Standing on the Shoulders of Giants
by: David Coulson , Colorado7/19/2012
The following is attributed to Isaac Newton. “If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants." The origins this quote dates back to 1159 when John Salisbury attributed it to Bernard of Chartres. To me the meaning is clear, the breadth and depth on my knowledge is only possible due to those who went before me, and those before them, ad infinitum.
This is true of everything we know and do, including fishing. When I hear someone say to another, “You need to figure things out yourself,” I have mixed feelings. On one hand, for me anyway, puzzling out fishing is why I love to fish. Learning to catch a new species, visiting a new water, figuring out where the fish are, why, and coming up with a way to catch them is all part of the fun. But on the other hand, the knowledge to figure things out was, and continues to be, gained in large part from countless sources, family, friends, fellow anglers, complete strangers, books, magazines, newspapers, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, internet (i.e. FishExplorer.com), anywhere I can glean a bit of fishing information. I consider myself a student of fishing and if you’re not, consider becoming one.
When I set back and think about it, I realize there is little I know about fishing that someone else doesn’t also know, be it a technique, fly pattern, location, you name it. There are no secrets when you look at the knowledge pool held among all anglers. The only thing that is unique is our specific combination of knowledge.
Before telling someone, “You need to figure it out yourself,” you might ask yourself, “Just exactly what part of fishing did I figure out all by myself?” I’d guess you fish with a manufactured reel, rod, line, lures, hooks, bait, boat, kayak . . . that you purchased from a store; you didn’t figure those things out yourself. And even if you did make part of your fishing gear, I’m sure most of the components, if not all, were manufactured, processed, or gathered by others; you didn’t figure those out yourself. Further, I’m also sure that someone, be it an individual or through reading (someone wrote the words) provided you with the information as to what to fish, when to fish it, how to fish it, where to fish it, etc.; nothing here that was completely figured out by yourself. And, I’m equally sure that practically every place you fish was “discovered” through someone else, be it a friend, book, article (paper, magazine, or internet), or some other source; no secrets here either.
The point is, practically everything you use and know about fishing did not originate with you.
And even today, as we continue down the path to becoming better anglers, we’re not fishing in a vacuum; we’re constantly learning from others. Yes, we may figure some small part of it out on our own, such as refining a technique, noting an overlooked spot, developing a bait, lure, or fly. However, the vast majority of our equipment, knowledge, and skill is due to others sharing their knowledge with us. So when I hear of folks not willing to share, especially when they tell others they need to figure it out for themselves, it sounds a lot to me like, “I got it, and you can’t have it.” From my perspective that’s a rather selfish attitude. I see those folks as fishing parasites. Always sucking up information from others, and never giving back.
I’ll admit that I don’t volunteer everything about where, when, and how I fish. But I am always willing to truthfully answer questions posed to me, especially when I feel the angler is trying to improve their skill level. Yes, I do agree there are anglers who are looking for the “easy” way out by asking to be spoon fed everything. They are parasites also in my book. In those cases I answer their questions truthfully, but as simply as I can, often suggesting other sources (and thus encouraging them to work for their knowledge). I think that is a good thing to do, because I recognize you’ll never become a good angler if you don’t work at it. But what I don’t do, and I wish folks would not do, is to be disparaging and say, “You need to figure it out yourself.” That’s because all of us “figured it out” with the help of others.
I recognize that my fishing skills are the result of all those before me, and if I fish better it’s because I’m truly standing on the shoulders of the fishing giants before me. And I sincerely hope that those who follow us will see even farther than we do by standing on our shoulders.
Blog content © David Coulson
Wattzz, CO 7/19/2012 1:53:19 PM
Very understanding read Dave,even thou I had to read it twice and will read it again later.
TroutByFly, CO 7/19/2012 2:46:52 PM
Great read Dave! My Dad was my fishing giant and sparked my fishing fire when I was a young pup and am thankful that he did. I can now pass this knowledge on down to my little ones that are about old enough to start casting a rod. Without the knowledge that my dad passed on to me, I now realize that I could've missed out on an awesome hobby/obsession/stewardship that not only is tons of fun, but also teaches one to enjoy and respect the great outdoors. With the over obsession of iphones, video games, and computers kids are at a huge disadvantage and are being pulled from the woods, streams, and lakes. I feel honored to stand on the fishing giants before me and feel obligated to teach those that follow. Tightlines
IceFishingFool, CO 7/19/2012 7:53:12 PM
Its amazing how many people I see at work, that have yet to have anyone show or share anything about fishing, Good write Dave.
Fly4U?, CO 7/20/2012 8:01:18 AM
There is nothing wrong with telling someone to figure it out by their self especially if you are a guide. Simple management knowledge, do not train the competition, do not give away your knowledge to those that will be fishing in your area. I helped out one individual before with fly fishing my home river, and now he thinks the river belongs to him because of his newly acquired fly fishing skills. I wish I would have told that guy to figure out himself because he now thinks he's an elitist. People put in time and dedication to perfect their craft, why share very effective info for free when you know there is a demand for what you possess - ample amount of fishing knowledge that guarantees that you'll catch fish anywhere. I hate when people get sad when someone says figure it out yourself as long as you do it in a respectful manner.
