Ever play “What if?” You know how it works. You imagine yourself in a different scenario, living in a different place, doing a different job with a different bank account. You speculate on how it would change things.
I probably do as much of that as the next guy, but my “What if?” time is pretty mundane. The version I play most often goes like this: What if I was born in the 2000s instead of the 1960s? Would I still be an angler?
It’s not a silly question, and it’s worth considering. We might like to believe that we come into the world as fishermen, ready to cast, reel and set the hook, but I don’t believe that for a second.
We are creatures of our upbringing, environment and opportunities. Most of you reading this are anglers for the same reason that I’m an angler. I grew up near pretty good fishing water (the canals of South Florida), and I had a relative (my maternal grandfather) who liked to fish and was willing to take me. Remove either of those elements, and my life is almost certainly very different.
I grew up in the South, which made me more likely to be a bass fisherman. If I had been in Montana, it probably would have been trout. In Wisconsin, it might have been walleye.
When I was very young (9 or 10 years old), I was allowed to walk several blocks with my rod and reel and a friend of the same age to fish the canals around Miami without any adult supervision. Had I been born in the 2000s, that would have been unthinkable. There’s just no way my parents would have allowed it. I’d have been confined to the yard — maybe the house … possibly even my room.
Back then I fished on foot, walking the banks. Even in my teens (in South Carolina) I did most of my fishing walking around small ponds or wading in creeks. If fishing had required a boat, I wouldn’t have — couldn’t have — done it.
It’s worth mentioning because so many fishing media outlets and so many manufacturers send a message that fishing can’t be done without lots of expensive equipment.
Fishing tackle — and the world — has changed a lot since I was a kid, but the fish are the same. Today there are a lot more distractions and perhaps more barriers to entry, but the way anglers get introduced to the sport has changed very little.
Play some “What if?” and put yourself in the shoes of a beginning angler today. What are you doing to help that person get started? What are you doing to make fishing accessible and “real”? What are you doing to create a customer for your tackle shop, fishing product, magazine or guide service?
It’s a worthwhile exercise for one reason. If you think about it, you’re not really playing “What if?” at all. You’re looking today’s reality square in the eye.
What will you make of it?
A rising tide lifts all boats. Let’s be that tide.