When I retired I embarked upon a process of identifying potential hobbies that might hold my interest. I think that most folks, at the end of a long career have a pretty solid attention span. Add to that the ability to stay on task even when pain and frustration are involved, and I think you have the formula for success at pretty much anything to which you might apply your mind. Every hobby has frustration associated with it, and let me tell you, fishing is at or near the top of that list. As my good buddy Angry Bob often says “That’s why they call it fishing and not catching”. In any event, I’d like to describe my initial attempts at fishing and what I learned.
When I was a young lad, we all fished a bunch. None of us really knew what we were doing so it was all basically a trial and error process. I suppose that some of my friends had fathers that educated them in the sweet science of fishing, and it may be that my brother and I received more than one clue on how to get the job done on the limited budget that we all had. The reel and rod of choice back then was the wondrous made in Uhmuricuh Zebco 101 spincast close faced fishing reel. The beauty of this reel was that it was pretty much idiot proof. It came brand new with the line already on it and you could cast without ever getting a tangle or a dreaded “birds nest” of line. A birds nest is when the line gets all tangled and knotted into a conglomeration that is almost unrecoverable. But not so with the Zebco. You could cast all day in a carefree frenzy and never have a problem. Zebco did have better models, as the 101 was the bottom of the heap, but you could buy about two Zebco 101’s for the price of one Zebco 201. The price increases were pretty much linear for the Zebco 301, 401, 501, etc.
So, when I decided to get back into fishing 5 decades later, I decided I would go back to what I knew well, the Zebco 101. Of course I was better off financially now, so I splurged for the Zebco 201 on Amazon. It arrived in a day or so, along with the $10 collapsable pole, some sinkers, and some hooks. A side note on sinkers is that the old lead sinkers of yesteryear are no longer available, apparently due to small children swallowing them and coming down with a case of lead poisoning. So I had to opt for steel and tungsten sinkers. Well, lemme tell ya, the new Zebco reels do not hold a candle to the Zebco reels of yesteryear. They are now made in China and constructed of very crappy plastics and metal. My new Zebco regularly jammed and often failed to cast, due to the shoddy construction. I did catch a few fish with the reel and rod during a trip to the Saint Lawrence, but did suffer the jeers from my pals about the crappy reel and rod that I had. The claim from my supposed “pals” was that the rod and reel were for small inexperienced children, and they dubbed it “The Daffy Duck Fishing Pole”. I still have my “Daffy Duck” today, but was forced to move on to bigger and better equipment more in line with my station in life.
Enter YouTube. As with all things that we want to get more information about today, the goto source for all training and knowledge is YouTube. You wanna play guitar like Jimmy? YouTube is your university. You can learn Foxy Lady note for note in no time at all. Well, I thought it would and should be the same for fishing. A quick Google search revealed a plethora of lessons, equipment reviews, and tips on how to catch “The Big One”. I was informed by YouTube, that the “Bass Pros” reel of choice was the “Baitcaster” reel. These were expensive reels that provided pinpoint accuracy and feel for the professional. I also found that a company called Falcon made very good rods at reasonable prices. So off I went to buy a Falcon Rod and a Baitcaster reel. Craigslist was my friend here and I quickly found a guy with a Shimano baitcasting reel for $50. The rod I had to order from Falcon.
After putting all of the pieces together, I decided I need to hone my skills a bit before I headed out onto the water with my new “professional” rig. Lemme tell ya, no amount of YouTube training could have prepared me for the pain and torture involved with learning how to cast a baitcasting reel. Believe me, this is no Zebco 101. You need to feather the reel with your thumb so as not to get a major birds nest. You do have very precise control over where the line drops, but it requires a good level of skill to know how and when to apply thumb pressure so as not to get a birds nest. But I am a stubborn sombitch. I practiced in my backyard for about a week, untangling and deknotting the line multiple times while I learned. Eventually I got to the point where I could successfully cast about 80% of the time, so I figured I was good to go. Unfortunately, backyard casting and casting in heavy wind or from the deck of a boat are two very different things. Back to YouTube, and I found that there are many tweaks and adjustments on the baitcasting reel that are designed to reduce the birds nest scenario. After applying some of these techniques, I was able to further reduce my failure rate. At this point I’ve settled on the baitcaster setup for most of my fishing. Recently, I did buy an open faced reel and rod for a change up and am finding I enjoy using that and not having to worry about the occasional birds nest.
Another major step in my fishing journey was when I discovered that Angry Bob had an old and decaying 14 foot fishing boat with an old 50 horse power Mercury motor sitting in a back field and buried beneath 20 years of leaves and dirt. Bob and I are retired cheapskates with plenty of time on our hands, so we thought that we would take some time to restore the old gal to her former glory. It only took us about a year of sawing, nailing, sealing, and wiring to get the hunk of junk back to a state where we felt that we would not be committing suicide by taking it onto the river. Getting the old two stroke motor back into a running state was a bit of work, but miraculously it started and ran. It only took the replacement of some rotted hoses and the water pump, along with a new battery and the thing started and ran. We’ve since been on a few river trips with it and have plans for future trips in the works.
Fast forward to today. I’ve been through a few reels and rods, learning as I go. I’ve bought various lures, artificial baits, special rigs, rubber worms and the like. I’ve watched innumerable YouTube videos on how to bait a hook and how to find fish in different waters and times of year. I’ve fished and fished and fished and caught more than a few fish. But the bottom line is that it all comes down to some simple truths. Fishing is not about any of that crap. Fishing is about a zen state of enjoying nature and the ease of a very mechanical and repetitive process of casting, reeling, and waiting. I am finding that there is nothing more relaxing than sitting in my folding chair with a fresh cup of coffee along the banks of the river and waiting for “The Big One” to bite on my line.
Still fishing and not catching in upstate New York.