After all, there’s no point in counting how many you caught, if you didn’t have a good time doing it. I first learned this valuable lesson when trolling for stripers in high school. It was a chilly spring morning, a brilliantly pink and tangerine sunrise erupted from the east. We arrived at our charter, and climbed aboard. I had been fly fishing most of my “young adult” life and had no idea what to expect from the experience of trolling for stripers. Well I’ll tell you straight out about how I felt about the experience–it was a complete waste of time. We caught tons of fish and some were really big, but I had absolutely no fun doing it. There was no skill involved with dragging around a bunch of massive rubber trolling rigs through GPS marked hot spots.
There was no stalking, no exploring, no contemplation of lure selection… not even the satisfaction of fierce strike at the end of your line. And so while everyone else was pumped to have a massive table of bleeding-out stripped bass at the end of our trip, I was left contemplating all of the coves and shallow shorelines we passed by with our industrial catching devices. I was utterly disappointed, and for good reason. Now I know a bunch of you reading this might love trolling and now are very angry with my opinions… I’m sure a few of you closed the browser a paragraph ago, and didn’t even give this sentence a chance. But I am entitled to my own opinion, so now please give me the opportunity to explain myself.
A salty wind sweeps across my face as an osprey calls out overhead, fish tucked neatly in her talons. She soars towards her massive nest built-in to the tree-line on the island ahead of us. The motor is off, and we are just drifting in the silence of bay, its waters, its winds, its birds, its fish and it’s air. There isn’t another boat in sight, not a single sound of a motor for miles. There are no other people, no cars, no trucks, no houses, no streetlights, no television. I drift into a deep meditation, deep into the swaying of our vessel in the tides. My brain erupts with a hundred different happy hormones and enzymes, as I stare intently across the shoreline we have been steadily drifting towards. I study my fly box–a dozen different colors of dyed deer-hair galvanize my visual perception. I choose a specially tied, white and red half and half with heavy dumbbell eyes; I’m going to search the sandy bottom for any occupants waiting to ambush. With intensity and precision , I haul perfect loops in to the shallows… searching… observing… contemplating… loving every moment.
I didn’t catch single fish that day, so you might say I failed miserably. But alas, I had a fantastic time failing, or as I would call it–learning. I was humbled, my ego knocked down a few notches on the “ladder of expectation.” I challenged myself, evaluated the circumstances and environmental conditions of our fishing locations, and did my best to gain an understanding of the feeding habits of striped bass that day. I fished hard, and never gave up until it was of necessity to head back to home. Again, I didn’t catch a single fish, but I gained the most valuable experience doing so. There is a reason that fishing is called fishing and not catching. If fishing were catching than you would never go home empty-handed and there would be no reason to try something new. There would be no reason to explore, there would be no challenge. In my personal option, there would be no experience at all, but rather a routine of catching–and its the routines in life that I fish to escape from.
By Austin Green