My sister and I grew up in spitting distance of the Holston River, so it makes sense we’d both become avid anglers. Fishing was one of the few activities we could afford, and one of the skills Daddy thought it was important to teach us. (Others were how to change our own oil/flat tire, repair a leaky faucet, save money, vote Republican and survive in the wilderness with a flintrock and a jackknife)
By the time we were five years old: we could spool, tie, rig, bait, catch, release, string, talk trash and tell lies. We were downright experts at untangling lines from snags, debris or overhanging limbs. At some point, Daddy decided that if we were going to fish for Red Maples, we likewise ought to know how to set them loose.
Nevertheless, it was Mamma’s rule that we had to fish in pairs. I assume this is because the good fishing holes were accessible only by hiking down the railroad tracks. In the event that one of us should be struck down by a Norfolk Southern, the other could run back and tell the grown-ups whereabouts to go and gather-up the carcass.
As the older sister I begrudgingly took the little one along, and often we returned home bloody or bruised after a battle over suspiciously missing spinners, intentional spooking of the bluegill, unsportsmanlike concentration breakin’ and other territorial/competitive she-touched-my–tackle box type disputes.
Consequently, I developed a preference for fishing alone. Many would allege this practice is unsafe; however, if you’re in familiar waters and have a modicum of common sense, there’s little danger involved and several good reason why one should fish without companions:
Top Five Reasons are:
Fishing alone means you have the water to yourself and don’t have to worry about shadow fishing. Shadow fishing is when, immediately after you get a bite or make a catch, a buddy plants himself at your elbow and drops a line – and this person will follow you around like a shadow no matter how many times you swap water. (Over the years, I’ve heard this called many different things. Most of them are politically incorrect. Will suffice to say: it is bad angler etiquette.)
Along those same lines, when you fish alone, you don’t have to worry about gettin’ skunked. Skunked is what happens when you don’t get a single bite –while your friend, who is three feet downstream, has fish bobbing to the top just to see when it will be their turn to jump on the hook. And if your friend is ever-so-helpful: they will offer advice and suggestions, such as you’re using the wrong bait, your casting to far out, your technique is off, you suck, the fish don’t like the smell of your river-wading Nikes …
2.) Tackle Preservation
Any half-assed decent angler has a healthy collection of tackle, is ready for any fish in any situation, except for maybe a deep-sea whale. Plus, they’ll have one or two very special, top-secret, catch-it-when-nothing-else-can lures. Indecent anglers assume that the thermos, the snack basket and the well-stocked tackle box are communal. In which case, fishing alone prevents getting into situation where you may have to punch a friend in the mouth for munching your moon pies or fondling your jigs.
As you get older, taking off to go fishing is tougher to do. You have a job, children and other responsibilities. Fishing alone cuts down on the required planning. You can just go when the mood strikes and you have the time to spare.
If you are seeking lively conversation and loud music, fishing isn’t the pastime for you. I’d recommend wrastlin’. Fishing is intended to be a quiet, introspective sport. It allows one to commune with nature, reflect upon life, and ponder upon meaningful stuff like religion and philosophy. Fishing alone allows you to accomplish all of this with without interruption or being forced to engage in following conversation:
“So, what do we do now?”
“Until you catch something.”
“Throw it back and wait some more.”
“What’s the point in catching it if you’re going to throw it back?”
“We’re downstream from Eastman. Do you wanna eat it?”
“Well, no but…”
Five minutes later:
“Sure is quiet here, ain’t it? Shoulda brought a radio, don’t you think?”
“Fish don’t like music.”
“Really? How do you know?”
“I read it in a book – now shut up.”
Five minutes later:
“Soooo…. whatcha thinking about?”
“How can you be thinking nothing? You hafta be thinking something”
“Well, I’s thinking we could prolly catch more fish if we split up.”
Five minutes later:
Plop, plop: gravel being tossed into the water. Froompth: in goes a large rock.
“HEY! What the hell are you doing?”
“Scaring the fish down there toward you.”
If you’re trolling or wading, particularly in deeper waters or swift currents, there may be some wisdom in taking a friend along. I can see where it might be helpful to have someone around if your waders take on water. However, last Summer, I met a fellow that convinced me it might be just as safe or safer to fish without friends.
I’d had one of the kids at the ER after a bicycle wreck. We were waiting for the x-ray results when two fellows were placed in the curtained-off cubicle beside us. One was laughing and one seemed rather pissed off. I wasn’t attempting to eavesdrop but the curtains didn’t allow a whole lot of privacy and it was one of those conversations where you have to hear what will be said said next.
“Where is it?” the doctor asked the pissed off guy.
“Ummm… in my ass,” said the man.
“Well, let’s have a look (shuffle, shuffle) Oh yes, I see it. How did this happen?”
“My buddy got it stuck in there.”
“Well, I see the hole, but I don’t see anything sticking out. I’m going to take a look…”
“Well, my buddy tried to pull it out with the pliers, but it broked off.”
“Hmmm,” said the doctor, “You been drinking much?”
“Lil’ bit. OUCH, damn doc, don’t poke it.”
At this point, manners had flown right out the window. I liked ¼ inch having my head stuck under the curtain. I was no longer pretending not to listen.
“Well, I see it there. It’s deep. Okay, I’ll tell you what, we’ll get a nurse in here and get you fixed up, but the next time you get a hook stuck back there, you need to tell your friend to leave us a little something to work with.”
I couldn’t help it. I busted out laughing.
I don’t think anyone could argue: that fellow should’ve been fishing alone.