Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Mentor

No one is born knowing how to fish. At some point, someone handed you a fishing rod
and the journey began. It is like a journey down a road with many turns. Some roads
lead to small tid bits of information and other roads lead to an garden oasis where
knowledge hangs in the air like ripe fruit on a tree ready to be picked. Many anglers
have had the benefit of having a parent or relative that was proficient in the sport and
started them out early. They were provided with endless opportunities for fishing
adventures and their skills were improved upon on every trip. Others walk the road
alone and hope they take the right turn, often times discovering things that donʼt work
and occasionally finding things that do.

The old saying goes, 10% of anglers catch 90% of the fish. Iʼm not sure if that is true but
I do know there is a huge range of skill among the anglers on the lake on any given day.
I have seen people fishing from shore on the banks of a rushing deep river with the bait
two feet from the clip on bobber. I have seen a steel leader tied to a small pan fishing
jig and once someone brought a net to go ice fishing.

Its easy to laugh and walk a little taller knowing you hold a few pieces of really nice fruit
that you found along your road when the poor soul you are watching must have been
walking on a pretty baron path. The great divide as I see it. The winners and the losers,
the catchers and the non catchers, the haves and the have nots. Lets talk about the first
group, the winners, the catchers, the haves, the 10 % so to speak.

Ah the ones who get it. The ones whoʼs basket is over flowing with juicy ripe fruit, able
to go to any body of water and find fish even when the wind is from the east and the
cold front moved in. I have seen many people who fit into this category and I have
recently decided they come in three variations. Great anglers, including guides and
professionals fall into one of the three categories below.
The first category is the hoarders. Similar to a 5 year old that does not want to share the
toys. The instinct is to keep all the information to them selves. After all it took a long time
to collect all that information. Walking down those roads picking all that fruit. Maybe they
did get burned once sharing a honey hole only to come back the next day and find 10
boats fishing the area that used to be empty before you told that friend. I have seen
many people like this. They just will not share anything they know. They do not want
their fish to be caught by anyone but them. There knowledge is locked up tight like a
national security secret.

The second category is the little bits. The ones who share a little bit of information here
and there. They will give vague general information, maybe a subtle hint of a detail,
maybe share the hot color of the day. Maybe they will share additional info with a close
friend or fishing partner. Much of the information is given out with a bit of hesitation and
small tid bits are given here and there.

The third category I call the Mother Theresaʼs. The ones that go out of their way to help
out a fellow angler. The ones that take the neighbors fishing just to share the passion.
The ones that will shout to the non catching boat next to them to drift a half a crawler
with two split shots. Sure enough it works and now both boats are catching fish. The
ones who will actually talk to a stranger in the bait store and point out a hot bait or a
area or method to try. The ones who stand above the others by doing clinics for kids or
working with groups to really help others be successful. There are people like this. I
have seen one saintly angler toss the other fish-less angler a special crank bait to try
and five minute later they were catching fish too. I have seen proʼs give clinics for free
when they surely could have charge a fee. I have seen GPs coordinates shared and
very specialized techniques taught.

I have had times in my life where I have crossed paths with all three of these types of
anglers that I will always remember them. In addition to sharing fishing techniques,
modeling conservation practices also have a big impact on others. I remember in my
early ice fishing days, I was standing around a tip up along with 8 or 9 young men, while
a seasoned angler carefully fought and landed a 29 inch walleye and immediately
released it. That left a big impression on me and I know the young men who witnessed
it were shocked that the fish was released so quickly. It was obvious that seasoned
angler had done that before and I wanted to be to the level where catching a trophy fish
would not have to entail 10 minutes of photos or a trip to the taxidermist.
Now we go to the other group. The losers, the non catchers, the have nots, the 90% as
they say. These I place in three modeling also. Of course this is just from my personal
experience over the course of time and I will admit that I have been in all three
categories so I do not let myself off the hook here.

The first group is in the land of denial. These are the ones that will not admit they do not
know something and go thru the motions of being an avid angler but donʼt have a fish in
the freezer. Even with an upgrade to a St. Croix rod, the new Lund boat, the stickers on
the truck yet there is not a lot of catching going on. They do however have the verbiage
down and have the plethora of excuses ready to roll off the tongue. Its slow today, yeah
that cold front really shut things down, oh we got a couple of shorts. The problem is they
wonʼt drive down some other roads because they continue to pretend they know a lot
more than they actually do. Many of these end up going golfing instead.

The second group is the give me the answer crowd. They just want you to tell them
where to go, what to use, how to use it, and what time to try. They donʼt general
information they want the GPS coordinates. They want to go right to where the fish are
and tomorrow they want you to tell them where they are again. It may change from day
to day and they keep asking for the answer. They donʼt want the equations, or a map
they want you to bring them to the tree full of fruit so they can pick it.

The third group in this category are the sponges. They ask questions. They ask the bait
store workers, the people at the launches, the fishing forums, the person at the store
wearing a fishing shirt. They watch videos and read articles and get several magazines
in the mail each month. This is the group that feels that there is always more to learn
and the more they know the more they want to learn. In additions to doing all the home
work, they are putting time in on the water. They watched the drop shotting video and
now there are going to go give it a try. They even go fishing alone, it a passion and its a
focus and once they get into this category they donʼt last long before they convert into
being one of the 10 %.

Over the course of my fishing career, I can remember those who have really had an
impact on my fishing techniques. The man who I saw caught the big walleye and let it
go, Pro Walleye Angler Marianne Husky and successful guide Harry from
Harry's Hot Spots Guide service have all gone out of there way to help me improve
my skills. I feel like I am a funnel, and what I learn gets funneled to all the other women
in our fishing club, who then take their kids and their grand kids, and then the neighbors.
We even have women whoʼs husbands wait for them to come back from a clinic so she
can share the latest info with him.

Fishing brings such excitement and joy for me I want to share it with as many people as
I can. I hope my basket of fruit stays full so I can continue to walk down the road keep
handing it out. I hope that you will join me and there will be less pour souls walking
down baron roads. I hope to also be handing out examples of environmental
stewardship, caring for the resource and environment as we go. Modeling catch and
release and shoreline clean up, staying within possession limits and being a resource
for others. I believe the more you give the more that comes back to you. Kind of
reminds me the story of the loaves and fishes. There will be plenty for everyone so keep

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