THE ADAGE SAYS that nothing in life is more certain than death and taxes. I’ll add a third: Change.
New things grow old. Familiar things are forgotten or modified, which is nothing but a synonym of “changed.” Things dreamed become reality.
To stay relevant, we also change. That’s true at work; it’s true at home, and for the young people in this audience, at school.
If you’re addicted to the past, open a museum.
In the outdoor world, for example, subtle changes to existing technologies and ideas come along regularly. Bigger headlines—think GPS navigation, level-wind reels and drones—are made maybe a handful of times per generation.
Within our world of hunting, fishing and everything else the outdoors has to offer, there are three camps: those who cling stubbornly to the past, those who can’t imagine life without the latest, and those who embrace a highly efficient combination of the two.
The best outdoor experience, I believe, lies within that middle ground, a melding of old and new things—and a melding of old and new ideas.
Over the holiday season this past year, for example, I picked up some copies of the freshwater-fishing book I authored for TF&G Publications back in 2004. That book was written before braided lines, before consumers could get hands on thermal-imaging scopes, and before remotely controlled trolling motors. Or white fishing rods, of which I’m still not a big fan, but…
I picked up one of the books, admittedly paused to admire the younger version of myself on the cover, then flipped through the pages.
Like anyone else who reads that sort of book, the first thing I did was look at the pictures. Clothing, hairstyles and a few waistlines have changed since then, but I was impressed by how “fishy” most of those old lures looked.
For all the evolution in tackle, all the engineering that now goes into the wobble of a crankbait or pitch of a rattle, a good fisherman could still empty a box and point immediately at the best three or four lures on the table. A poor fisherman would empty the same box and just stare blankly at the pile.
Fishermen from my generation know where to point based on decades of experience, thousands of hours of trial and error, and feast and famine. Now, that’s called “the hard way” to learn. It used to be the only way.
The best of the young adults who fish these days make faster work of the learning curve, splitting their time between actually fishing (with respected anglers), studying apps, and watching demonstrations of successful fishing practices online.
In other words, whereas we “more experienced” fishermen used to skip work to fish, the new generation learns much about fishing while pretending to work.
There’s information to be shared between the two camps, too. I make it a point to learn something from every fisherman with whom I share water or boats or meals or beverages. No matter how much I think I know, I presume that every fisherman I meet knows something I don’t—yet.
Once a conversation turns to fishing—which many of mine do—I fall quickly into the where, how, when and why of a particular water body or technique or piece of —and I learn.
In turn, when it’s my turn, I share information freely. The only thing I’m slow to reveal is “semi-secret” places, mostly suburban ponds that have been shared by listeners, readers or neighborhood kids.
Along my path, I’ve learned from fishermen in more than 30 states and at least a dozen countries. I’ve gleaned information from anglers in their 80s and 50s and 20s and teens. I once picked up critical information in The Cayman Islands from an eight-year-old boy. (Who knew you could catch juvenile tarpon, silver bottle rockets lighter than three pounds, on dough balls?)
Some of the best advice I ever got and often give is to pick up a rod and reel at every opportunity. Even if it’s only a half hour stolen early or late or at lunchtime to sample some unnamed neighborhood lake, go fish.
Silence your phone for obvious reasons, walk to the water’s edge, and look. Light angle. Temperature. Habitat. Water clarity. Wind direction and velocity. History. Then think.
“If I were a bass or a redfish, a crappie or a speckled trout, where would I be in this body of water?”
Identify that spot, then cast to it. Do so as often as necessary either to get bit or rule out the target. Then move and make more casts. If you’re my age, take mental notes. If you’re young, at least on these short trips, keep your apps off and your brain on.
As fishermen, none of us is ever too old or young to teach or to be taught.
If you’re among those younger fishermen who rely heavily on electronics, tap on a favorite app afterward and enter everything you learned. Then copy, paste…and send it all to me.
Email Doug Pike at [email protected]