As long as I’ve been an angler, there’s always been talk of the behavior, actions, attitudes and consideration of other anglers and outdoorsmen we come into contact with. Whether it’s fair to them or not, saying someone is a good or a bad sportsman carries a lot of weight.
I’ve always wanted to aspire to that lofty ideal and title of being considered “a good sportsman.” It’s a title most outdoorsmen want to earn from their peers.
The unwritten rules that determine who meets the standard haven’t changed much in hundreds of years. In our crazy, mixed-up world of uncertain and disputed values, the rules for most outdoorsmen and anglers are pretty much the same today as they’ve been forever.
Whenever you’re dealing with others on a one-on-one situation – like we do on the water – the basics are treat others like you want to be treated and be respectful of other’s space. Patience, good manners, mutual respect, integrity and other old-fashioned virtues always stand out. It’s a Boy Scout-kind of lived-out pledge of behavior and practice. Good anglers always seem to notice and appreciate these outstanding traits. I sure do.
It’s always a pleasure to run into someone who’s got a good attitude and is happy to be on the water – it carries over to all they do. They bring us all up! On the other hand, what greater indictment of someone’s character is there than for someone to say that they’re a “bad sportsman.”
All of us have bad days, worries, anxieties and pressures that can dog us and bring us down to a level below our best. (I confess there have been times (maybe too many!) when I’ve fallen below the high standards that a “good sportsman” might be held to. I wish I could change some of the dumb and unthinking things I have done that probably caused other fishermen to say, “That guy’s no sportsman!”) It may be incumbent on the rest of us to recognize that when we’re trying to be amiable or helpful. Understanding that person is probably just venting due to circumstances and not at you is challenging.
Yeah, I’ve seen folks leaving trash, cutting off other boaters, getting rude for no reason, fishing right over another angler, moving in on someone’s spot, hogging the launch ramp, etc. But rather than react to this obvious lack of any consideration, a good sportsman tries to take the high road and keep the peace. Getting mad and confronting someone doesn’t usually get them to change at that point, anyway. Gentle words that are well thought-out can save the day. Sometimes it’s just enough to get an actually very nice person to stop and start all over again with an apology.
Sportsmanship is an art that is critical in our high-pressure society.
Never give up!