David Coulson (Flyrodn), CO 7/20/2012 8:43:35 AM
I've been waiting for this one. It was obvious it would come.
So my question is, its ok to "sell" the knowlege one has, rather than give it out? Taking profit makes it ok, where sharing what was shared is not? Ulitimately the result is the same, others know what the guide knows. I wonder how much of that knowledge was "bought" by guides? Little I suspect. I rather doubt the individual taught would have been any less an elitist had they paid for the lesson. That attitude had to have come from somewhere, and like most things in life I suspect it was taught, probably by another angler, regretfully. I think it would be nice if, as anglers, people actually, we could all get past the "I'm better than you attitude."
IceFishingFool, CO 7/20/2012 9:06:52 AM
Is it the management attitude where greed comes from ? Dont arm your computition ? I suspect it does, if it applies to fishing, hunting, gatthering mushrooms to eat. I also suspect that kind of mentality is also could explain our politicial divide in or social affairs. Use up the other guys resorces first,
Coyute, CO 7/20/2012 10:00:21 AM
With the flavor of this blog and the timing of it, I can imagine the authors political bent. lol. I have learned a bunch from others and I have figured out a lot on my own. I am grateful for both. The people that taught me the most were those that matched their effort to teach with the effort of the pupil to learn. None of my teachers would have divulged so much knowledge if they knew their pupil was always looking for a handout with little effort on their own part. As far as anglers getting past the 'I am better than you' attitude, a lot of people say that but few of them do it with any conviction or substance especially while looking in the mirror. I am willing to teach, most definitely, but there is no way I am going to put any effort into teaching a scrap of cheese looking for pissant that doesn't have the wherewithal to figure a bunch out on his/her own. What some might call a parasite others might call a host of evolving those that deserve it. So to all you homers looking for a scrap of cheese without putting forth substantial effort, “You need to figure it out yourself!" “Men who reject the responsibility of thought and reason can only exist as parasites on the thinking of others.” ~ Ayn Rand
JKaboom, CO 7/23/2012 4:02:24 PM
Thanks for the Blog Dave :) It's a fine line but I always share what I can as long as I don't think the person/people are trying to take advantage of me which is most of the time I believe people are generally good.
PikeD, CO 7/24/2012 4:44:37 PM
Something not mentioned is the question answering. Most of the time someone asks me about fishing they do not have the previous experience to understand my answer. When I tell someone to "find fish on the fish finder" inexperienced people will struggle for days trying to understand the skill while more experienced anglers will have no problem. But, when they do finally figure it out they will thank you for the direction. Except in the simplest situations people still have to learn the skills to become an expert.
Good guides never say "figure it out". Guides know that it will take a beginner forever to unlock the secrets. Boat control, fly drift control, sonar use, jigging details, tackle choice, all of these must come together to re-create the guided experience.
I know that when I go on a guided trip it takes me multiple trips by myself to re-create a pattern successfully. So keep that in mind too when you hand out information.
getreel, CO 7/24/2012 6:26:25 PM
Figure it out yoursekf. Said it many times to anglers who do not practice C&R. I also disagree with how you think anglers with superior angling abilities/knowledge is precedent to the anglers before them. Get out of here. I can honestly say that 99% of my fishing skills came from my hard work, not because of others. Get real.
David Coulson (Flyrodn), CO 7/24/2012 7:28:24 PM
Ah, a new member who registered just to bait me. I'm honored. And you'll forgive me for not rising to the bait beyond this comment. I never denied that all good anglers got where they are through their hard wor. I, only stated that almost all fishing knowledge each of us has did not originate with us. Anyone who lists all the things they learned from someone else quickly recognizes and appreciates the simple fact that we do not stand alone.
FISHRANGLER, CO 7/25/2012 7:24:39 AM
Good read Dave
catchn, CO 8/2/2012 12:54:31 AM
hey @ getreel, so what is this "hardwork" you speak of? 99% PPPLLLLEEAASE Now you need to get real. Even if you never had any instruction at all from a professional angler. You didn't just drive/hike around and find water, you looked at maps, you read articles, you watched fishing shows, etc. THESE ARE ALL CAPITALIZING ON OTHERS HARD WORK! you didn't just go buy a rod, line, and hook and dig up some worms and start throwing it in mudpuddles did you? Of course not your not a moron, ... and I dare say you didn't geologically map out google earth did you? You didn't invent every lure/fly that you ever caught a fish on did you. Being a good steward of the spot was the point of the blog, if you aren't and only capitalize on it for profit, don't come on here and disparige (sp?) others for encouraging the spreading of joy and happines that comes by sharing a litle with others.
catchn, CO 8/2/2012 1:00:05 AM
Oh and mr. coulson great read. I really enjoy getting my friends on fish expecially those that don't fish much. I understand being tight lipped about a honey hole but I do think some take it way too far. On more than one occasion I have given my productive lure too a younger angler that wasn't catching, that gave me probably more joy than he fish I know those kids caught. When I was young at a lake back home I saw a guy catching many fish when I was getting skunked as he packed up to leave I asked what he was using. The kindly old gentleman simply smiled grabbed the lure, bit it off with his gnarly teeth and tossed it to me not saying a word. Something I will never forget.
-Pay it Forward
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