I'll admit, I do more than my fair share of fishing, and in the process I get to meet a lot of folks who are just about as addicted to the sport as I am.
There seems to be a common bond among fishermen that knows no boundaries. Even with people I meet in passing, the conversation somehow turns to fishing and ends up being a marathon talk-fest in which techniques are swapped and stories of the "big one that got away" abound. In many cases, that stranger instantly becomes a friend for life. I wonder if the same thing happens when golfers meet?
I think the difference between fishing and other sports is that when you are fishing there is more to the encounter than simply catching fish.
When I think about the thousands of fishing excursions I have had, I realize no two trips were ever the same. Even with people with whom I regularly fish, such as Don McCarthy and Will "Catfish" Thompson, every trip has been different. The ocean is never the same on any two trips, the fish never act the same and the sights are always unpredictable.
This randomness is what keeps me coming back for more. If every outing were like the last, I'm pretty sure I would tire of fishing. But just wondering what might happen when I venture out on the water is what keeps me so fired up about this outdoor pursuit.
Even the scariest days -- when the ocean decides to throw out a curveball that could easily kill me -- I have that experience burned into my psyche as much as a day when everything runs as smooth as silk. I seriously don't think I have forgotten any day I have had on the water -- whether that water was the wide open ocean, a small mountain stream or a lake in the mountains of Alaska. They are all there in this thing I have called a brain, just ready to be plucked and relived again and again.
One of the best parts of fishing is the company I keep. Every single week it seems I am hopping on and off boats owned by people I haven't met until just that moment.
I might have a mind like a steel trap when it comes to remembering every fishing trip, but that ends when it comes to remembering names. I am the worst when it comes to that, especially when I hop on a boat with more than two anglers. "Hi Collin (they always leave off the "s" in Collins), I'm Joe and this is John, Richard and his son Jeremiah." In the time those names hit my eardrums they are bounced right out of that same ear. It's embarrassing, and the only way I can avoid being busted is by calling each one of them "Bo," "Bubba" or "Captain."
For the most part, it works out, but just to let you know, I am working on this problem by using word association. I'll let you know how that works out because thus far I have done well with the association part but end up getting the people mixed up and calling Jeremiah "Joe" and Joe "Richard." Oh well, at least I'm trying.
Because I am so fortunate to be able to fish with people from all over the country, every trip is riddled with the unknown. I get my fair share of newcomers to saltwater fishing and, in the process, endure story after story about fishing for walleyes in the Great Lakes or bass fishing in Ohio. Usually after their first saltwater experience, they are left wide-eyed. I often try and put myself in their place where the biggest fish they have ever caught was an 8-pound largemouth bass and what it must be like when they have a 70-pound cobia chasing their bait with three others of equal size right beside it.
For most, they will never look at fishing the same again.
One gentleman, in particular, Bill Sanderson, a transplant to our area with whom I have fished a few times, just seemed to "get it" from the get-go. There was a twinkle in his eyes that made me like him from the moment we met. I could tell he was fishing for the experience as much as he was for catching fish. That's my kind of person.
I've had my share of fishing companions who throw a fit when a big fish gets away, but, like myself, Bill knows it's just part of the game. Every time we fish together we get along like peas and carrots. So this past week I decided to take him to my most secret spot without telling him where we were going and what we would be fishing for. Needless to say, I think I blew his mind when he hauled in several doormat flounder. If that wasn't enough, we then went pitching for redfish and on about the third cast this monster inhaled Bill's top-water bait much like a largemouth bass inhales a top-water plug. That day will find a spot among the thousands memories I have of fishing -- ones I relive over and over again.
God does not subtract from the allotted span of a man's life the hours spent in fishing. Columnist Collins Doughtie, a graphic designer by trade and fishing guide by choice, sure hopes that's true.