Friday, July 01, 2005

Zen in the Art of Crankbait Casting

Have you ever noticed how things occur in our lives in clusters? For instance, over the last year you may not have thought about, say, wooden boat construction. You stumble across an interesting article somewhere where wooden boat construction figures prominently. Next day, somebody mentions wooden boat construction at work, completely out of the blue. A couple of days later, you go out to dinner, look up, and notice that a dory festoons the ceiling directly overhead. Finally, you discover during an social event with neighbors you have not met before that your host's grandfather was a master boat builder on the East Coast. Like deja vu, I am guessing this is a phenomenon that occurs to us all from time to time. It happens to me so much that I find it worthy of blogging.

My sons spent many years in North Carolina, where you can, if so motivated, fish for the biggies out in the gulf stream, surf fish, hunt for largemouth in an inland lake, then fly fish for trout in a mountain stream, all in the same weekend. (SUV marketers in the audience perk up now). So, my boys are fishing nuts.

I never fished as a kid. Just wasn't something my dad did, so it just wasn't on the program. But in North Carolina, my sons became fishing zealots. Now this was something I entirely supported, because of the endless benefits. We always release our catch. We weren't there for the fish. Rather, my sons used fishing as a vehicle. They would insist I take them to the library so they could study up on their elusive prey. When we took them to the acquarium on the shore, they saw it at a level on a par with most of the staff - they are incredibly educated on marine biology. They began to understand how an ecosystem works. Offensive and defensive strategies. Environmental influences and concerns. How advertising and promotion of tackle works. The retailing industry. The hospitality industry. And we talked about it all. Even when we were fishing. Most important of all, we were together, I was learning from them, and they were learning from me.

My oldest boy ordered some articles from a local merchant that specialized in fishing, hunting, and paintballing gear. This fellow announced that he was closing up shop, and was blowing out inventory at a good discount. Even goods ordered during the closeout were discounted (imagine that!).

The goods have not arrived, and my son, new to the whole process of making these transactions himself, suddenly realized yesterday that he might not get his goods before the store closes. "Dad, I see a problem. I'm going to the store to see if my stuff is there. He didn't call me".

Big moment - I said I would take my son, listen to his conversation, but stay in the background. We discussed the nuances of the situation on the way to the store. Education time. Moment siezed.

We met the fellow - discussion held, strategy for developing goodwill worked, merchant (a decent guy) motivated to see that my son gets his goods.

I then asked the merchant why he is closing out. His answer: fishing is tanking as a recreational activity. Moms are not involved enough. The health of the fish are declining. Big retailers are moving into the market. His retail space overheads are grotesque. Many factors. Fishing has no cachet. It's not air conditioned. It requires patience. It requires knowledge. It requires skill.

This entire episode takes place the day after an evening at a neighbor's house. A few doors up from us, we had not actually met this couple before. Three couples on the deck having chit chat and a few libations. The neighbor works for Department of Fisheries, and has a rather significant reputation in his field. He taught at universities in the States. We talked about the sandflies on Lake Erie, their decline, and return. Oxygen levels in Lake Erie are making a slow but steady recovery. There was much to talk about, having shared time living in the USA, and of course, fish. This man has two daughters, and he takes them fishing. For the same reasons I take my sons fishing.

I don't mind if my children play video games from time to time. In fact, I have some fun from time to time joining them in a Star Wars shoot-em-up (hey, I'm male, it's my birthright). But we keep this in balance. Ride bicycles, take some hikes, walk along the shore of the lake on a nice evening, and fish from time to time. And talk. And listen. Learn, and educate.

As my day in the sun fades, my children will come into their own. The world is a much more difficult place than it was when I was a child, and I can extrapolate. The world my children will live in is going to be far more difficult yet. I do not see how letting my children bury themselves obsessively into a Gameboy equips them to deal with this future. But through fishing, they will learn much that can be abstracted and reused.

It's a holiday in Canada today. I'm taking my crew fishing. Be back later.