Why Do We Fish?

Category: article

 Nov 4th, 2008 by OutdoorsFIRST 

Modified Nov 4th, 2008 at 12:00 AM

As I watch the leaves fall from the trees enjoying the view of my favorite sugar maple in my front yard, I often take a moment and reflect on life, as I’m sure many of you do every day. Lately, I’ve been wondering why any of us fish. What is it that pushes us to work on our gear well past our bedtimes only to rise in the early morning hours well before sunrise?

Early morning fishing trip

We head out into the freezing mist and almost treat ourselves to a bout of hypothermia all in an effort to hook our little, or in some cases big, slimy friends. We get sunburns, heat exhaustion, and frostbite. We get soaked to the bone and hooks stuck in our flesh and so on and so on and so on.

So why do we do this? Well, I can tell you why I do.

I grew up in the fishing Mecca of Chicago. It was just me, my brother and my mom. My Aunt Helen lived in the same apartment complex and my Aunt Dorothea (Dorrie) lived a short drive away. No father. Yep, the classic single mom raising two boys in the rough and tumble city of Chicago. It’s the ideal place for a young boy to dream of being in the fishing industry, right?

We were not financially fortunate, but my mom worked her tail off to make sure we had everything we needed to survive in such an unforgiving place. The only fish I knew when I was a little boy were small breaded sticks.

Well, my Aunt Dorrie met and married a wonderful man named Gerald Panfil. Uncle Gerry changed my life. One morning decades ago he came by with my aunt to take me and my brother out fishing for the first time. We piled into his van around dawn one summer morning and headed away from the city. It was so liberating, so freeing, so marvelous to leave such an oppressing world of concrete, alleys and thugs; even if it was just for a day.

We headed out to fish a few farm ponds near Belvedere, Illinois. It seemed like we were in a foreign place so very far away from home. Gerry provided us with the rods and bait. The first fish I ever caught was probably the first fish many lifetime anglers catch, a bluegill. It was perfect with beautiful, spectacular colors. I was in awe. Later that day we saw a huge carp swimming about. I was giddy with unbridled passion in a way only a little child could be.

Gerry was a quadriplegic, a navy veteran and a proud IBEW electrician. Though he couldn’t come down to the pond’s edge and fish with us, he regaled us with stories of chasing muskies in the North Country, catching big bass, hunting Canada geese and many other awe inspiring tales that kept me and my brother wanting more outdoor experiences for many years.

Gerry has since passed away, but his influence has forever changed my life. My love for fishing was reinforced by my mom who would always head out in the boat with me and suffer my insane drive to fish and fish harder. She would head out and fish all day with me and never gave in to the elements. My mom still goes fishing with me when I see her. She never complained; she only supported my love for this insanity.

My late father-in-law Jack Hallberg, was another person who inspired me to keep fishing. I loved taking him out and making his eyes water as we ripped down a lake at speeds over 60 mph at 4:00 AM in 50 degree weather. He refused to wear the goggles I offered him and his eyes would water horribly, but the joy and love for our adventures glowed in him like a person truly blessed. He would always cast the same number 2 or 3 Blue Fox Vibrax, no matter what the conditions. He loved those little lures.

Thankfully, my wife Kristin has allowed me to continue to fish with reckless abandon. I think she knows if I didn’t have fishing I would be soulless without a direct connection to my Creator. For me being in the outdoors is my link to all that was, all that is and all that can be in the future.

I fish because it is who I am. I fish because those before me fished and hopefully when I’m long gone someone can say that I was that person who took them to a wondrous, intoxicating place when they were a little child and opened a world of endless possibilities as they climbed into a truck at 5:00 AM to chase bluegills in a pond.

So in the end, we only get out of fishing what we give to the sport. Make the time to take even the most unlikely city kid, with no money, little hope and few dreams fishing. You never know what one solitary act of kindness may do for that child’s future. That’s why I fish, how about you?

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