My friend Ed from Arkansas is a fisherman. Not just any fisherman. With him it’s a lifestyle. A job. Hard work. And it draws him like a magnet to the lake in all kinds of weather that lesser men would turn their backs to. He’s a striper guide. And yes, I’m going to say it…a fish whisperer.
Ed wanted me to talk about fishing here on these pages. (Did you know you can suggest topics by clicking on the “Topic Suggestion” box?)
First, you’ll need to understand that I don’t know about fishing. It’s a good thing I have friends who fish and an adequate computer with fast internet so I can get some speedy stuff into my brain about it because Ed has waited a long time for me to get something down on paper.
It has become quickly apparent that not only are there beucoup people out there who fancy themselves fishermen (fisherpeople?), but an almost equal amount who consider themselves experts. Seems that it’s a nearly mandatory characteristic of fisherfolk (?) everywhere to know a lot. Does that intimidate the fish maybe? Well, anyway, just because I don’t know anything doesn’t mean I don’t long to fish. Something about it draws me in. It’s not a pastime or sport or job that anybody around my life has ever done, so I’m no good at it, don’t have equipment, knowledge, or opportunity–just a fishy heart I suppose.
One of my grandpas was a great fisherman who fished mostly the Rogue River and the Oregon coast but I didn’t spend any time around him. My dad . . . nope. Bob . . . nope. But now, in Bob’s defense, he is willing to take me when opportunity arises and he does have some knowledge. He even said yes to a deep sea fishing excursion a couple years ago and boy, oh boy, did we make some memories. Ha. If I could put that little green-faced barf emoji right here I would. We caught bunches of rockfish off the coast of Oregon and the fishes we left under the surface caught a few gallons of what we gave them while leaning over the side. Anyway, fishing.
From what I understand, those who love to fish and are drawn to it find it both relaxing and frustrating. I guess therein lies the challenge. You never know what the day will bring whether it’s out on the deep sea, in a bass boat on an Ozark lake, standing in hip waders in a mountain trout stream, or dangling your legs over your backyard pond dock.
I found a fun little list of some of the issues you can bump up against (sometimes literally) during a day on the water with a rod and reel in your hand. Here are just a few of the basics that don’t include cuss words. Heh.
*Sunburn because who wants their buddy to lotion their back
*Pulling up to your “sweet spot” only to find someone there
*That one “bad luck” friend who, when he comes along, somehow always busts the day (please, don’t let that be me!)
*High centering on a sand bar, log, etc. (There was actually some flowery language on this one but I’m the editor so yeah . . . )
*Cell phone falling into the water
*Line breaking while fighting a great braggable fish
*And the one that boat owners everywhere have had to endure among the laughter and stares of what’s usually the biggest crowd ever at the marina: forgetting to put the boat plug in when you back down the ramp into the water
Chuckles aside, there can be real genuine frustration out there. Especially, I would imagine, when your livelihood depends on it. Or even when you’re trying to accomplish some serious relaxation. Orvis magazine published an article a few years ago about the psychology of managing the frustration of fly fishing. It was written by a clinical psychology doctoral student and I read the WHOLE thing and the comments after. Very enlightening. Never have held a fly rod but I now know how to keep my negative self talk in check and when to call it quits for the day and head to the nearest pub. (You know I’m kidding on that one . . . just telling you what the guy said.) If you’re interested, it’s not very long. Here it is: https://news.orvis.com/fly-fishing/psychology-101-manage-fly-fishing-frustration
Fishermen mean business. Don’t think that they don’t. Professionals who compete in Bassmaster tournaments at the most elite levels can win $100,000 for first prize. That’s some pressure right there.
I’ve wondered what is the original tug, the intrigue of fishing, the lure that gets people out there for the first time (besides a grandpa or pursuit of a merit badge). Here’s one thing I think might have something to do with it just based on the few times I’ve been able to capture that feeling . . . it’s the mystery of what’s at the other end of the line. Cast after cast. Replacing bait repeatedly just to have it eaten by some bottom-feeding catfish or, in my case usually, a clump of branches. Patience. Patience. Patience. Dealing with all the frustrations. And then finally the bobber legitimately sinks. And the line pulls and the reel spins and you’re off to the races. Game on.
Maybe the anticipation of seeing what’s causing the action at the other end of the line is not the magnetic pull of fishing for everybody but I think it might be for me. The mystery to be solved. Anticipation. I like to know what I’m dealing with. What’s out there messing with me? Testing me. Trout? Perch? Whale? Loch Ness Monster? Old boot? Come to mama.
And since it’s late while I’m here thinking of fishing lines and casting them, pondering the possibilities of what’s grabbed the bait at the other end, I’ll take you with me down through this I’m-too-sleepy-to-be-writing trail.
Isn’t it possible as we go about our everyday lives that we are all casting out lines of some sort or another and waiting full of emotion for a result to come back to us? From the mundane to the significant. Nerve wracking to hum-drum. Much riding on it to “I couldn’t care less.” Mortal to eternal. Your line is cast when you:
*fill out a job application
*express love to someone
*let your political opinion be known
*share your faith
*submit to medical testing regarding recent symptoms
*knock on a neighbor’s door
*reach out to an estranged adult child
*walk through the doors of a church for the first time
*pledge to stop drinking or abusing drugs
*stand up for an unpopular ideal
*tell the truth about a long-held untruth
There are endless and very personal lines being thrown out across waters every day among people who have very individual ways of dealing with how those lines come back to them. The intricacies of life are as varied as the people who cast them and reel them back in. It’s fairly obvious when you’re watching an experienced “life” fisher and when a newbie is out there getting hung up on bushes, losing hooks and slipping on mossy rocks. Or at least it’s obvious whether someone’s displaying experienced or newbie characteristics. Anxiety/mossy rocks can come to anyone. How it’s coped with is key.
A Christian person has the benefit of knowing the source of the greatest tools to deal with any happenstance that comes back from a line that’s been cast out across life’s waters and reeled in, whether it be good, bad, or somewhere in between. We can and should turn to scripture as not only guide but comfort. The knowledge that we need to deal with frustration and anxiety, the cares of life, from daily bothers to enormous burdens, is right there. A Christian person also can be the bearer of that Good News to someone who needs to know.
My friend, Ed, is a fisherman. I most certainly am not. But both of us can safely say we’ve got a few lines cast out across the waters and are waiting for that nibble, that indication that something is about to happen. How we both deal with the rising unease, excitement, nervousness, or countless other feelings is by calling on the Source of our calm and the Giver of peace, Jesus. If you think fishermen have never uttered that Name, then you are mistaken, though clearly it’s not always been reverently. Mercy.
I do believe that standing on a creek bank with the sound of water tumbling over rocks, throwing a line towards a still pool near the far bank and watching the line drift downstream has got to be one of the greatest things ever. It’s a good thing that 99% of the time nothing ever bites my bait or I’d probably go into apoplexy. And maybe one day I’ll get me some hip waders and talk somebody into a little trip up to Henry’s Lake above Island Park, Idaho. Yessiree. Then I can use more expensive equipment to catch nothing. And I’ll love it.
Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.
1 Peter 5:7 NIV (You seriously didn’t think I’d leave this one out did you?)