The seniors are pretty much gone, so it’s too late for them. They are en route somewhere. Many have gorged themselves on scholarships and are off and running. Some will take awhile to get going while others stumble out of the gate, but find their way eventually.
The rest are still wandering around looking for the starting line, and will be for the next 50-some years.
So you, 17-year olds, in your last summer as protected youths, a mere 12 months from breaking free of the sometimes tyrannical hold of parents, teachers and high school, listen up.
Fisherman and author John Gierach said, “The solution to any problem — work, love, money, whatever — is to go fishing, and the worse the problem, the longer the trip should be.”
Since that is obviously true, here are a few things to consider before embarking on your final drift in high school.
First off, thank and respect your elders. If it weren’t for them, you wouldn’t get to fish, because a few generations ago everything you take advantage of was paid for with their blood. Some of that stuff you play on Playstation 3 was their reality.
Pay attention to adults you respect and that do things the right way so you will be able to take getting skunked like a man. Soon you will turn 18 and will either become an adult, or a pouty kid that’s just old enough to get in more serious trouble.
Practice and mentoring will help you get skunked less, but it will inevitably still happen. If you do end up getting good, don’t call yourself an expert. If other people think you are, they will call you one, but remain a humble angler, no more, no less.
Don’t settle for farmed fish, you deserve better. They are cheap and filled with contaminants. Be selective, because there is a decided difference between drab farmed fish that have been fed loads of crap and independent, natural ones. If you do end up catching a wild one that you don’t want, throw it back promptly, not after it’s already in the freezer. It’s too late for both of you at that point. Plus, you may have just ruined the perfect fish for someone else.
A bare hook, even if extremely sharp, will catch nothing and will end up being a sad waste of time unless it’s baited or attached to some sort of attractor. Fish won’t bite just because you want them to.
Similarly, make sure you have a hook, because a spinner or bait with no barb is equally worthless. If you want to catch fish, your tackle has to be in line, otherwise you’ll be sulking while everyone around you is successful.
There should never be a point in which fishing is a chore. Like senioritis, it’s an excuse that people use when they don’t want to confront character flaws or apathy. It’s like ‘lack-of-focus’ being re-named ‘multi-tasking’. It might sound better, but it’s still the same thing. Life doesn’t take excuses, so stop making them before things get serious.
Companies that say, “Your life, better”. They are lying. You don’t want to be the one that watches fishing shows in HD, it’s less than nothing compared to real life. It’s never too early to start looking at the big picture, the outdoor one, rather than the flat screen. That way you will later spend money having a life rather than watching someone else that does.
Surround yourself with motivated, driven people that are unafraid to go away from home, off the grid, in search of new wild places but have a clear plan and the means to get back out. You don’t want to end up eaten by bears because you read a blog that said they won’t hurt you if you scratch behind their ears while singing Barry Manilow, or flooding your waders and parachuting downriver in water you knew was unsafe, because put your trust in a shady, manipulative guide. There are plenty of people out there that will laugh and point rather than sprint after you. Distance yourself from them now, it will only become more difficult after next year.
Don’t keep looking back at the big one you caught years ago. That just means you haven’t done anything recently. Get out there and make new, interesting stories rather than live in the past.
Finally, sometimes you won’t be able to see the fish, but you have to believe it’s there and tirelessly pursue it. Without faith in its presence and in your ability to get it, you’ll end up walking away and missing out on more than you will ever know.
To contact Jeff Lund, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.