Sunday Classic / Fish Boy Is Sorry

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Photo by Louis Cahill

A quick heads up, this story contains some adult language and ideas.

I was fishing a little mountain lake with my buddy Dan when he told me, “the last time I fished this place I was on a date”. “Why the hell did you bring a date up here”, I asked. “Well”, he said, “things were getting kind of serious and I thought I should show her what she was signing up for”. “So you took her fishing”? I laughed, “you should have locked her in your apartment and disappeared for three days, then showed back up stinking and drunk, that’s what she’s signing up for”!

Fly fishing has developed it’s own culture and it’s own code of misconduct. It reorients priorities and skews a person’s perspective of what “normal people” will tolerate. For some guys it’s like Mardi Gras. A fishing trip is an excuse to blow off the steam they build up at work or home and then they’re back to normal. For others it becomes a life style choice. For some an occupation. Living with a fisherman has got to be tough. I know my wife puts up with a lot from me and, to her credit, does it cheerfully. However, if you talk to any hard core angler it’s not uncommon to find a long list of ex-wives and girlfriends who just couldn’t, or wouldn’t take it anymore. Fishing, like any other addiction, complicates relationships.

Many of my best friends have made big life decisions base purely on fishing. Uprooted their families and moved across country without jobs or left their families alone for months at a time to guide in some far flung location. I have a friend who commutes over fifteen-hundred miles between his family and the water he guides year round. I know guys who have walked away from homes and given them up to foreclosure to be on the water they feel called to fish. I totally understand it and in most of these cases so do their wives. Those have to be special women, my wife included, who stand by their men when they answer that strange primeval calling. You can rationalize it any way you like but that’s really what’s going on. We are turning our backs on the civilized world and answering to our genes. We are walking away from warm safe desk jobs to stand in a cold river or face storms and sharks at sea. We’re going out after some big ass white whale and the women who love us are, for some reason I can’t fathom, choosing to follow us. I imagine the same thing goes on for women who are called to fish. I’m not talking about the weekend warrior princesses but the ones who dedicate their lives to it. The ones who are obsessed. I know a few. Some of them end up in relationships with other addicts. Often husband and wife both guiding for a living and usually very happy.

I know a couple who are junkies. I’m not talking about fishing now, but actual heroine addicts and it’s funny how they remind me of some of these fishing couples. They are each as big a fucking disaster as a human being can be and their life is unbelievably difficult as a result of their choices. But when you see them together, dealing with some disaster or doing some shitty odd job to scrape up a few dollars you can’t help but get a warm feeling inside. As screwed up as they are you can just see how much they love each other. I’ve never seen them exchange a harsh word. They are totally united in their disastrous existence. Is that what we’re like? I’m sure I don’t have the perspective to say but I know I have made sacrifices to do what I do and so have a lot of other fishermen and their loved ones.

Some guys never find a partner. Either stumbling from one dysfunctional relationship to another or giving up all together and practicing catch and release. Guys who think about women the same way they do fish. Trophy hunters. They just want to land them, not keep them. That’s in no way unique to anglers but the irony is too much to resist. I’m sure there are some fine trout streams or bonefish flats in Never Never Land.

To be honest I try not to spend a lot of time evaluating the maturity of my own life choices. It will not change my behavior and I don’t need to stare too long into that mirror. Neither am I judging the choices made by others. I’m just fascinated that, that choice is out there and every day someone is making it. Every morning someone decides not to put on the tie, or the apron, or the hard hat but instead to go stand in the river when they should be getting a real job, or doing their taxes. And every day someone is loving them, or leaving them for it. Every day, families are pulling together or breaking apart over a tug at the end of a line. Like a lot of the big things in life neither fishing or relationships are easy. A person should be congratulated if they master either, let alone both.

Come fish with us in the Bahamas!

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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30 thoughts on “Sunday Classic / Fish Boy Is Sorry

  1. While I kick myself regularly for not finding the sport earlier, I realize that the silver lining is that I came to it late enough to not completely screw up my relationship. By the time fly fishing took over she knew what she was dealing with – and chose to stay anyway. God, I’m lucky.

    A terrific piece, Louis!

  2. Pingback: Fish Boy is Sorry » Big Kype

  3. Cool piece Louis. While my wife is faily tolerant of my constant need to find myself on some kind of water, it definitely gets strenuous trying to balance both worlds.
    I guess I’ll just continue to test my boundaries….it’s worked so far.

  4. Fortunately I didn’t have to drag my husband, kicking and screaming, into the sport. He is a willing accomplice. Guess I am a lucky gal!

  5. I can relate entirely as to the addiction. I struggle more with each passing year, trying to make logical arguments as to why I’m still at my desk. I believe the water will win and I’m not sure how much longer I can hold out!

  6. I agree, if I had found this sport earlier I would have been a bum a lot earlier …. Dudes leave us also if we fish and they don’t … they just don’t always understand ….

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