I believe it was Roderick Haig-Brown’s Seasons of an Angler that spelled out the phases that anglers experience across their life. A loose paraphrase of his work charts out five stages that go about like this:
Phase 1: All the angler wants to do is to catch a fish. The bar is low, any fish will do.
Phase 2: Once the skunk is out of the boat, an angler wants to catch a lot of fish. Nothing matters as long as the rod is bent and the reel is singing.
Phase 3: After lots of action the angler refines his technique and wants to catch big fish, more big fish, and nothing but big fish.
Phase 4: Method drives the show. An angler may want to catch a fish on a fly, only fish by IGFA standards, or catch a difficult to land species like an Atlantic salmon.
Phase 5: The angler has more interest in teaching others to fish.
I’d have to say that my life’s path has been very close to what Haig-Brown outlined. At my age I’d have to say I’m still interested in catching fish, but I’m probably more interested in teaching others to fish. Why? Because fishing is a heck of a lot of fun, that’s why.
I like seeing new anglers catch their first fish or first of a species. Their faces say it all, and I can’t put words to the joy and excitement they feel. It far exceeds anything they find on their Smartphones because it’s real. It’s a normal part of life and it ties us in with all the fishermen who came before us. When I’m on the water with folks, time slows to a stop. I find so many memories in just one hour of time. It could be the vibrant purples and greens in a sunrise or the orange and yellows in a sunset. It could be the way the birds followed the bait into the bay and how the fish piled in after ‘em. Sometimes it’s the salt-spray that hits my sunburned face and how good it feels. And it’s certainly when a fish smacks a stick bait and makes a reel sing.
It’s all of that and so much more that I find it better to take people fishing rather than to tell them about fishing. And so I do. In a funny way, President Grover Cleveland was right when he said, “In these sad and ominous days of mad fortune chasing, every patriotic, thoughtful citizen, whether he fishes or not, should lament that we have not among our countrymen more fishermen.”
Enough talk. Let’s go fishing.