It took Me 25 Years To Figure Out Why I Fell In Love With Fishing

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Fly Fishing is so much more than catching fish. Photo by: Louis Cahill

It turns out, it really wasn’t the draw of catching fish that drew me into the sport of fly fishing.

It’s well into the morning hours of the night, I just finished feeding my 6-month old daughter a bottle, and now I’m wide awake, randomly flipping channels on TV. Somewhere along the way, I stumble upon “SEC Storied” and I immediately get totally sucked into watching the show. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this TV show, it’s basically life stories of different professional sports athletes, that were past sports players for SEC colleges (usually football players but not always). Each show tells the life story of the showcased athlete, from childhood, through their sports career and into present day. Tonight, the show is showcasing the life story of the famous football running back, Herschel Walker. Almost instantly, I find myself able to personally connect and relate to Herschel’s life, as I listen to him talk about his childhood. I see many similarities in our childhoods, particularly our recollections of grade school.

Herschel’s childhood was dark and full of sadness, except for his loving parents. He had zero friends in school, he was brutally bullied by classmates daily, and he was neglected by his teachers, because they thought he was not worth their time and energy to teach. They literally threw him in the back corner of the class room because they thought he had a learning disorder because of his strong stutter. Only Herschel knew his stutter was triggered by his insecurities at school. Every day before Herschel left his house for school, his Father would give him a quarter to buy a snack with at school. However, Herschel never used the quarter to buy a snack for himself. Instead, he would give it to one of his classmates, because it would guarantee him a few brief moments of friendly conversation and interaction with someone at school. It made Herschel feel like he had a friend and gave him a small break from being made fun of. That was until at least the snack had been fully devoured, and the fake friend would walk away, leaving Herschel once again to be left awkwardly alone by himself.


Hershel Walker at Georgia University

The turning point for Herschal was his last day in eighth grade, when he finally found the courage for the first time to go outside for recess to play. Unfortunately, it didn’t go so well for Herschel, as he received the beating of his life for no reason, from a couple of bigger eighth grade boys. As bad as that life moment was for Hershcel, it ended up being a turning point for him in his life. From that day forward, Hershcel promised himself, that he would never let anyone beat him up again. He upheld that promise by doing as many pushups and sit-ups as he could possibly bare every day in the morning and evening. At one point Herschel was doing over 2,000 pushups and 5,000 sit-ups a day. His strict workout program, quickly turned Herschel from an overweight kid, into one of the strongest, fastest and most athletic kids in his school. He took up the sport of football and the rest is history. Football became Herschel’s life-blood and true balance in life. Today, after a highly successful college and pro football career, he’s still arguably one of the most physically fit 49 year olds in the world. That’s at least what his personal doctor claims.

You may be asking yourself, “Kent why are you rambling on and on about Herschel Walker?” and “What does this have to with fishing?” That’s a fair question and here’s my explanation. As I said before, Herschel and I had many childhood similarities. I too had very few friends coming up through Middle School and High School. I too was bullied daily, and most of my teachers thought I was dumber than I really was (It was hard for me to concentrate on my studies when I was getting constantly picked on) However, it wasn’t because I had a stutter or that I was overweight. Instead it was because I had a chronic “red eye” condition called Blepharitis and I was the only kid, through my entire schooling, that suffered from it. The eye condition made my eye lids look cherry red. Twenty times or more a day, from sixth grade all the way up through the day I graduated from high school, kids would come up to me and ask me what was wrong with my eyes. They’d call me cry baby, they’d shout out for everyone to hear, “Kent has pink eye” or “Kent looks high”. The worst part of all, was the fact that every day, it was mostly the same damn kids, making fun of me. I used to get so upset, thinking to myself, “What is wrong with these people? Why do I have to keep explaining to them, over and over again why my eyes are different and red looking? I mean, you’d think that after a dozen times, the kids would get used to my eyes, accept my eye condition and leave me alone, but that didn’t happen. The more I showed my insecurities, the more they felt compelled to pick on me.

