When I reflect on the kayak angling success I’ve had, I always think of fellow member of the Kokatat and Torqeedo team, Jeff Little. He loves getting out on the water to make films about fishing. I love getting out on the water to catch fish. These are similar goals, but also very different ones as well. I vividly remember a conversation with Jeff when he asked to try a few new places. I balked. He asked again, and I dug in further. Perhaps I was too stubborn, but I guess I had my reasons. I never forgot that conversation, and I’ve never really stopped reflecting on it.
Almost immediately, I took action. I gave up my comfort zone for the sake of adventure, paddled further, and investigated new waters. A big part of my previous apprehension was giving up near-guaranteed angling success. After years of preparation, I knew and understood my local waters. Catching a fish was no longer a question, rather more of a guarantee. Oddly enough, I began to have some internal conflict. I spent time reflecting and realized it was only a game of rinse-and-repeat. I loaded the kayak in my truck, went to my favorite seasonal locations, caught fish, went home… repeat. The mystery had vanished.
That word, “mystery” holds some weight. I largely believe mystery is the reason I began fishing. I remember my first time on the water. It was a small local lake and we took a canoe. The lake was probably 20 feet deep, although I imagined an abyss below. It was mysterious and grand, but it was a long time before I ever did it again, even though the water always called me. I simply wasn’t in a situation in my youth to partake in the activity. I’d always yearned for more, and after graduating college with a better situation for getting on the water, kayaking opened a door for me years later. Suddenly, all of Chesapeake Bay fishing called for me – and it was mysterious.
I explored all the local nooks and crannies with every spare moment. I look back on some of those times and wonder what I was thinking, because I’d never do some of those things again. Yet they were all noble endeavors, and each silly adventure was a lesson learned. At some point, the adventure turned to surgically and efficiently finding every fish I could. There was and still is mystery there, too, but after a decade of honing my skills, the mystery began to fade.
Years later I met a stranger online, and I went fishing on his boat. Yeah, I know. It sounds strange when I type it, too. Brad and I became immediate friends. It’s amazing how some people come into our lives and provide exactly what we’ve been missing. Brad’s nearly 180-degrees different from a fishing perspective than me. At the drop of a hat he’d drive two states away to cast a line for a special bite he’d heard about. I would never have done that. I’ve preferred to learn a fishery in depth, before moving onto another. But it’s good to surround ourselves with diverse opinions, and Brad’s rubbed off on me. He has opened my eyes that the adventure and comradery is greater than the fish. Interestingly, adventure is so much in his blood that he recently started a fishing guide service named, “Chesapeake Fishing Adventures.” It’s aptly named.
We’ve gone on many adventures, and I’ve made friends that otherwise I would have not. With work and a growing family I can’t always make it happen, but if I get an invite from Brad I normally just say yes without even knowing where we’re going. I’ve found that it doesn’t matter, because it’s always a good time.
Through it all, I’ve learned things about myself, people, and the playground called the Chesapeake Bay. I realized it was never the fish I was after; I sought the mysterious. I sought friendship and oneness with the environment. The Bay is an incredible resource and we must take care of it – I can’t imagine life without it.