How often have I stood and cast my line to the unknown – to some momentary flash of silver in the waters off to the corner of my eye – all in the hopes of hooking and catching a fish.
I know that I have spent long hours standing on a stream bank alone with my thoughts. I have watched a mayfly’s wings fluttering in the light of early morning and listened to the distant sound of autumn leaves rustling the wind. I have spent time on the water without a single nibble and felt the day well worth the effort.
Fishing was a part of my growing up. It is a part of who I am. I make no excuses for finding a simple pleasure in the catching of a fish. And, while I have been asked by my critics why I fish – what possible pleasure can anyone get out of catching a creature simply for the pleasure of playing it to the net and then releasing – my answer remains: if I have to explain, you probably won’t understand.
As a newspaper columnist, I try to put information out there and let people make up their own minds. I certainly do not expect readers to agree with all of my personal opinions all of the time. In fact, I have learned much from some of my critics. In certain cases they have opened my eyes and allowed me to see things differently. For that I am thankful. On the other hand, if all goes well, I plan to keep on fishing until that day comes when my weary old legs can no longer take me into my favourite lakes and streams. Let’s hope that’s still a long ways off.
Having said that, I also realize the world around me is continuously changing. Some changes are for the better, others, well, let’s just say I embrace some changes and try to avoid others.
Cane rods have been replaced by ultra high modulus graphite rods. The Pflueger reels I used to buy with my hard-earned allowances at Gerlovin’s Hardware Store as a kid, have been replaced with hand-crafted, machined aluminum reels that cost more than some of the vehicles that I’ve owned. Long gone are the wonderful wooden plugs with their glass eyes and names like Chubb Creek Minnow that I used so long ago. We now have Killer Crank Baits, Buzz Bombs and Hawg-busters. It’s hard to say that you are an advocate of catch-and-release when you’re using a lure called the Tout Killer. Electronic fish finders and GPS (Global Positioning Systems) devices have made the sport of fishing into a serious business. When an angler goes fishing now, it’s almost as if they are at war with nature itself.
For the better part of 60 years now I have called myself a fisherman. I am not a purist. I’m not really even that good of an angler. Each and every time I have cast my line out, it was merely in hope of maybe feeling a nibble on the end of my line.
Over the years I have caught fish to eat as well as for the primitive pleasure of the fight. Very early on father taught me to show respect to the fish that I caught. He taught me the practice of catch and release long before there was such a term.
Whether holding my breath and waiting in anticipation as a rainbow trout rises to sip in my #14 St. Mary Mosquito, playing a bright shiny steelhead fresh from the ocean or pitting myself against the sheer strength and brute force of an eight-foot, 250-pound-plus sturgeon in the waters of the mighty Fraser River, I have enjoyed each and every moment. Just as I have found pleasure in those minutes and hours in-between bites. Fishing is not just about the catching of fish.
Like I said, if I have to explain, you probably won’t understand.