The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

The Future of Fishing


  Few hobbies are more attractive to idioms than fishing, with the possible exceptions of golf and baseball. No matter how much time you’ve spent on the water and how many fish you have caught in the past, there’s usually a pretty thin line between fishing intent-fully and just standing in a river waving a stick like an idiot. That’s not to say there are not better fishermen and worse fishermen: the good ones are usually the ones catching the fish, while the worse ones stand around cursing heaven and earth, their rods, their bait and their luck.

       But as it goes in life, sometimes, it’s better to be lucky than to be good. After all, there are a million intangibles on any given outing, and that’s what makes it fun: take the unpredictability out of fishing, and you’re left with a trip to the grocery store. Two fishermen standing next to each other throwing the same thing in the same river can have wildly different results, and there’s really no good reason why. But maybe we’re not meant to know the reason why, and even if we could learn that reason one day, maybe we’d choose not to.

    Now, due to mankind’s propensity for knowing things and beating them, especially when that “thing” is Mother Nature, you get all kinds of nifty creations that are upending fishing as we know it. Sometimes, you’ll hear the harshest criticism that one can describe fishing gear with: “meant to catch the fisherman, not the fish.” For example, you’ve got boats with engines that would make a racecar jealous, drones to scout out deep drop-offs and bank sides, lures that make wobbly-buzzy noises supposedly meant to drive fish crazy and fancy new poles that cost as much as a nice vacation to Argentina.

      There is a certain kind of madness with being the best fisherman, catching the most and biggest fish, thereby showing who can conquer nature the best. It’s driven by aggression, the competitive spirit and the unwavering belief in America that bigger is always better. I’m not sure that I agree wholeheartedly, but not many honest fish stories go, “Man, you should see this fish I caught! It’s so … tiny. I can’t wait to catch one even smaller!”

      Some of those things are very good for the sport, which has its undertakers constantly worried about its proximity to death: A River Runs Through It jolted the fly-fishing industry back to life, and the increasing numbers of children and women who partake in the sport are encouraging. Numerous saltwater and freshwater fishing foundations are doing great work to conserve these resources for the future, and lobbyists representing environmental groups have done a great job of increasing accessibility for all.

      Other things are questionable, in my opinion, and will be for a few years to come. There are the oddities of recreational fishing that I can’t really understand, like professional bass fishing: a creature that has taken on a life of its own and is to fishing what NASCAR is to driving, rumored to be up for consideration as an Olympic sport (I’d rather not, personally). In other words, fishing as a hobby is at a crossroads, where modernists are desperately trying to tilt fishing in man’s favor and traditionalists work equally as hard to flip that balance of power.

      Is the modernization of fishing a good thing? I guess it depends on what you’re looking for, because pretty much everybody is looking for something different. Some look for peace, others for ocean giants, or for beautiful lakes, or just for dinner. To end with one last idiom, from none other than Henry David Thoreau, “Many men go fishing all of their lives, without knowing that it is not fish they are after.”

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