Guiding anglers from all walks of life and ages has been a wonderful experience, but has piqued that deeper part of me that asks why things (and people) are as crazy as they are today? What common issues are driving the “madness,” and why do I feel that fishing is still one of the best refuges? I’m not a psychologist, but when I compare how a fishing life has impacted me, I think I can see why it evolved this way.
My hypothesis is I was fortunate to have grown up in the late 1950s to ’60s on a farm at a time when things were pretty simple and few had caught politically correct syndromes. If we had Red Ball Jets, some Levi’s and a clean T-shirt, we were good to go! Designer labels weren’t in vogue, but BB guns, comic books, clod wars, pollywogs, bluegill and bikes with cards in the spokes were! Life was pretty simple, the boundaries clear and unambiguous.
Funny, but pain, accountability and hurt feelings were all a part of life on the ranch – and in the boat. You learned to deal with the problems or get over them. Whining wasn’t tolerated, unless you wanted to be given a nasty chore. Ingratitude wasn’t either; I did eat what was on my plate! My parents let me know I wasn’t going to die, too! They actually spanked me (whoa!) when I needed it, but I knew they cared and loved me, so no big deal. I never considered trying to “play” my dad with drama or some contrived issue – that kind of disrespect created nuclear options. I gave my best effort … or else.
Looking back, fishing and time on the farm operated on the same personal wavelength in this era! You were responsible for what you said you were going to do, or you better “die” trying at least. Dad’s friends were empowered to deal with me if they caught me doing something I shouldn’t have! I decided at an early age that it was far easier to do the right thing than it was to face my old staff sergeant dad to find out.
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Folks within your community held you responsible for your actions and, silly thing, your word was your bond. You knew who you could trust. No wonder folks are so paranoid today about letting someone they don’t know near them. We judged others by their actions, not their many words. (Was that too radical, even then?) If you thought you were something special, humble pie was served cold. It was “we” not “me” for our family and friends – and where, exactly, did that go?
My point? Fishing still operates on these tried and true principles to a great degree! It’s an arena where if you break your word, tell a lie or aren’t accountable, the message gets around very fast. Treating others badly, or with no respect at all … complaining … poor excuses … or just being a jerk weren’t tolerated much then or now on the water.
The payoff is that I find good anglers are the first to respect others who have earned their stripes, no matter what nationality or color. In my humble opinion, I’ve seen this attitude transcend race issues like no other. Respecting a man or woman for who they are is a key part of the fishing culture that dedicated sportsmen have practiced for ages. My dad, the farmer and the fisherman, treated all men alike and respectfully – until they otherwise clearly proved undeserving.
Hmmm … rejecting bad sportsmanship and behavior, while respecting and applauding great skill, effort and integrity, is the way we should be operating. I believe it helps to make us all better people and levels the playing field for everyone. Yes, fishing may be a throwback in many ways to a simpler and purer time, but “old school” still works!
Underneath it all I believe that our sport is a lifelong passion that many anglers use to pursue a life of integrity, trust, peace and good sportsmanship – the things that make our lives worth living and society the better for it. No, not a perfect world but still simple effective and proven! Am I getting too old? (Don’t answer.) Never give up!
Roger George is The Bee’s fishing expert. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org,