Long story short, little by little, I became a hermit and Monday through Friday, was pretty much hell for me as a kid growing up. I lost all confidence, and just like Hershel Walker, I walked around at school with my head down staring at me feet all day long. I socialized very little at school and I was the guy that never got attention from the girls. Watching the TV show about Herschel Walker and seeing how he used exercise and football to help him cope with his childhood hardships, made me realize for the first time in my life, why I had fallen in love with fishing. It turns out, it really wasn’t the draw of catching fish that drew me into the sport, although it surely didn’t hurt matters. Instead, it was simply the fact that I could come home from school, after being harassed all day long by my classmates, and I could wet a line without anyone bulling me. Fishing gave me peace and allowed me to feel free. Every morning, I knew if I could just manage the strength to make it through the seven hours of hell at school, I would be rewarded and blessed, when I got home with a few positive hours of fishing. When I was fishing, I wasn’t afraid to pick my head up and enjoy my surroundings. Every year that past, I got more serious about fishing. Eventually, I made myself the promise that I’d dedicate my life to becoming the best fisherman I could be, with my end goal becoming a well respected fly fishing guide.


One of my biggest bass on the fly in 10th grade.


If you asked my parents or siblings about my daily routine as a kid, they’d tell you that once I started fishing, I never missed a day, unless I was in bed sick. They didn’t know at the time and they probably won’t find out until they read this, but fishing really saved me as a kid growing up. It kept me from going down a very dark road that could have turned out very badly for me. In a nutshell, fishing provided me with balance and direction in life, just like football did for Herschel Walker. It’s really ironic that it took me 25 years of fishing and watching a random TV show about a football player’s life, to finally figure out why I first fell in love with the sport, and it’s true purpose for it in my life.

Keep it Reel,

Come fish with us in the Bahamas!

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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40 thoughts on “It took Me 25 Years To Figure Out Why I Fell In Love With Fishing

  1. Cool post Kent. This world we live in can be very cruel. People don’t understand, and would rather be quick to judge instead of educating themselves. Having the perseverance to beat the darkest days, and the ability to take the higher road says a lot about someone’s character. These qualities have obviously followed you into adulthood. Only you really know, but from what I can tell, your past has definitely steered you towards achieveing your goals. I always liked the quote “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger”. I believe this to be true. Thanks for sharing man.

    • Justin,

      Thanks man. I like that quote a lot too. Thank God for people like you who are so compassionate and friendly. It’s no coincidence that your a nurse and have the ability to console and take care of people in the most stressful situations in their lives, like an angel sent down from heaven. Its one of the main reasons I respect you so much, call you my friend and love to fish with you. Have an awesome day.


  2. For most people life has its ups and downs. However, if you’ve been a fisherman most of your life it is one of the main constants throughout your life, and most likely one that has brought you a great sense of achievement, peace and satisfaction. It certainly has been for me.

    When we enter our personal fishing world that is where our focus lies and all other worldly matters take a back seat. Thanks for sharing your personal story, it made me realise why I love fishing so much!

    • Rob,

      Yes, fishing has brought me all of those things like yourself. I’m also glad to hear it helped you see even more why you love fishing so much. Thanks for the comment. Fishing does allow us to tune out everything else in life and that’s a wonderful thing.


  3. I had simular experiances gromwing up. I also had my grandparents farm and pond that I affectionetlly call my sanctuary. Thats where I cutt my fly fishing teeth on bass and bream. I was known to hide in the ban untill the bus passed bye, grab my rod or gun in which I hide and scoot across the feild to my God giving joy that awaited. It probable didn’y help my educational side, but maybe it did! I dang sure know it help my spiritul side because I know God was there with me. I give the Lord all the credit for guiding me through those times and even times up to this day. I fell simpothy for people who act like that and I guess thats why I feel God uses me to tell others or His perfect goodness and salvation through

  4. Kent, this is an incredibly powerful post. This piece deserves to be shared and revisited for much time to come. So many great people have gone through terrible struggles but emerged in the end as great, influential people. You are certainly one of them. G&G is as far as I know, the most followed blog in fly fishing. You and Louis are people’s fishing heros. What you two have done is simply awesome. Thank you for sharing such a personal and powerful story. Cheers to you and the wonderful things you’ve accomplished. I will never forget this. Fly fishing saves people’s lives.

