By Ken Schultz
Last fall I came home from a couple days of unsuccessful fishing for striped bass, and mentioned as much in a quick email to a friend.
Sorry to hear about that, replied my corresponding friend, “but it’s always refreshing to hear about guys like you striking out, too.”
I’m glad he was refreshed, I guess.
But my friend’s comment reminded me that I’m sometimes guilty of talking a little too much about the good fishing I’ve enjoyed at certain places without noting that sometimes I’ve been at great fishing destinations when the fishing was not so great. This is not the kind of comment that makes tourism folks happy, or necessarily makes for scintillating reading, but anyone who fishes very much knows that the only people who always catch fish are the ones who have television shows, even if they have to spend a week filming to get enough fish to cram into 23 minutes of air time.
I once fished with a fishing and hunting show host who couldn’t fish very well and
he was upset because I had only caught a few bass on the morning that we were out and he hadn’t caught any. He wanted to have his show completed before noon on a hot day in midsummer. I’d explained to him before we started – on a small lake that I was barely familiar with – that to catch bass then we probably needed to use plastic worms, fishing deep and slowly. He’d never used plastic worms, couldn’t get the hang of it, and by mid-morning was grousing about the lousy results, noting how he’d recently been lake trout fishing with some charter boat captain and they’d caught twenty or so fish in half a morning.
This is like comparing a pumpkin to kiwi fruit. I guess he expected not to have to work much for his catch. After listening to his egotistical whining for too long I finally took him and his cameraman to shore, unloaded them, and said he probably should find someone else to take him fishing.
Having done television fishing shows with assorted people over the years, I’ve even had a couple of occasions when the hosts were unhappy that we had not caught enough large fish to be filmed, even though we had caught plenty of smaller ones and had good action. Without the bigger fish, they said, they didn’t have the footage they needed for their show.
Something is wrong with that picture.
But then we members of the outdoor media are part of the business of raising expectations and fostering illusions. The primary illusion being that you have to have a big fish to show.
When I worked for Field & Stream, the magazine’s in-house editors hardly ever published a photo of an angler displaying a small fish, unless it was a stocked trout or a panfish or the angler was a youngster. The bass displayed in cover photos was never less than 7 or 8 pounds. There was too much emphasis on size – the expectation factor – and not enough on the experience.
Which gets me to the real reason that people go fishing. It’s a great way to enjoy some time outdoors, and have a challenge while at it.
For most anglers, fishing is a relaxing and peaceful way to enjoy nature, an activity in which you might catch something as fresh as you can get it for dinner, and also a sport that you can enjoy with family and friends. It’s participatory; you move, you boat, you cast, you do things. Sometimes it all comes together in a great way, and magic happens.
Often, it’s a little success here and a little success there.
Which isn’t bad. You can have a good day of fishing without having the fish.
If you believe in the words of that popular fisherman’s bumper sticker, then you’re my kind of person: “A bad day of fishing is better than a good day of work.”
In other words, everyone, and I mean everyone, strikes out from time to time, either with respect to overall results, or in failing to catch large fish. We call it fishing instead of catching because you always do the former but you can’t be sure that you will always do the latter.
I’m okay with that.
And besides, there’s always tomorrow.
Thanks for checking out my blog commentary on all things fishing-related. Please follow, share, and enjoy, but make sure you get out on the water as often as possible. Good fishing!
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