Solve for Why

I get bored rather easily.  It isn’t for a lack of anything better to do; my house is filled with half completed projects, thousands of unread books (no, seriously.  Thousands), and enough reference material to write a few decent books.  If I could only be bothered.  This wouldn’t seem unusual except that the most entertaining thing that I could think to do right now would be to stand in a stream in Erie from sun up to sun down.  Stand there completely still, without speaking to another soul or listening to music.  Just to hold a fishing lure in the same ten square feet of river.

I’ve had a few people ask why I’ve become so “obsessed” with fishing.  I’ve always struggled to explain why (or neglected to attempt to), because it was never something tangible.  I usually pass through a couple different phases a year, where I obsess over a topic, spend hours doing internet research on it, buy books from my store to learn how to do it myself/better, and then buy supplies for it in bulk.  Just to move on to something else.  But if the weather is right for it, I’ll be out fishing without a doubt.  As best as I can figure it, the reason I’m still out there casting to fish instead of scribbling down notes or learning to play that bass guitar I bought years ago is because that fish has a brain, and I can’t figure it out.

I love being presented with a problem to solve.  People generally like brain teasers, but if you give me something to figure out I am in my element.  Why isn’t this working?  Design or create something for this contest.  How can I get this to be just right?  I love those sorts of problems.  I could (and usually do) have twenty other things that I should be doing instead, but if you give me a problem to obsess over you will have my undivided attention…for now.  Take that away, and I become a bored couch potato.

Fishing gives me a reliable and steady outlet for this sort of behavior, because the fish presents an unknown variable into the equation.  There is a lot of science behind fishing.  Your choice in clothing is decided by the amount of wind and sunlight, as well as the depth of water you’re fishing.  The type and thickness of line dictated by the size fish you are after and the clarity of the water.  There are even charts to show you what color baits work best when cross referenced with water color and the amount of sunlight.  Where to place your bait in the water can be charted out on a map cross referenced with water temperature.

But the fish.  You can do everything correct, have a textbook example of a successfully planned outing, and not catch a single fish.  I have tossed bare hooks in and caught fish.  The problem becomes trying to outsmart a creature with a brain that is smaller than the fingernail on your pinky.  And on many days that fish will outsmart you, and figuring out why and how becomes the obsession.  You adapt your camouflage to the surroundings and move slower so it doesn’t see you and spook.  You try different baits and lures.  Sometimes this experimentation pays off.  Other times it only serves to drive you deeper into madness.  “These damn fish can’t outsmart me.”  But they will.  And they do.

Even if you manage to figure out the fish in any given situation, you are working in an environment that is constantly changing.  The stream moves branches and rocks around, and different pools and eddys form.  A front moves in, and the water temperature changes too quickly.  Thousands of mayflies hatch, and the fish are full from feeding on them. So many things can change the perfect fishing day you had yesterday into a frustrating skunk of a day today.  It takes a lot of experience, gear and stubbornness to try and find what things changed and how to adapt to them.  Which is probably why I have five tackleboxes of gear right now.

Hey, you’ll never know when you might need something in the middle of a lake.

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