You Gotta Start Somewhere…

You Gotta Start Somewhere…
One of my very fondest memories of taking kids fishing.
As the hum of the outboard wound down and the water washed up along my transom I walked to the front of my boat past my son, Hunter, and pointed to a stretch of shoreline dotted with familiar landmarks. My smile came automatically as we neared the exact spot I had caught the very first redfish in November 1983. "It all started right here," I proclaimed to Hunter as the memory replayed in my mind so vividly it would make today's high-definition television jealous. I could see the whole episode unfold in front of me for the zillionth time and it was every bit as good as the first, maybe better.

My first foray into saltwater fishing began with my neighbor, Chris Gunn in the winter of 1983. Chris had been a diehard fisherman for as long as I had known him and he had a very specific approach to fishing at this time of the year. He loved fishing the river, especially in the cold when the redfish would run the shorelines eating anything that didn't eat them first. Our usual trips started with a coin flip to see who would drive the boat, the winner got to lie down in the bottom and stay warm while we made the run – the coin toss was important.

His old Grumman aluminum hull had the structural integrity of overcooked fettuccini; you could literally watch it flex like an inch worm as we increased speed or encountered choppy water. No matter what it looked like it always got us there and back and that's all that mattered – at least that's all that mattered to us at the time.

Once we reached our stretch of shoreline we followed a simple game plan – chunk, wind and hope. The technique was neither pretty nor very scientific but, man oh man was it effective. Lure selection for us consisted of either a gold or chrome Rat-L-Trap, that's it, zero complications and proven results. We would run miles of empty shoreline making thousands of casts until we found them and then all of the bone-chilling cold and fruitless hours would become distant memories.

I remember the first redfish I ever caught ate a gold Rat-L-Trap and immediately began taking drag like nothing I had ever seen. Up to this point all I had ever caught were fresh water fish and they seldom if ever took drag and certainly not like this redfish was doing. I was floored at the strength of the fish and even more excited once I got my hands on it. I was completely taken by the experience and knew I wanted more.

Each successive trip did nothing but make my infatuation with the sport grow exponentially until I was able to get my own boat and begin branching out even farther. To this day I trace back my fishing career to that one day and that first fish that started me along a lifetime path of great moments and great people. That one simple act of one person inviting another to share the boat and some knowledge can be a far greater act than any of us can imagine.

Fast forward many years and many fishing trips, my enthusiasm for fishing has not diminished in the least. I get a huge kick out of catching fish and an even bigger kick out of teaching or coaching others how to catch them. As a guide or professional fisherman it's my duty and/or privilege to help recruit new anglers to the sport or to help other anglers improve their skills so they can enjoy it even more.

I recently had a great conversation about this very topic with James Trimble, one of the better fishermen and guides I've ever had the pleasure of sharing a boat with. "Trim" is an exceptionally accomplished guide and well-known by many in the industry for his laid back approach and ability to find fish. These days he spends most of his time on a baseball field watching his son rather than at the helm of his boat searching for the next bite but he still remains in touch with what's going on along the coast.

Our conversation centered around how we, as guides, took for granted that everyone out there in the recreational world understood fishing and techniques like we do. Things like what particular knot to use or how to approach a flock of birds working schooling trout, these are things that "we as guides" just figured everybody knew and understood.

"I can't tell you how many fishing questions I answer at my son's baseball games or practices," said James, "people are starving for knowledge so when you share anything with them, including just basic information, they are blown away."

It's always been my belief that the majority of guides and tournament anglers believe that everyone else fishes like they do because everyone they hang out with fishes like that. Truth is though, the portion of the fishing world that is comprised of guides and tournament anglers is probably just a fraction of one percent of the total fishing community. There are infinitely more recreational fishermen out there compared to the "upper end" guys and in most cases they fish differently but, almost to a man they would like to know more about the sport in order to get better and catch more fish.

I personally enjoy answering emails or just having talks with fishermen who ask questions or just want to share information. The best correspondence however is when a fisherman contacts you and tells you how well they have done using a particular technique or bait that you recommended or showed them how to use. Enjoying their success along with them is extremely gratifying.

There is no doubt that each and every fisherman has something to offer their peers, even the slightest bit of knowledge can be helpful, never underestimate that fact. Be willing and receptive to others when you are asked a question, take it as a compliment and do your best to help if possible. I had the occasion to be quizzed by some young fishermen at an outdoors show once about various knots and when was the best time to use a particular one. I took out a couple of different lures from my bag along with some mono, braid, and fluorocarbon to show them some examples. After a couple of minutes a crowd began to gather and before we knew it we had an impromptu seminar happening in the middle of the aisle. The two young anglers were front and center taking in all the examples and asking to tie some of the knots as well, it was very enjoyable to watch the process unfold in front of me.

These days I have noticed more and more fishermen wanting to use guides to teach and instruct them rather than to use them to merely catch a cooler full of fish. Many of my clients at one time or another just wanted to ride around and look at the lake so they could come back and fish on their own. Having someone like a guide who is very familiar with the lake will help you navigate much more safely and comfortably than perhaps learning through The School of Hard Knocks or The Lower Unit University. Some clients are interested in learning a particular technique for catching fish, perhaps learning to cast a fly line or techniques for topwaters. The potential list of subject matter is endless when it comes to fishing knowledge and we owe it to all the anglers to share that knowledge if possible. The best way to perpetuate our sport is to recruit new people and help them to be successful. Taking kids fishing is an obvious way to recruit new anglers but don't forget the adults. There are many people out there who have never fished so they have no way of knowing if they will like it or not. Invite a new angler to go with you sometime, make the trip simple and educational so they are comfortable and can enjoy it. If at all possible take a new angler when they can be successful, nothing turns off perspective fishermen like a long day with no fish.

Each and every one of us who fish had to start somewhere and without a doubt we are all glad there was someone willing to not only take us but to teach us as well. Remember that next time a new angler quizzes you about a fishing subject or actually gets in the boat with you. A little bit of effort or courtesy on your part could help propel a future angler towards a lifetime of enjoyment.