The One That Got Away: It’s Not About You

When involving kids in the sport of fishing, it’s not about your ego; rather it’s 100 percent about their experience.

The Story

This installment of “The One That Got Away” comes from a regular client of mine. He booked his first trip several years ago, and while on the phone he said that he had not fished that much, but wanted to get into the sport. When I picked him up at the resort dock, we went through equipment, techniques we’d be using, etc… A general introduction.

Our usual conversation began as we started fishing, “Where are you from?” “What brings you to this area?” And then I asked, “Why have you deprived yourself the elation that fishing brings in your 40 years on this planet?” His response, “My father put so much pressure on me when I was a kid that I started to hate the sport.”

It’s not uncommon in this day and age, and apparently it wasn’t uncommon in the 1960’s and ‘70’s either. Kids in sports are pushed to the limit by their parents, pushed to be better, stronger, work harder, be faster, work harder. This grown man had such bad experiences angling with his father as a child that he gave up the sport that so many of us love and cherish.

He went on to tell me about the last straw; his last day of fishing until the very day I had him in my boat. He was about 12 years old, and he and his father were on some lake in Wisconsin fishing perch. His dad loved ice fishing as much as he loved the Packers. The young man hooked into something large… very large. He couldn’t move it. He tried handing the rod off to his old man, but his old man pushed for him to keep at it, and instructed him not to lose the fish.

The fish came up to the hole, and the father exclaimed that it was the largest walleye he’d ever seen. As all of my stories in this series go, the fish came unbuttoned and disappeared into the depths. The father raised his hands in disappointment, and began scolding the child for not fighting the fish well enough. As if the kid were a seasoned tournament angler who should never lose a fish, (by the way, even the best anglers lose giant fish, it’s what keeps them going back for more). That was it, the last straw. The child cried and apologized, and refused to fish again.

The Lesson

The lesson is simple. Our children will run the Country someday. Every parent wants their child(ren) to succeed, however too many of us, myself included, get so caught up that we push our kids without even realizing it. Finding the balance between giving them enough push to want to excel vs. pushing them away completely is the key.

We all know the lesson here, and what I’m preaching above is no surprise, but the reason my client wanted to re-kindle his relationship with fishing was eye-opening. His son was coming of age, and was showing an interest in fishing. The man realized that he wanted to share in the boy’s interest, and that he had to learn to be able to help his son be better. He wanted to be there for his son, to aid him in catching the fish of a lifetime, or to help him recover from a heartbreaking loss of the fish of a lifetime. He wanted to be better… for the sake of his son.

We went on to have a great day on the water, and the client has returned every year for a trip or two to the north country. This past summer, he brought his son along. Gentle instruction and high fives were the norm. It was perfect.

This is just one example of a heartbreaker. And the ways to avoid a sob story like the one outlined above are just the tip of the iceberg. Over the last 6 months I’ve compiled a large list of funny stories, truly heartbreaking stories, and complex situations where fish were lost due to various reasons. Be sure to stop back and read more examples and learn from other anglers’ mistakes.


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