I’m taking it easy this week, but the sentiments and thoughts from the following article, written back in 2009, reflect how I feel, and how I plan to spend my time on this coming holiday weekend. 

Many years ago, a father asked his son what he planned to be when he grew up and the boy said without hesitation, “I’m going to be a fisherman.” 

The father thought it over for a few seconds and replied, “Son, you can’t have it both ways.”

He was right, but I held fast to my decision and have never looked back. The vast majority of anglers are people who never grew up. There is no other avocation, occupation or bad habit that is so pleasantly benign, casually tolerated, and yet so perniciously debilitating as the desire to fish. To engage in the pursuit of fish is rarely demeaned by any but the most strident scolds and misguided animal rights activists.

The professional angling fraternity demands that its members become more sophisticated in both attitude and equipment as they add years to their experience, but there remain fierce pockets of resistance to innovation and pretense. That is why in an angling magazine, articles on color detection or the effects of dissolved oxygen levels can be found in the same issue with ten recipes for catfish stink bait. The hoi polloi still hold some sway with the hoity-toity in the angling culture.  

Not long ago, I witnessed an old timer fishing with an ancient casting outfit, including a steel rod. He was not particular as to what hit his worm, be it minnow or muskie. I realized I was watching a ten-year-old in and 80-year-old body and both factions were content with each other. This is the kind of peaceful relaxation neither electronics nor drugs can produce.

Over the years, I have amassed an embarrassing collection of angling equipment suitable for just about every angling circumstance the waters of the Eastern United States could present.  There is a pair of rigs which have been beckoning lately – two old Cortland spinning rods and Mitchell 300 reels which I first toted along the waterways while I was still in grade school. In relation to my childhood, these rigs represent the same level of technology as the old casting equipment related to the old timer. Both were stuck in our childhood hands and we haven’t let go.

Those two old rods of mine went on countless expeditions with the same goal; catch whatever bites. 

Theodore Gordon, who must have spent his life writing quips about fishing which now grace every fisherman’s calendar or quote book, summed up the philosophy of the angler who refuses to grow up.  

“Once an angler, always a fisherman. If we cannot have the best, we will take the least, and fish for minnows if nothing better is to be had,” Gordon once wrote. That is the attitude I have always maintained, and those old rods and reels are all I need to remind me that any fish is a fish worth catching. 

So with that in mind, I have a hankering to celebrate the season – and the end of the school year – with an afternoon or two on the water at a quiet eddy where I can soak some night crawlers and catch whatever comes along, same as I would have done years ago.  

Seriously, such fishing can be fun. Using night crawlers in a deep river pool at the base of a riffle or at the edge of some boulders, anything from rock bass to walleyes may be caught. If the action is slow, a crawfish or hellgrammite found under an upturned stone may attract a bass or big carp.  

A chub or shiner, caught on a piece of worm can be used as bait. Locate a spot where the bait can rest quietly on the bottom without resulting in a snag, prop the rod on a stick and sit back and watch the river flow.  

Once you let yourself relax, you won’t want to leave and you won’t miss all the fancy tackle and excess baggage you normally carry.  Too, you will remember those days of your youth when sitting on the river bank was about as good as it got.

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