I’ve been on vacation this past week with great intentions of blogging remotely with my laptop…but a funny thing sometimes happens when you go on vacation. Suddenly exchanging the fishing pole for the computer doesn’t seem at all like a fair trade off. This is especially true when you blog for fun and their are no deadlines for story material staring you in the face, as is often the case when you write professionally for some publication.
And so it was I found myself in Northern Minnesota on one of my favorite lakes. Just me, my family, a few in-laws and some close friends. Wasting the better portion of a week doing anything we damn well pleased and nothing we didn’t care to do. For me, it was a relaxing week spent before the busy rush of the fall season begins in just a few weeks. It was my time to fish as much as I wanted to and be downright lazy during the precious few other times.
The unique thing about this trip was the fact that I was spending time with my old hunting and fishing pal, Mitch, in Northern Minnesota again. It had been probably 13 or 14 years since we last were together in this region enjoying these sort of outdoor activities. Life gets busy and life takes on many changes (we’re both married now since last vacationing together) as a result. Yet, it didn’t take long for both of us to rekindle the outdoor bonds that we had once so fondly shared many, many countless times over.
Ironically for me, many of these memories were “stirred” not by what Mitch and I experienced first-hand by fishing together, but rather how our children interacted with each other in developing their interest in the outdoors. Hour and hour went by while Mitch’s boy Matthew and my Stepson Luke honed their fishing knowledge together casting for fish off the dock. Do I dare say that watching their enthusiasm build as budding piscatorial participants was almost as much fun as actually “wetting a line” myself? Well, it’s true. Even though I did my fair share of fishing during the week my fishing passion paled in comparison to what these two new anglers exhibited.
In a weird sort of way I was re-living my friendship with Mitch vicariously through the eyes of our 9–year old children. It has been over 30 years ago since I found any great pleasure in fishing off of a dock…but just one glance at these kids reminded me again just how important that experience once was. Indeed, it is during times like this fishing from a dock where the fishing bug bites you and changes your life forever. A whole new world just waiting to be explored is only a cast away and as a youth fishing from a dock no other non-electronic experience could be nearly as captivating for a kid.
It is casting endlessly hour after hour from the dock where some very important life lessons are learned—particularly if you want to someday become a sportsman. To these kids it didn’t really matter if the fish being caught were small perch, sunnies or even crappies. Of course kids take an interest in knowing what species of fish are being caught…but to these kids what was truly important was the action itself. The fact that every so often before their patience grew thin they would catch another fish…that’s what mattered. What truly was important to them was participating in the act of catching fish—any kind of fish.
As both Mitch and I watched these kids participating in this age-old dock ritual we couldn’t help but think back to our own childhoods relating similar experiences. Truth is, often times when we were younger the only fishing experience available was from a dock. Our parents didn’t have the luxury of a boat…hell, we were just thankful when we were provided a dock in which to fish from.
As the years grew on we both graduated from fishing from the dock as so many other anglers do. Please understand I am not dissing fishing from shore…but when you take the big step and become spoiled by fishing from a boat it does have a definite way of changing things. Eventually dock fishing is viewed about as glamorously as is kissing your sister. There’s a certain stigma in many sportsman’s minds that you don’t want to be caught doing either activity.
So it only stood to reason when Mitch and I asked the kids to get ready to go out and fish in the boat that we would get turned down. That’s right…both kids had determined that fishing from the dock was where all the action was. Made no difference if the likelihood of catching more popular game fish was found by fishing from a boat. Simply put…these kids wanted to catch fish and at this age the type—and even to some extent—the size didn’t really matter.
Truly every kid should have an opportunity to fish from a dock at some point in their life. Fact is, way too many kids are not provided this opportunity. Oh, sure, there are frustrations that develop when a tangled or twisted line occurs…but those are the type of experiences we all need to go through in life to become better sportsmen and to further develop the life-long angling interest.
Fishing isn’t always easy. Fishing can at times be very boring and taxing on our attention span. Heck, fishing can even be aggravating when you lose the “big one” or experiencing equipment problems putting a damper on the fun you’re trying to experience. Still, when you spend a week watching two very enthusiastic young kids fishing from a dock and doing so with a seemingly relentless passion…it does somehow put a smile on your face. Moreover, it also helps to refocus your perspective on how you, too, should again view the sport of fishing.
Why is it that sometimes the older we all get the more demanding and complicated our expectations often become about the outdoors? I guess sometimes it takes watching a kid enjoying the outdoors to help bring things back to their proper clarity for us older, more “seasoned” adults.
Not only will you pass along the passion of the outdoors to a future generation by providing the outdoor opportunity, but in the process you also tend to reclaim a bit of your youth no matter what the outdoor pursuit might be. Indeed, fishing from the dock can be fun for all ages even when you choose to live the experience only through the eyes of a future sportsman.
© 2006 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction Without Prior Permission.