Anyone who knows me, anyone who is subscribed to my YouTube channel, or anyone who follows my blogs, knows that I love fishing. Like most fisherman will tell you, it’s more than love. It’s an addiction. I liken it to gambling, but without the financial risk. Every cast I throw into the dark waters of a lake is like placing a 20$ chip on a roulette table. As I reel in the lure, and the lure gets closer to me, it’s like the roulette wheel slowing to a stop. Every cast I stand the chance of hitting the jackpot. And every cast risks being a dud.
It’s an addiction that has left me somewhat conflicted at times. I love fishing, but I don’t like killing the fish. To the extent that it is possible, I always release the fish. The last time I killed a fish that was not mortally wounded and ate it, each bite made me want to wretch. I just gazed out the window at the setting sun and felt horrible. I don’t at all judge anyone who kills the fish to eat. It’s totally legitimate, and I don’t think ill of them or more highly of myself. In fact I kind of wish my weak soul would allow me to do it.
But people ask why I do it… What’s the point of spending hours trying to catch a fish only to put it back? And if they have to ask, it’s only because they’ve never landed a 12-pound pike from a kayak. They’ve never put down a 20$ chip and had the wheel land on their number. It’s exhilarating beyond words. And win or lose, it’s just a wonderful experience to be out there, in nature, with nothing but the gentle lapping of waves overpowering your senses.
And lately my kids have gotten into it. Possibly out of a genuine love for the pastime. Possibly because it’s just something we do together. Possibly because they have the same addictive personality I have, for good and for bad. But we’ve been fishing a lot together in the last year. It has both brought back some childhood memories, and has caused me to reflect retrospectively on some childhood experiences.
When I was a kid, I used to beg my parents to take me fishing. Being the youngest of five kids means having a dad who has to work. A lot. So it was an ordeal (and a lottery of its own) getting him to take me out on the boat. But whenever he did, he always let me reel in whatever he hooked. And I always found it weird. I loved fishing. I loved catching fish. From the smallest perch to the biggest bass. And I assumed my father loved it too. So why would he let me reel in his fish? Why wouldn’t he want to reel it in himself?
And now, 30 years later, I know the answer. When I go fishing with my kids, it’s not to catch fish for me. It’s to catch fish for them. I know what it feels like to catch a fish. I know the thrill of landing a beast. I know the sense of defeat of losing “the one”. I’ve already lived it. When I’m fishing too early, too late, in the rain, or when they have just given up and gone home, I will live it again for myself. But when I’m living it with them, I want them to live it. I want them to feel what I felt, live what I lived, and grow to love what I love.
So that’s it. The circle of life. And it extends beyond parenting. It’s the human experience. We take our turns experiencing the wonders of this world, then after deciding what is awesome and worth sharing, the focus shifts to ensuring that those we love get to experience the same thing.