One summer, I spent a lot of time at a small neighborhood pond that was closer to a puddle than it was to anything else. It was a ten-minute drive from my house and yet provided me a fishing getaway on most days when I wished to get out and fish on my own.
This lake had a variety of game fish to choose from and was absolutely overrun with the Common Carp, a “trash” fish to most fishing purists. Now, young though I was, I was an avid fisherman and did just about any kind of fishing one could think of. I knew this pond, the spots, the baits and knew that I could catch at least something to stave off the dreaded skunk but at the time I fished for literally anything that would bite so I was usually rewarded.
On some trips, I’d invite my fishing deprived friends to join me because here I knew I could do my best to pique their interest in the sport. One trip in particular has always stood out as the perfect example of people not truly experiencing a sport as it could be.
My friend (who I will call Greg for this story) was a person that always said, “I don’t like fishing because you never catch anything.” So, of course it was my duty to invite him on a trip and show him that sometimes, fishing can be catching.
I met him at the lake near the evening and dark storm clouds were rolling overhead but never showed signs of rain. There was no wind and the air was warm, this I felt was the perfect fishing conditions for a little pond.
The minute I arrived and started setting up by the water, Greg ran over to me from the swings and insisted we play on the playground instead. He’d been waiting already and the playground nearby had been an irresistible source of entertainment.
“But we came here to do some fishing,” was my reply.
He ran the short distance to the playground and joined the game of tag already being played by the playgrounds residents while I continued to work pulling line through the guides, tying on hooks, and baiting up with worms I’d dug from my garden at home.
One rod was casted in to sit and wait while I took the other to a rocky section of the pond where I knew fish would cruise by in search of a meal. I flicked the line out a short distance from me and at a rod length away I dragged it back and forth before me like I was playing with a cat.
Only a few moments passed and bam! I had a hit. I set the hook and scooped into the net a skinny rainbow trout.
“Got one!” I shouted to Greg.
He ran over with a look of disbelief on his face.
“You caught that just now?” he asked.
“Yeah, today’s going to be a good day,” I smiled at him.
He pondered that for a moment.
“Can I try too?”
I smiled and handed him my re-baited rod.
“Here, I’ll show you what I was doing.”
That evening he fished with me the rest of the day and we caught more trout with some added bluegill and largemouth bass all within a certain length of shore.
I looked back and wondered if he’d been fishing with someone who knew what he was doing. My friend Greg couldn’t have known any better either way, and I was happy that this little experience was something that he enjoyed.
I see now that, especially with fishing, there is a stigma that it is boring, only for old people, and all it involves is sitting by a body of water and staring at a rod. While there are those moments, fishing is actually very hard and requires a large amount of knowledge to do it affectively. Most people I know don’t actually fish right and that is where people become unknowingly ignorant.
Just like any sport, fishing requires practice and an uncommon set of skills. In reality, fishing with a cheap Walmart Barbie rod is going to do more harm than good and if any little component of preparation is done wrong, it may throw the whole trip off.
There is a lot of ignorance regarding the outdoors and the environment. The best we can do for ourselves is to educate ourselves out of that state of mind and learn how to do things the right way. If a person ends up having a bad experience, many times it’s because they didn’t know what they were doing or the people they were with had been just as unskilled.
Outdoor recreation is a difficult branch of recreation and so the best way to experience it is with someone who knows what they are doing. But, with less and less outdoorsmen in the world, how many are there left to teach others? This is an unfortunate situation.