hits. Robert was the first person to hook up and laughed the entire time he was reeling a rainbow in. Smiling from ear to ear he promptly unhooked his fish tossed it on a stringer. He sat back down and said we’re eating good tonight buddy. I looked over at him and noticed he was completely in the moment. He didn’t care about a damn thing other than enjoying the time he had right here, right now, while we were fishing. The bite the rest of the day we perfect. Fish were active enough to keep a consistent bend in our rods, but they weren’t rude about it and let us keep up a good conversation. I spent hours siting down on a lawn chair, fishing on the bottom with powerbait, and after I put my fishing ego aside I loved every minute of it.
On the drive home I didn’t talk much as I was beginning to realize what I was missing this entire time. Throughout my life I’d had a few moments where I’d allow time to stand still and really soak up a moment, but they were few and far between. I didn’t realize until that day they didn’t have to be few and far between if I could get past my own bullshit. I had to let go of my preconceived ideas of what I had to do to be able to enjoy myself while out on the water. I wasn’t sure when I’d bottom fish with powerbait again anytime soon. What I was sure of was that I’d allow myself to soak in everything in and really appreciate the time I spend outdoors. My enjoyment while fishing would no longer be based only on fish.
That night we cooked a handful of stockers then proceeded to drink more than a handful of beers and reminisced about old times. Robert also had a bit of whiskey which oddly enough quickly morphed from wise dude that only hours earlier helped me see something I’d been overlooking for decades into a sloppy mess that quickly passed out on my recliner just before a few of our childhood friends showed up. Long story short you pass around a bunch of buddies and there’s a Sharpie around it doesn’t matter if you’re 18 or 50 years old chances are you’re waking up with a dong drawn on your face.
I’m a simple man and now that I’ve simplified fishing I’m enjoying myself a lot more. Life’s too short to take anything that serious or drink cheap beer.