I'm only slightly biased, of course, but I happen to think that fishing is the greatest sport or recreational activity in the world.
Fishing, however, is much more than mere sport or recreation. It's hard to describe just what fishing is. Like still water, the mystique and essence of fishing run deep.
Fishing combines the best attributes of a variety of great sports and recreational activities - and the nice thing is that anyone of any age or ability can participate.
The basis of any true sport is competition. Another element is accomplishment of an established goal. It's that competition, that desire to win, that gets the heart beating and the excitement building.
If you're part of a group that shoots hoops three times a week down at the local gym, you divide into teams and compete with your friends. And the goal is to hit more baskets than the other team.
If you're a video game nut, the competition is with the bad guys on the screen trying to wipe you out. The goal is to score points.
In fishing, the competition can be multi-faceted. You can compete with yourself - try to do better than you did the last time. Or you can compete with fishing buddies, or with the fish. You also, in a sense, compete with the wind and rain and cold and heat - with Mother Nature. The goal, of course, is to catch fish, although it's a lot more complicated than that.
To describe fishing as a mere sport, as one would describe a basketball or video game, doesn't do it justice. It's much more complex.
Part of it is the fresh air and sunshine. Anyone who enjoys fishing loves it, in part, because of the opportunity to spend time out-of-doors enjoying the glories of nature.
Part of the mystique of fishing is water - the soothing rhythm of the stream or waves.
Feeling a part of a flowing creek. Relaxing in a boat or on a reservoir's shore.
Part of it is the solitude. You can enjoy solitude whether fishing by yourself or with family or friends. The mountains, the quiet, the soft sounds of nature, that's true solitude.
Part of it is the companionship. Even by yourself you feel the companionship of all in nature. And nothing beats the companionship of son, daughter, father, mother, friend, spouse or grandfather, even when the companionship is unspoken.
Unlike other sports, anyone of any age or any ability can enjoy it. Who's to say who has the most fun - the kid with a $4.99 Zebco fishing for mudcats at the local pond or the bass fisherman with $30,000 in boat and gear?
And fishing is so random, so totally unpredictable. It's been said that 99 percent of us will never have the chance to throw the winning touchdown in the Superbowl or score the winning points in the NBA championship. But any of us, even a young kid, could (with a little luck) set a new rainbow trout record. You just never know when or why the lunker is going to hit.
Fishing can be enjoyed at all levels by all sorts of people. And you never really master it. Skills, abilities and knowledge evolve from stage to stage for a whole lifetime. You never stop learning.
And there are always new places to go, new sights to see.
Finally, something about fishing takes us back to our roots. Something in our souls wants to continue the tradition of our ancestors who were self-sufficient and lived off the land. Certainly we'll never return to the days when we raised or killed all our own food. Nor should we want to.
But fishing allows us to hang on to our heritage, to participate in something that has been a vital part of life through the ages.
Of course, you don't need to think about all these things the next time you go fishing. That might spoil the experience. Just do one thing when you go fishing - enjoy it.
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