I identify as a fisherman.
I remember standing in my yard as a kid casting a plastic plug to practice my skills when I couldn’t be fishing. I’d stand in the middle of my local river for hours trying to catch just a single fish. Usually, that didn’t work. Sometimes it did, and I lived for those rare occasions. Fast forward to today, and I still love fishing. Having been immersed in it for so long, it feels like a natural part of my identity.
I do identify as an angler. But now, I also identify as a hiker, a hunter, a skier, and lots of other things. I try to hike for fish as often as I can over the summer. During the fall, I only really fish after I’ve filled my big game tags. And during the winter, I dedicate nearly every weekend to the slopes, with only the occasional day of fishing.
This used to eat at me a bit. Am I really a dedicated fisherman if I throw it to the wayside during certain times of the year? If I spend time doing something else, am I missing out on time I could be fishing, or learning about fishing, or reading fishing stories?
It wasn’t until recently that I decided for myself that not only can I still “be a real angler” while having other interests, but that it’s essential that I DO have other interests.
If you want to get better at fishing, the best way to do so is to fish. There’s no true substitute for actually getting out on the water and practicing.
But, there are times when you can’t fish. Maybe the river is blown out, or you’re in a place with closed seasons or waterways. Maybe you’re waiting for a rod to be repaired. Whatever it is, there are times when it just doesn’t make sense to fish.
Additionally (and some people may disagree), there are times when you just don’t really feel like fishing. I find that if I fish my local creek too many times in a row, I start to itch for something a little different. By the fifth or sixth day, I’m probably ready to do something else.
During these times, having other interests not only keeps me occupied, but also allows me to “cross-train” for fishing.
Staying in peak physical condition is by no means a requirement for angling. But, it never hurts, and can come in handy if you like to hike in with overnight gear. By participating in other activities like biking, climbing, skiing, or swimming, you’re still improving your ability to fish at your best.
The benefits go beyond basic physical conditioning, though. You learn useful skills in other activities, as well. I learned to be much more in tune with the wind while hunting, which allows me to read it more accurately on the water.
This even goes beyond outdoor activities. If you really enjoy art, looking at or creating detailed depictions of aquatic insects will hone your entomology knowledge. If reading is your thing, it’s not hard to find books about fishing or the outdoors in general. Odds are, if you have other interests, there’s probably a way to incorporate fishing into them in some way.
One of the first times I debated whether I was truly the fisherman I thought I was, was the first time I experienced burnout.
I had fished the same places for the same species enough that I just flat out didn’t feel like fishing for a bit. I was horrified at the idea that I could be not in the mood to fish. Then, magically, after just a short time, I was even more eager to get out than I’d been before.
Burnout happens in plenty of situations: work, home life, you name it. But, it’s shocking when it happens around something you’re passionate about.
I decided the way to combat it wasn’t to push through and make it worse, but to take a breather, do something else for a bit, and wait for it to go away. In the case of fishing, if I get burnt out, it generally only takes a few days before I’m rearing to go again.
When I really felt that I’d cracked the code, though, was when I branched out and started trying other activities. Now, instead of burning out on fishing and having to recover, I prevent burnout before it happens. Because I dedicate most of the fall to hunting and most of the winter to skiing, I’m so eager to fish in late spring and summer that I never get sick of it.
Jack of All Trades
I fished a lot as a kid, and as a teen, and now as an adult. It comes as no surprise, then, that many of my dearest friends are fishing buddies. At the same time, some of the very closest people to me either don’t fish, or only fish because I take them along.
I realize that I probably wouldn’t have some of these people in my life if all I knew were fishing. Not only would I not have branched out into other activities (like skiing, where I met my boyfriend), but I also probably wouldn’t have been as interesting to those of my friends who don’t fish.
While I get a lot of excitement nerding out about the minute aspects of angling or fish themselves, I don’t really think this makes me inherently fun to talk to.
I recently heard someone I respect say, “If I know two things about a person and, through those, can guess a third easily, I usually think they’re probably not a very interesting person.” If, on the other hand, he can be thrown for a loop with an unexpected third fact, he assumes the person is worth talking to.
If you know I love to fish and love to camp, you can probably assume I love to hike, as well. But, those pieces of info don’t tell you that I also love scuba diving, international travel unrelated to fishing, and true crime.
At the end of the day, while I will probably always consider fishing my one true love, I’ve become comfortable with the fact that I don’t have to choose one true love. In fact, that’s the way I like it.