Lighting the Way

Lighting the Way
Dad with a big dorado.

With the holidays behind us and hunting seasons nearly over, I doubt I'm the only one with thoughts turning toward the warmer days of spring and more frequent ventures offshore. Recent reports of a solid wahoo bite along the continental shelf and tuna being found with some consistency makes me want to jump in the boat and go join the action.

As I think about the upcoming summer fishing season, I can't help but recall the numerous times that I have written here and mentioned at countless seminars, about learning lessons through your own experiences and then applying those lessons (some learned the hard way) to your next fishing trip. Sometimes we learn as much or more from our mistakes as we do our successes. Well - never did I think that fishing would end up teaching me a truly hard life-lesson.

I lost my father very unexpectedly the day after Thanksgiving, exactly two days before we were to leave on a weeklong mule deer hunt in Western Kansas. We were very close and rarely a day passed that we did not speak on the telephone. Some of our conversations were chit-chat and some were serious business but, the point is, we talked a lot. Losing him so suddenly threw my world into a panic.

Needless to say all of this has set me to reminiscing all the good times, all those wonderful days we spent together on the water and in the field. Losing my dad has led me to consider the full impact and influence of all those experiences we shared. How they shaped me personally and professionally and how one generation sheds light onto the path of the next. This has been tough to deal with but knowing that his light is still shining on me and through me has been a great comfort. We all work hard to be able enjoy the things in life that bring us joy. Sharing those things with others can be some of the greatest gifts we will ever give. My dad certainly shared a lot with me.

Whether it might be an all-day offshore fishing excursion or something as simple as a couple of hours sitting on the bank of a pond with a son or daughter, friend or loved one; time spent with those close to us is precious and even the simplest endeavors can end up some of the most enjoyable and memorable in their lifetime. I have also come to realize as I hope you do too; we owe these things to those that follow us. When put in that perspective, the allure of the entire outdoor experience takes on so much more meaning, more than simply a pastime for our own enjoyment alone. The older I get the better I understand that there is so much more to our sport than just throwing fish on the dock.

My father was my teacher and my guide, he was my biggest fan and the one that always encouraged me to pursue my dreams. Even gambling on me, with his hard-earned money to help me launch the very career that I now enjoy. It was only later in life that I realized my dreams were his dreams for me. This is what each and every one of us has the opportunity to be to someone in our lives, and what better place to do it than in the outdoors.

I personally can't think of a better place or a better way to teach a youngster patience than through our sport of fishing. It also offers them the opportunity to be rewarded with success through hard work achieved over something that they can't control. These victories following a string of failures will teach perseverance better than any method that we could manufacture. The size of these victories really doesn't matter. It could be as big as a tournament winning fish or as simple as my kids filling the livewell with a batch of stubborn blue runners. It's all about their pride and sense of accomplishment.

With the New Year well underway, some us may have already forgotten our resolutions for 2012. Personally I have not. Mine was to do my very best to continue to pass on the lessons that were taught me by my father. Not so much the obvious ones that come around every day, what I'm talking about are the ones in the great outdoors that you have to put some effort into. Hunting, fishing, camping and just spending that quality time together around a campfire that we hear spoken of so often.

As I sit here at this desk I find myself reliving a lifetime of great memories. His silly jokes and that comforting smile that just seemed to always set my heart at ease, but the fact remains that he took an impressionable young boy and raised him in a turbulent world that could have easily led him astray. His tools were love, a gun, and a fishing rod. Those simple things were all it took to see that boy to adulthood and down a path that never gave him time to get into any kind of measurable trouble. What better legacy can we leave our children or those that just simply look to each of us for a little guidance in life? Where better to do it that in the outdoors, passing on our knowledge and love for the sport of fishing? I cant think of a better way to teach the most important of life's lessons.