Most of my fishing life I’ve pretty much headed out with my regular buddies and family because they are well-known quantities and I don’t have to worry about anything but fishing. However, when I started guiding and taking folks I didn’t know, a whole new and exciting dynamic began to unfold. Building great and lasting relationships was not what I had expected. So I began to ask myself what factors were behind this?
Maybe the reason this issue hit me was that I can’t truthfully say I build close relationships easily (I think it may come from all the years of near-solitary training I did as a decathlete). I have always gotten along pretty well, but getting to really know someone to the point that you connect is not something I see much in our throwaway society. When I began to have new relationships I valued – and I knew they related to me the same way – I wondered what was happening. These weren’t Facebook add-on friends, either.
I usually have a couple anglers as guests and we are typically on the water for a good eight hours or more confined to a 21-foot boat. There is no way around getting to know your boatmates pretty well in that time.
Time was my first revelation. It occurred to me that we are so driven as a society that if we don’t want to be with someone, we’re off to a multitude of other choices. We don’t have to dig in and put up with anything – and that’s why I think we feel so unsatisfied, even after being incredibly busy. There is no deep meaningful connection in that and unfortunately I believe our attention spans are typically getting shorter and more intense. The contrast is startling.
Here I was forced to get to know someone totally new to me, and I had to put on my best me because I was stuck there. Treating others as throwaway things, rather than as people if they don’t meet our agenda is way too common until you can’t afford to keep doing it. I admit to this fault, but I’m changing.
Trust was the next factor. It’s pretty tough to build a relationship with anyone without trust and spending time seems to be key. I didn’t trust most folks because I didn’t know them was what was going on deep down somewhere. Why take the chance to trust someone or take the time to really know them if you felt it might be a waste of time? Yeah, that’s a pretty me-oriented statement. I found that being stuck with someone for a long time while pursuing a dream seemed to somehow cross that unseen mental barrier. Funny thing was that many times my first impression of someone wasn’t nearly close to the truth about who they really were. I was forced, in spite of my preconceived impressions, to get past that issue and realize I was talking to someone pretty special who I really liked and could trust. My initial deep concern about being trapped with an unknown someone for many hours became an excited anticipation of who I got to meet next. My biggest fear became one of my greatest unexpected blessings!
Being close to another person for hours has another real advantage: tons of non-verbal communication. What’s this person’s heart like? Who you are seems to come across loud and clear in how we respond, interact and touch each other. It’s a crash course in getting to know someone.
I sometimes see a fishing trip with a guest sort of like being in the Army and I bring a new recruit into my foxhole. We both depend on each other and mutual trust is gradually earned – until the friendship morphs into the kind of camaraderie and closeness many search for but few experience. These friendships are bonds.
I have found that our sport is an unusual crucible where great relationships can be forged, ones that can last a lifetime and beyond in their impact. I love fishing. Never give up!
Roger George is The Bee’s fishing expert. He can be reached at email@example.com,