We hear it all the time, how relaxing fishing is. In fact, I’ll bet if Family Feud featured the category of most relaxing hobbies, fishing would be No. 1 – or at least in the top three. But people who believe that fishing is relaxing have never seriously fished for largemouth bass.
I took a 25-year hiatus from fishing to focus on my career. Now that I am nearing retirement, and have three young kids at home, it seems like a great time to start fishing again. So, at age 51, I have picked up my rods and even bought another boat.
My return to fishing has brought back many memories. I am reminded how non-relaxing fishing often was for this former Type-A, competitive, testosterone-fueled adrenaline junkie. But a lot has changed in bass fishing since 1991, and my attitude when I’m on the water has changed as well.
When I was in my 20s, and casting in the hot Alabama sun, I would become agitated and frustrated when I couldn’t find the fish. The angst over why they weren’t biting my chartreuse and purple Golly Banger, when, in my mind, all the conditions were perfect, pushed the possibility of relaxation well out of reach.
I still enjoy catching fish and the challenge of trying to match wits with the elusive largemouth, but if you’re like me and you’d like fishing to be more fun and relaxing, maybe this will help.
Enjoy That Second Cup of Coffee
The pressure of time used to steal some of my fishing joy. I’m not talking about being on time for a weigh-in. I’m talking about feeling internal pressure when I got away from the house later than I wanted and the sun was turning orange in the east as I drove to the lake. I was so disappointed that I would not be on the water at first light, that the day was ruined for me before it started.
For me, one of the most enjoyable things about fishing is watching the ripples from the boat spread across a misty, smooth-as-glass lake at daybreak. However, I also enjoy my coffee. So now, if I want a second cup before I head out the door, I pour a second cup. Sure, I might have caught an 8 pounder during the 5 minutes it took to pour it up, but, really, what are the chances?
Years ago, I was too busy casting to eat and I was famished by the end of the day. Not now. It takes me 10 minutes to throw a few decent snacks and drinks into a small cooler. To sit for a few minutes and reflect on the day, while I smear peanut butter on a slice of apple and rehydrate myself, really enhances my fishing now. And who knows, it might dawn on me, as I ponder the water, weather and so forth, that conditions are perfect for my chartreuse and purple Golly Banger.
Those suggestions are pretty simple. The next three are deeper, and I am convinced make fishing nourishment for the soul.
Cast for Casting Sake
Say what? Now don’t get me wrong. I still fish hard and I’m still one of those guys who always must make a couple dozen last casts at the end of the day. Taking a moment, after what seems like cast number 10,000 without a strike, to just think about how great it is to be fishing, helps me to reset. I remind myself that I could be doing a lot worse than sitting on the water fishing. I could be at work. I could be at home sick. I could be at a timeshare presentation. This puts things into perspective for me. And when I start to feel frustrated that I haven’t gotten a strike in three hours, I take a few minutes and cast to be casting and enjoy reeling that swimbait in. And sometimes I’ll think about that $12.99 square bill I just had to have and actually tie it on and try it out.
In my youth, I had fishing buddies. I haven’t seen most of them in decades and, truth be told, they were more drinking and carousing buddies than anything else. That’s why I haven’t seen most of them in decades.
But now, my fishing buddies have changed and it’s taken my fishing fulfillment to a new level. I fish with one old fireman friend of mine, Tim Hinkle. We started working together at the fire department in Guntersville, Ala., in the mid-80’s, but never really got to know each other. Because we fish together, now we do.
My brother has Down’s Syndrome and I fish with him. It’s hard for him to get in and out of the boat and move around in it, but he’s teaching me patience and compassion and we’re finally making memories.
My kids are young. Their lines get hung up sometimes and I have to change lures for them. How much bonding will be done in that boat though, if I make the experience enjoyable instead of making it just about catching fish?
But here’s the gold nugget. Here is the thing that can increase fishing enjoyment and relaxation more than any one other thing.
Enjoy the Moment
Be mindful of what’s going on around you and appreciate it. Stop thinking so much and simply enjoy being in the moment. This will sound cheesy, and it is, but it doesn’t make it any less true. When you hear birds making a racket in the cattails, enjoy the racket. Those sunfish that keep biting the tail off of your worm, appreciate them. Notice when the turtles stick their heads out of the lake. Mentally acknowledge the breeze in your hair and the sun on your neck. Glance at the shoreline from time to time. If you notice a few deer, pause long enough to admire them.
And at the end of the day, if you didn’t catch any fish and you seriously have to quit taking just one more cast and go home, remind yourself that you were on the lake all day. It could have been a lot worse.
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