Water is a unique medium. It carries with it power and pain, wonder and awe, grace and glory. It has unusual effects on our psyche. In the Adirondacks, water continues to bind our towns and villages with a never-ending flow. Rare is a local community that doesn’t have a lake or pond, river or stream located within close proximity to town. We often fail to recognize water’s ability to bring people together, to connect folks that may never get together under any other circumstances. Although I’ve witnessed it over and over again, I’ve never been able to understand why water so effects our collective mentality.
Unfortunately, there is only one sure method available for anglers to acquire the most valuable information for success on the waters. Such skills cannot be found in any book, they are instilled only through experience, and absorbed over the course of long hours of patient observation. They are not hard skills such as double-hauling a long cast with a fly rod, or working a sucker on a wire line to thump bottom for lake trout on a slow back troll.
Possibly, the most valuable skill an angler can acquire is an ability to get along with others, which begins with an unerring ethic to do the right thing, even when there’s nobody else around to notice. Ethics can’t be studied in a book or a video. They are instilled, and absorbed through a process of careful observation and constant study.
Currently, there are an estimated 50 million active anglers in the United States. According to a recent Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation study, 99 percent of them say they learned to fish because ‘someone’ once took the time to introduce them to the sport.
They had a mentor who took the time to show them how it was done. Mentors are an unselfish breed who work to insure all anglers acquire the same ethics they’ve learned. Students learn to fish through practice and a good deal of trial and error. However, students absorb ethics through observation, and there is no room for error. They learn that things are done differently on the river. Fishing is a sport that requires no referees, and no defined playing field. The rules are all natural, and there is no time clock, no cheerleaders, and no one keeps score. The most important skill they learn is the ability to be as quiet as possible, to remain observant at all times, and to extend the proper respect for all river users, whether finned or not. A key to successful angling adventures is the ability to recognize and avoid any behaviors or actions that would spoil the enjoyment of others.
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at email@example.com.