Fishing - What It Means To Me
By Kevin Dahlke
If you were to ask a group of anglers what fishing means to each of them, you would probably get a different reason from each of those anglers. There are loads of reasons why we fish and when you sit down and think about it, every one of those reasons has a meaning and something behind it.
Over the years of my fishing career, I have looked at fishing from all different angles and theories and they all have had their time and place. What does this mean? I want to give you an idea of what fishing has meant to me over the years.
Back in the early days when I was a kid, a buddy and I often jumped on our bikes and rode to the nearest body of water to wet a line. There were days that many fish were caught and also days that we were lucky to see a fish.
There were days that were spent sitting on the shoreline casting a worm and bobber as far as I could, to try and beat my buddies with a bigger fish. We would brag to each other that our fish was bigger than the other's. It seemed that everyone caught huge fish by the tend of the day and the time came for us to make that ride home once again. I often wonder where these buddies of my childhood are today. These are memories that I have kept with me all of my life.
Then the days came when my father and grandfather would take me along for a day on the lake in the fourteen foot boat with the five horsepower motor on the stern. Panfish were always the species that was sought and many hours were spent anchored near some shallow weeds, casting a bobber out looking for fish. Dad and Grandpa were always telling me to stop making so much noise because the fish could hear me and that I scaring them away.
The three of us spent countless hours on a variety of different bodies of water, searching for those meals of fish. If it looked like rain, we were not going to be caught out there and would head off as fast as that five horsepower would move us along. These even more memories that I have with me all of my life. One day I look forward to meeting with Grandpa once again and sharing those wonderful memories of yesteryear. These are memories that I have kept with me all of my life.
Then the day came that I got my driver's license and I thought "you fish better watch out now because I am coming to get you." I would hook up that old fourteen foot boat with its five horsepower motor to my parents' car and head to the lake that I thought was going to produce those big fish for me. I would fish like there was no tomorrow because I was living through my dreams of watching those guys on TV and what they were doing to help put fish in their boats. My mindset was not on catching panfish like my dad and grandpa had me catching all of my youth. Instead, I wanted to catch some of those big bass like they did on TV, and dreamed of having all of the latest baits that I figured that would do that job for me. I would cast and cast, and pound every target that I could find. I caught fish here and there and a smile would appear on my face.
After some time spent out on the water fishing the way that I wanted to fish, ideas were flying through my mind like "Hey, I bet I could do this for a living like the big boys." I felt that I could go to any body of water and catch fish after fish and that there was no stopping me now. I hoped that these dreams would come true one day. There wouldn't be anything better than fishing for a living. These are memories that I have kept with me all of my life.
So now I was at that point in my life where I was working a real job. The temptations of fishing bass tournaments were on mind all the time. I took the next step. I bought myself a bass boat and started looking at some tournament trails that looked inviting for me to fish. I spent hours and days pre-fishing for these tournaments and looking for that one sweet spot that is going to make me famous and put me into the winners circle.
Many lakes were fished and many, many miles were traveled to compete at these levels. I was making friends among the competitors I fished against and was starting to make a name for myself. But, I was not finishing in the standings where I really wanted to be and this started playing mind games with me each and everyday that I was on the water. I was now second guessing all of your moves and this dream that I had of wanting to fish for a living is starting to not look so good or promising.
Anytime that we start moving towards a passion of ours that we would like to turn into a career, things seem to be not what they look like. Getting up in the wee hours of the mornings to get to the lake at dawn to start another practice day wasn't as inviting anymore and seemed to be a lot like work. The fun really wasn't there anymore. I no longer wanted to fish for a living. It was starting to feel more like work and not play. I was fortunate and I am glad that I took my shot at professional tournament fishing. Few people have that opportunity.
Since I have that behind me now, my fishing is all about having fun and enjoying spending time out there on the water. I enjoy these days hooking my boat up to the truck and picking a lake to go fish at, and I don't care (well, I do, a little) if I catch a fish or not. My days on the water now are to get away from the rat race of being an adult, a husband and a father and using that time to clear my head and get myself back to reality.
I look forward to the days that I am able to get out and fish with some of my old friends and relive some of the old days that we had together. I also look forward to the days that I am able to take my dad out fishing, like he used to take me. He doesn't fish much anymore and we don't get to fish together that often. These are memories that I have kept with me all of my life and I try and keep them going forward as each year passes.
Now are the days that I am truly enjoying fishing. I have my own kids to take along and show them the art of fishing. My daughter is getting into those teenage years now so we don't get out much together anymore, but over the last years we had spent many hours in the boat, just the two of us and those are the memories that I will be carrying with me as I go forward. Hopefully the day will come once again that she wants to try her hand at fishing again and I will be there ready and willing to do that for her.
Now that my son is getting a little older he has been accompanying me on quite a few adventures as of late. This past winter he has really become excited and went on many ice fishing trips with me. For a six year old, he showed this old man how to catch some very nice fish. Just watching his excitement while he is watching the electronics or catching a fish is priceless in my book. He always looks forward to our fishing and if we haven't been out for a while he starts bugging me, saying that we need to go once again.
These are memories that I have kept with me all of my life. I treasure all of these and hope that they continue to be made for many years to come. It is funny how I have come full circle in life. Using what my father and grandfather had taught me out there on the water, I am teaching my kids the exact same things. Sure, we now have much bigger boats, all of the fancy electronics, more baits than we will ever use and more fishing rods/reels that we know what to do with, but we seem to always come back to the basics in whatever we do.
Fishing these days has been much more enjoyable to me and means so much more to me as well. I really look forward to each trip that is made to the water and at the end of the day, fish or not, I know that I had a great day out there. Fishing is not work anymore, but such a favorite past time that I can spend many hours out there again. If I only have an hour to fish, so be it. I was still able to do something at that moment that means so much.
What fishing means to me is time to reflect on life, get away from all of the hustle and bustle, and spend some quality time with family, my kids and my friends, new and old. Once again, there aren't enough days that I get to fish. This is telling me that my passion to fish is back, stronger than ever.
Get out and enjoy the outdoors and what Mother Nature has given to us.
BackWoods Sportsman OutDoors