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Author: Frank Ross
With all of the things that change in life, it is good to have one constant that is constantly changing yet always the same - fishing.
The sun's angle is constantly changing with the seasons and the rhythms and cycles of nature are in constant flux, but some things never change. The atomic clock pulses at exactly the same interval day after day, millennia after millennia and greed runs unchanged, unabated and unrestrained.
When I backed out of my drive this morning, the sun was hovering in the haze, suspended far north of my house. It seems like only yesterday that it was threatening to disappear below the rim of the earth's southern crest.
For the moment at least, it's summer. Fish are lolling in the luxury of their temporary hot tub and baseball players have announced that they can't make it on the equivalent of a third world nation's annual GNP. The player's have made it known, through their "bargaining representative," that they may "exercise their option" and strike for "fair treatment," or some other absurdity in the "collective robbery" process. Greed has stolen baseball, but it's fine with me. I'm into summer's other great passion, and I've been on strike against baseball since the players decided to hold it hostage a long time ago. I'm not paying the ransom, and based on the empty seats in stadiums, a lot of other people aren't either. I've got better things to do with $200.
About 10 years ago, I read a survey that reported the average cost of taking a family of four to a baseball game was $150. That would cover tickets in the cheap seats, a round of grain-filled tube steaks, four beverages and parking. With inflation, I'm guessing it's $200 now, but I apologize to major league baseball if it's more. I want them to get all the credit they deserve, but that's all they'll get from me. In the summer, I go fishing. That's the only thing about fishing that isn't an option. I have to go, after that everything is up for grabs.
Sure, the cost of high tech fishing gear has gone up considerably over the years. Making high modulus graphite and space age polymers is an expensive process, but the good news is that if you can't afford it, there are lots of economical options. In fact, a cane pole -if you can still find one- and a bucket of worms will catch a ton of fish. You won't win the Bassmaster's Classic with basic gear, but you'll be catching fish and having fun.
Actually, you can still buy a very high quality rod and reel for less than the price of one ticket to the outer extremities of a baseball stadium. Fishing is all about options and there are plenty of them. That's one of the great things about fishing, options, choices, and flexibility. You drive or walk down to the water, decide what you want to do, and if you're right you'll catch fish. If you're not right, at least you're fishing and you can change what you're doing and try another option.
Live bait, artificial, slow presentation, fast retrieve, deep, shallow, spinning, baitcasting, lead head jig or delicate fly - it's all up to you. From bullheads to bluegill, bass to black marlin and speckled perch to pike, there are more choices than there are days to pursue them. You can fish from the deck of a Ranger bass boat, cast from a local dock or wade the shoreline and cool off at the same time. With fishing, you make the decision and go with it. Too hot in the middle of the day? Fish on the cusp at sunrise or sunset. Better yet, fish at night when it's cool and every species is prowling the shallows for an easy meal.
When times were tough during the depression, people fell back on the things that they knew would put groceries on the table. They shot a few rabbits, went fishing every chance they got, and planted a garden. Today, most kids, or adults for that matter couldn't weed a garden because they wouldn't know a vegetable from a weed. If food doesn't come in a plastic wrapper, they can't identify it because there isn't a label.
This spring, I tilled some soil with a shovel, not a power tiller, and took time to teach my kids about putting seeds in the ground and digging up worms in the process. When the planting was done, we went fishing with the worms and had a great time. One interesting revelation is that my 3-year-old daughter likes to pick up worms. As a matter of fact, she loves worms. Unfortunately, she likes to hold them until they're dead, but the harvest was plentiful and a few dry, lifeless worms weren't a tragedy.
We fished from a dock with feet dangling in the water. The evening air was refreshing and the rhythmic lapping of the waves was tranquilizing. Shortly after we arrived at the lake, the wind shifted and rose dramatically. We never got a bite but we gave it our best shot until the sun went down. We worked those worms hard, threw crankbaits, spinnerbaits and several different plastics. When our time ran out we were disappointed not to have fared better, but we were talking about coming back and wondering what tactic might have worked better. The kids got to go fishing and that was all that mattered to them. Come to think of it, that's all that mattered to me. It would have been more exciting to catch peacock bass in Venezuela, or tarpon in the Keys, or cast a fly to a wary mountain trout, but for the moment it was the best option and we took it. Carpe crankbait, or whatever. Just grab something and go before both the literal and figurative summer is gone.
In several more cycles of the sun, my children will be teaching their own children how to dig worms and go fishing. Baseball tickets will be two grand a piece, players will be talking about how they deserve more money, and Lord willing, I will be fishing. That's my option, and I'm exercising it.
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