Truth be told, I was a much better fisherman at age 11 than at 30 or 40.
I wasn’t so much an adult on a downhill spiral as an adult distracted by grown-up responsibilities. As a long-time retiree, I have evolved beyond all those, if you catch my drift. As others in the Loveland Fishing Club can attest, over the course of 15 years or so I have regained many of the remarkable angling skills of my youth. I also regularly meet new club members who long to get back into fishing, but can’t quite remember how. It can be frustrating, but not demoralizing, if you go about things with a youthful, sporting attitude.
At 11, I had no idea what was supposed to attract fish, and my brother and I were limited to whatever questionable gear Mom and Dad made available. We were blessed with free time, though, and willing to try just about anything to trick a fish. I chose to use that invaluable free time to hop on a bicycle and go fish. As an equally eager grown up, just remember that you, too, have an enviable amount of free time. And hopefully, a more generous allowance.
WHAT TO DO FIRST. First, invest the time and a little cash in multiple types of modern equipment. You will be amazed at the sensitivity and expense of modern rods, and the joy of casting the latest braided line. No. Wait. Forget the cash thing for the time being, and just borrow stuff, until you learn what you like. When I first joined the fishing club, a charter member loaned and eventually gave me everything I needed to get started in ice fishing. I have since passed along many a rod and reel and bait myself, and have other perfectly workable equipment gathering dust. (I once gave novice ice angler Dan a nice little sled to haul his gear. One chilly trip to the wind-blown Laramie Lakes and he was back polishing his bass boat).
The point is, as our interests evolve, many of us have way too much serviceable but neglected stuff accumulating in the garage or basement. Ask if you can see it sometime, and then finagle a way to borrow some. (I personally bring along at least 3 or 4 ice fishing outfits on an outing, for example, and way too many jigs, just in case we have newbies. Or wind knots.)
With gear in hand, practice casting, and practice some more. Invest more time practicing to tie a variety of fishing knots. (This is probably one of the most bewildering changes in fishing from the basic knots of ‘50s and ‘60s. Even the clinch knot has been improved.)
Now, having done all this so you won’t totally embarrass yourself on the water, secure a buddy or two; skilled or novice, doesn’t matter. Explore possible fishing grounds in your area together, or ask someone if they’ll show you around. This is a great way to get a foot in the water. Old timers love lingering field trips and long-winded conversations. And we might wind up taking you fishing in the bargain. (If some old timers seem cliquish, it’s not deliberate neglect of newbies. We just enjoy one another’s familiar company, or at least grown accustomed to one another’s quirks. Just keep hanging around asking naïve, admiring questions about our fishing skills and preferences.)
After you’ve done all that, you’re ready to be 11 again and go fishing. (As you get older, you don’t even need to pretend as much). Here are some pointers:
• Before puberty you faced few distractions from the opposite sex; don’t go getting distracted now.
• When I was a lad, my equipment was pretty lousy. But I didn’t know that and neither did the fish. So don’t worry too much about outfitting yourself like a bass pro; your spouse will find you accumulating all that gear soon enough. Just fish. And remember, every species has its charms.
• Resist the temptation to find more hobbies in retirement; like golf, ferchrissakes, and remember, most boyfriends and girlfriends won’t make you a better angler.
• There is one more crucial thing retirees have in common with the prepubescent: my own late Mom and Dad – and most responsible adults of that era -- had zero expectations of responsible behavior from their kids until about the time we started to date and drive. Similarly, loving spouses may quibble or even whine occasionally. But they don’t really expect grass to be mowed or laundry to be folded when spawning season is upon us. Think of that “honey do” list as a mere suggestion, meant to keep us out of the way.
One last bit of advice: like my grown-up children today, I suspect Mom and Dad watched us heading for the nearest pond and wished their own lives weren’t so damned complicated. So put down the TV remote, cell phone or golf club, and just go fishing.