Fishing for me is a rite of passage. Learning how to fish comes from a pursuit of something that can leave you both angry and yet the happiest you’ve ever been. Fun can be had on both a boat trying to get that monster bass as well as in the middle of a frigid river searching for that trout. However, I’ve learned something over the years. Fishing isn’t always about catching fish.
Getting up early and being on the water is a very sacred place for me. Life seems to rush by like the current of the water without a care in the world. When I’m on the water, the only thing I have to think about is what are the fish eating and where do I need to go next to find them. Not having a care in the world on the river allows you to become one with the river. I can feel the current on my legs sweeping me downstream while I’m trying to stay upstream to throw my bait into that perfect spot.
I’ve been up early on the river when nothing is biting. When the fish are not moving. When it’s the wrong part of the day or it is too hot. All of the tricks of the fishing trade are based on generalities and assumptions. I assume that conditions are perfect. I assume that the fish are going to bite everything I throw at them. The thrill of victory, though, is mostly the thrill of struggle and battle.
The elements don’t want you to catch fish and share in that victory of a monster bass or trout. They want you to fail, to throw in the towel,and go back to shore where it is safe. No one has ever said that fishing isn’t dangerous because they’d be lying to you. I have had many slips on rocks and took a bath in 50 degree water while my waders fill up with water. It almost always takes you out of the water where I long to be.
I’ve learned some very important life lessons about parenting and fatherhood while being out on those not-so-forgiving waters. For me, inviting your kids into what you enjoy doing is one of the most important foundations you can give children. Giving boys (because I have boys) opportunities to test their strength, to let them see how powerful their life can be is absolutely critical for them.
Taking my boys fishing right now is a very intimidating task. Getting them ready to go can be such a chore. Finding all the gear, sunscreen, chairs, snacks, drinks, worms and hats can be so aggravating. But this last time we went, it was very different.
Yes, I got a little frustrated at times but the time spent together was amazing. The few times that I’ve taken my boys fishing in the past, I’ve not even brought my gear. It’s more about them then it is about me. I’ve learned from my own experience, it is not always about fishing.
There is nothing more damaging than to take your personal questions to your kids. Your validation as a father doesn’t come from your kids. The way they act, the way they do things is not a reflection of you. When my kids don’t catch a fish, it isn’t because of anything I did or didn’t do. Sometimes you catch some, most times you don’t. Someone asked me what I missed from my parents growing up because that’s what my kids need from me right now. My answer was time. There were a lot of missed opportunities by my parents to spend time with me. Now, as an at-home dad to two awesome boys, I get to spend so much time with them. That’s why it’s never about catching fish for us, it’s about something much deeper and profound.
Author Darrell Humphrey is the organizer of the Charlotte Dads Group. A version of this first appeared on A Dad Brews.