I find myself taking a step back from where I am today on occasion and reflect on how far this passion for fishing has taken me. It’s been a big part of my life, 2/3’s as a matter of fact. This is a look back at how it all started for me as a 10 year old boy.
I was at a local park/lake on a big family outing one May afternoon. I was the leader of the family rat pack, eldest of the grandchildren. Out of sheer boredom we looked for ways to keep entertained. I explored the lake shore, catching little frogs and stuff, messed with the birds like a 10 year old would do. I stumbled across a tangled mess of fishing line and picked it up. There were some snelled baitholder hooks in the mess so I untangled as much as I could, found myself a suitable looking wooden fishing pole (a stick) and tied my line to the end with about 4 feet of salvageable line. I knew I could find some worms by flipping over some rocks so I went over to a creek inlet and did just that. Kicked a couple over and found a half dozen or so to put in my red party cup with some dirt.
Now that I was all geared up, my little entourage and I marched over to the fishing pier as that seemed like the first logical place to try. We walked by a dozen or so anglers on the pier, a few had some buckets with some bluegill and trout in them. I didn’t know what kind of fish they were at the time of course, as I had never really been fishing before. I walked to the end of the pier, found an open section and sat down with my feet dangling off the edge. Pinned an earthworm on the rusted hooks and dropped it in the water. After about 5 mins, my entourage made up of my younger cousins were over it and walked off since I apparently sucked at fishing haha. I stuck it out, and sat there drowning that earthworm for another 10 mins or so with my mind drifting off about playing some Street Fighter II when I got home (I was a child prodigy at that game, like touch of death and all that).
Then all of a sudden…I couldn’t believe it! I felt something bite the worm, that first “Tap-Tap” I ever experienced and my heart jumps out of my chest. Then as fast as it happened, it was over as the old rotten line I had found broke! I’m freaking out as all the people on the dock look over at me like I’m an idiot haha. After all this punk kid walked up with a stick for a fishing pole and a party cup for a tackle box Instantly thoughts of what was on the other end of the line rush through my young impressionable mind. I’m sure now as I look back 21 years that it was probably a bluegill or redear sunfish, but at that moment I really didn’t know what it was and that was what truly fascinated me.
I ran back to the area were my family was setup for the picnic and tell my cousins I just lost a fish, and of course they blow me off with typical youthful doubt and disbelief. “Sure you did”, they said LOL. I find my mom and tell her the story and she did much of the same, but I asked her if we could come back the following week and try actually fishing. She tells me, “Sure”. Instantly I’m STOKED. That day, this DREAM that I’m living now officially began. Thoughts of what was swimming in that local lake filled my brain for the next week straight. I was DREAM’n of giant fish in a 240 acre lake hahaha.
At that time, I was a bit of a nerd. Still am. I legitimately loved learning. So what did that mean? Well it meant I spent 2-4 days a week at the local library with my mom just researching random things that interested me. First line of business in making my new goal of catching a fish a reality? Reconnaissance and research of course! I spent hours reading literally everything I could about fishing for the next school week. The encyclopedia actually had a ton of info although much of it was dated and it being 1992 at the time, there wasn’t that much info available at the public library. Lots of old man stories and fly fishing books.
I soaked up what I could and talked my mom into buying me my first rod and reel across the street at Kmart. I left there with a $14.99 Shakespeare Spincast Combo with a starter tackle kit. I dug up some more earthworms and secured my bait for the next day. My mom drove me the 11 miles to the lake mid morning or so. I spent that entire day casting my bait and reeling it in impatiently as most kids would do. I had a sick rig, a makeshift dropper loop rig with a bell sinker on the bottom, and a snelled leader I tied the main line to with triple overhand knots! I’d gob a couple worms on the hook and let her fly. I’m spent a good amount of time dealing with tangles and such. Hours went by and that beast from the week before was nowhere to be found, nobody was catching anything on the pier at all.
The day rolls by and the sun is setting, I’m sitting on the top of the wood piling with my feet dangling and then it happens… I get that “Tap-Tap” again! I wind like a frantic madman as this fish I’d been imagining all week was battling me on the other end of the line. I pull up a bullhead catfish and lift it up over the rail and plop his ass on the pier. That feeling I had at that moment is probably why I continue to this day to chase DREAM’s of all kinds of fish. The joy, rush of adrenaline, feeling of accomplishment, the FUN that I had for this new found passion was incredible. I was ruined for life. I found a new fascination, set a goal, did some basic work researching my quarry and frankly got super lucky that day, but I made it happen. Sure it was dumb luck that that catfish happened to come across that 10 year old’s overhand knot rig, but in my young mind it was something I was able to do on my own.
I grew up fishing this small urban reservoir from the bank mostly. My best option for accessing fish off the banks were the fishing piers. Fishing wise, I didn’t have much growing up and that’s ok. We fished out of whatever we could, if we could afford a rental boat it was a special day. The freedom of having my first hand me down float tube was truly special, thank you Josh Allen for the float tube and for being one of my early fishing mentors. The really special days when I got to jump in a bass boat were incredible. Thank you to the many locals who taught me how to use a trolling motor, and gave me the freedom to take the front of the boat. I dreamt of the day when I would be fishing out of a rig of my own.
I appreciate the fact that my friends and I had to make due with what we had at the time, it makes everything else a luxury and keeps things in perspective. It’s not the fancy boat, it’s not the expensive equipment, it’s really what you make of any given situation. Some of my fondest moments came out of a leaky 14 foot aluminum rental boat with coffee can concrete anchors. Make the most out of whatever your situation is, that’s what I learned as a youthful angler.
Little did I know at the time what I’d be getting into and how deep I would find myself in the fishing realm. I’m sure many of us have a similar story, where we came into this passion of ours with no concept of hate, jealousy, ego or the downright negativity that has somehow been allowed to envelope the fishing community. Guys that do well are automatically “suspect”, they must be cheating, lying, something. Instead of congratulating your fellow angler, I see guys burning them down when a picture is posted. “Oh that’s not a 10 pounder, that’s like a 4!”. You really want to be THAT dude that just killed what was a proud and joyous moment for someone? Just doesn’t make sense. Might as well tell him his girlfriend is ugly too. Bums me out to see that kind of stuff pop up all over the internet forums, social media, even the launch ramp or tackle shop. Let’s take a step back and look at what we do from an outside perspective, perhaps we can realize as a community how utterly ridiculous we look when we take part in the fishing squabbles. Then perhaps we can all embrace that humility we had as children and be able to enjoy fishing for the sheer joy I know I once experienced…← BackNext →