I recently had a conversation with a younger fishing friend who brought up the fact (“No offense!” he said) that he thought that I was an “old-school” angler. Boy, I’ve been accused of many things, but this one made me think about the classification and what that meant. Old or new school? Was that good or bad? I wasn’t quite sure.
I knew he hadn’t seen my tackle, boat or garage filled with 1970s retro gear, so I figured this label had more to do with the way that younger anglers approach the sport. Maybe I just talked like an old fisherman, or I had given myself away because I didn’t know the name for a hot new lure or rig? Nah, it had to be something more obvious. Was he suggesting that I wasn’t mainlined into the hippest online social media fishing groups in the country or keeping up with the hottest cutting-edge techniques and gear coming down the pike? Bingo!
Yeah, he was right. I hadn’t grown up getting my info from the web, and, frankly, I considered it a necessity and a pain to have to learn it a few years ago. I didn’t trust it; I trusted people. I know a lot of older anglers who weren’t too excited about learning how to get on Facebook, go to angling sites, or order their new pole online, either. Most of us resisted, feeling we would use it when we had to but that it wasn’t our lifeblood.
We didn’t really care how many likes, shares or follows showed up on our infrequent posts. It wasn’t our playground and we didn’t feel comfortable navigating all the pitfalls. Safer to avoid it if possible.
For me, this new phenomenon added several dimensions to fishing that weren’t there decades before, such as online trolls tearing apart your most innocent posts or having other anglers trying to figure out from the posted picture where the exact spot was. Or what lure you used to catch that big fish. It’s a darn minefield!
This online game reminds me of my favorite retro cartoon: the iconic “Spy vs. Spy” in Mad magazine, where one-upmanship, absurd technology, sneakiness and stealth were the way the “spies” defeated each other. It was hilarious! The online frontier seems to be the same way, with move and countermove the norm. The new generation was used to this jungle. I just want to fish.
I think it’s possible that in many cases “new school” anglers are actually more concerned about producing GoPro or underwater Water Wolf videos than they are with becoming better anglers. Ask them which of their videos drew the most “hits” and I’ll bet you get a quick answer. They are as proud of this as they are of their biggest catch. I see some boats with more cameras set up to film the action than they have poles. Some anglers film, edit and post the video minutes after the catch – blasting it into cyberspace. Yes, I’ve done a few videos, but I guess I’m not wired that way. I rest my case.
Maybe “old school” also means that I continue to believe that one of my dusty old Rapalas, or that old green-and-yellow speckled Hula popper will still work, hanging in there against some of the newly packaged and rebranded lures. Give me a 7 1/2 -foot rod with a Mitchell 300 reel and a purple Crème worm and I’m confident I could still catch a bass. Why not? The fish don’t know what they’re supposed to bite – and they sure don’t check on the internet to find out!
I’ve decided that “old school” really means you have time-tested confidence in your techniques and decisions after years on the water. Yes, I agree, I’m pretty retro, as many of us old warriors are, but it’s worked out OK so far. I hope “old school” doesn’t actually equate to “old fool,” however, I firmly believe it still comes down to focused fishing and confidence. Maybe the “old school” mentality will be back in vogue someday? Can I get a “like?” Ha!
Never give up!