Leadership. I think that it’s the missing ingredient few practice in our fishing world. How can we exhibit the same winning qualities that champion athletes, business people and leaders exercise in their fields of endeavor in our arena? Can we become more competent in this area for everyone’s sake? What would a dedicated angler exercising his leadership skills look like?
First, do we even care what it’s like out there on the water for us or our families and fishing buddies? We live in a self-absorbed, me-oriented world that’s chaotic and stressful – one I really don’t want to deal with when I’m fishing. It’s my time of solitude and reflection in a special environment. So I find it disconcerting when stressed-out folks with negative attitudes trying to escape crazy lives end up fishing right next to me! What can we do proactively to restore the peace?
Each time I hit the water, I have found there’s an unconscious decision whether to meet force with force, anger with anger – or take the high road as a leader and rationally decide to play peacemaker. Do I react to perceived threats and stupid moves, or do I remain calm and not respond in kind? Yes, some folks are very reactive and you need to just get away from them if possible. But you can set the tone as a leader for all those on the lake, and calm consideration can be catching. Some folks are having bad days, yes. But I believe it’s an internal decision to not let negative, external circumstances dictate your actions.
Another defining edge of leadership seems to be how anglers feel about leaving things better for those that follow. I’ve watched guys fishing very quietly in a good cove, then blasting off at full throttle inside it, destroying the area while another boat waits to fish the same spot. I love it when a boat runs right through a whole flotilla fishing a good area, rather than taking the time to go around. Floating trash bugs me, too! It seems that all these guys want is to catch their fish, no matter who is affected.
Trying to leave an area or situation better for the next guy or generation may or may not be appreciated, but a leader does it because it’s the right thing to do. What do you do when no one’s watching? I believe leaders get beyond themselves for others’ sakes. Leaders also help other anglers as much as possible, too. I love it when I see a good fisherman teaching another angler something helpful. It’s exciting to see someone experience success for the first time, and develop a love for fishing. Contrast that with some folks who are so intense they won’t even talk to you if you happen to ask if they’re doing good. If I don’t want to give away my stuff, I can do so with a great attitude.
I believe that showing respect to everyone is the right way to go through life! However, I have to confess that my old competitive nature was honed to attack and win, so it’s a trait I have to mentally release when I get to my fishing grounds. On the other hand, it was my privilege to experience moments where I’ve truly wished a competitor the best, out of respect, letting the cards fall as they would because you were both giving it your best. Respect given, respect taken, is a special thing.
Consciously deciding to be a sportsman who practices honesty, helpfulness and a good attitude, while leaving it better for everyone else is like spreading a disease we all need to catch! Some believe the number of fish you catch determines how good of an angler you are. I propose that truly great anglers are ones who see it as their mission to positively affect all around them – selflessly living, promoting and protecting a special way of life. Never give up!