I haven’t fished in years, many years actually. Recently for some reason it came to my mind that fishing was something I enjoyed before, but being the “evolved being” I am now, my next thought was “Why did I enjoy fishing?”
I presently do not have any burning desire to go fishing, and many years ago I got rid of my last rod and reel, and tackle box. But I am intrigued with the question above. So that is what I wish to explore, for myself this morning, and if you the reader find it also compelling, then “fish on!”
Undoubtedly people fish for many different reasons, and most likely don’t really give much thought to why, they just do. I am mainly talking about “recreational” fishing, not those who brave the seas to bring food to the tables of the masses.
In other of my posts I have mentioned growing up on the river, almost literally, during my young boyhood, age five to twelve; and, later in my teen and young adulthood, occasionally dropping my line into the river I grew up on, the Nueces, in southwest Texas. When I was a boy we fished mainly with two “methods”. One was just a throw line, and we wound the line on a tin can, like an old Prince Albert tobacco pocket tin. We would put our hook on the end, and depending on whether we were fishing for catfish, a bottom feeder, or for perch or bass, we would either put a lead weight or a float a few inches or feet from the hook. For catfish we used chicken livers or entrails, and for perch and bass we dig for earthworms and also catch grasshoppers on the way to the fishing spot.
When I was a young teen, my Dad took me on a boat, and then some anchored barges, off the coast of San Diego. I caught my first yellow tail tuna on the boat, and man was that exciting to me a 14 year old. I guess it weighed around 20 pounds, and I remember the whole catch event even today. There were maybe ten or more men and boys on that boat, and when the tuna began to hit the baits, it got exciting, really fast. The tuna would hit the bait going fast and the fishing line would began to just burn off the big reel, and literally as the reel brake was being slowly tightened to slow the fish, smoke would come off the reel it got so hot. Then – suddenly, the fish would seem to turn straight back toward the boat, and the solution was to turn the reel as fast as possible to take up the slack. Slowly but surely the fish would tire, and each cycle the fish would be drawn closer and closer to the boat, so finally it could be gaffed with a long pole with a sharp hook on it, to yank it up into the boat.
Later in life I bought a small rod and reel, just for fishing back on my boyhood river. It was fun to use catching perch and an occasional bass, and typically I would use artificial lures, like fake rubber worms.
But the above descriptions is just to set the tone of my musing for today. What is it about fishing that seems to connect with one’s deepest senses? First, there is the often meditative state that overcomes one as you wait, often alone in “the great wilderness”, waiting for that bite or nibble at the bait, telegraphing “something” out and down there is alive and present. It is kind of an electric thrill that runs through the human psyche at that time. Maybe it is the primordial sense of impending “food” acquisition. Maybe it is the thought of now being on the brink of exercising the superior human mind over the “thing” in the depths, I don’t know. There is definitely the thrill similar to taking the wrapped present from under the Christmas tree, not knowing what is hidden from the eye, is it big, small, mean, sharp teethed, ugly or cute. Often the first tug on the line doesn’t communicate much information, but with a little patience, soon more and more information is telegraphed up the line. The line becomes a virtual communications data line between “beast” and human being, an intense exchange of content value. At one time I could discern pretty quickly if the tug was a catfish or a big perch, but I doubt I still have such sharp wilderness skills anymore. Or, perhaps this faculty is like riding a bike, once you have learned you never forget. (I proved this to myself, when several years ago I bought a fancy little commuter bike, and found I could ride quite well after decades of bike drought.)
I suspect the feelings one has harkens back to the milieu of our primal ancestors, when humans first began to use their brains to catch fish in ways other than using their hands. Fishing lines could be made with various plant material and vines, and hooks shaped from flint. The goal of all this was of course to eat! And, I suppose at the biological level, the need for protein to feed the brain, was an driving force, unbeknownst to the fisherman or woman.
At the end of this morning, I am not sure I am much closer to understanding if there is one main reason I liked to fish “back in the day.” I do know I enjoyed it, but for me it was a passing experience, like my flying, photography, archery, hunting, leather crafting, knife throwing, canoeing, hiking, swimming, or all those other experiences I have enjoyed. For me, variety is truly the spice of life. I suppose that is why I enjoyed my engineering career, for each new project was unique in its own way.
Well, the fish have stopped biting this morning, so I think I will drag up and move on to something else. Maybe they will be biting again soon.
Have a nice fishing day where ever you are!