    • Spencer,

      What can I say to that wonderful comment that will give it justice. It would have been great to have you around as a fishing partner during those days. Super happy you read and liked it and it means a lot that you took the time to write that comment. Hope the ice breaks up soon so you can start catching those monster smallmouth.


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  6. It’s easy to forget that fly fishing isn’t all about fancy gear and hero shots. I enjoy the connection I have with most anglers. Fishermen know a peace that is hard to obtain in life, it males us better people.

    This story reminds me of “Never Met an Idiot on the River” by Henry Winkler.

    • Kyle,

      I never read that peace but a good friend of mine met henry and they said he’s a super cool dude. Made me happy b/c I always respected his acting and loved that he was passionate about fly fishing. I really hope I have the opportunity to guide him one day. Heard he rarely fishing anywhere but MT. Cheers mate.


  7. Childhood is a bitch. Reading this blog is my favorite part of each morning.
    Thank you Kent for persevering through the bad times.

    • Wildcat,

      “Childhood is a bitch”

      True Dat man. Its so cool to have our readers be so supportive of the wide range of subjects we write about. Wildcat, you rock and so does EVERYONE shows Louis and I support.


  8. Great post, Kent. When I relate to non-anglers or newbies what fishing means to me, it’s astounding that I rarely mention the thrills of fighting a fish … but it’s really so much more about finding incredible environments in which to ground one’s sanity and soul. Thanks for posting this…


  9. Great post Kent !!

    I 100% agree that the true reward of fishing isn’t about catching fish. It is finding that “place” where we can each individually find a place where we can escape from the craziness of the world and find a place of peace and contentment.

    This post is worthy of an annual repeat, thanks for sharing both Walker’s story AND yours.


  10. Good post, Kent. Fly fishing has it’s way of curing most stresses of the day and life for me. It is an excellent way to unwind and a healthy mental vacation. Can’t imagine where I would be without fishing in my life.

    Keep up the excellent work!


    • Matt,

      There’s no doubt we both love fishing very much. My only regret is not fishing with you more as a kid when it was so easy to do so. Time for us to make up for lost time 🙂


  11. I agree, fishing is the best therapy; especially flyfishing! I had a similar experience to you in my youth, and for some of the same reasons! I have an eye condition called Congenital Nystagmus which makes my eyes constantly move back and forth. It was a complete confidence crusher and I had a hard time looking people in the eye. It took a while to navigate my emotional hell; grade-school years were tough! But like you I moved on and found peace.
    It’s essential to the human psyche to have an outlet and fishing brings that balance to my life. It’s easy to forget about the world when you’re intently watching a fly drift down current with the anticipation of a fish to strike. It’s a bit cliché, but there’s a progression in flyfishing that ultimately lands the angler back to why they fell in love with the sport. I’m glad you found your outlet to get through those dark times.

    • Mike,

      Sorry to hear that you went through hell in grade school as well. It feels really good to hear from another person that fishing was the therapy they needed to keep weather the storm and come out a better person. Thanks for the comment.


  12. Brave piece man. Good for you. A good lesson for us all to try our hardest to treat everyone with respect and teach others to do so as well.

  13. Did you find the cause of the condition, Kent? I had that same problem come up on me as an adult A few years ago. It was really uncomfortable irritating And embarrassing. After going to the doctor after doctor And using steroid creams for way too long, I finally after almost two years was able to get to an allergy specialist Who figured out that I was allergic to cocamidopropyl betaken. This is a chemical used in a lot of shampoos and liquid soaps. Although I had been using these products for my life, apparently I had developed some allergy to it. Once they figure this out and I was able to avoid these products, my eyes cleared up and went back to normal. It’s a shame that they weren’t able to figure out what was causing it for you as a child. I’m sorry you had to go through all of that crap. Seems like you turned out okay though. I hope you’re cured of it now but if you’re not, Try to see if an allergy specialist could figure out what’s causing the condition for you. I wish you the best. You seem like a good guy,

      • Skeeter,

        For some reason My eye condition subsided almost completely a couple years ago. Like you, I was dependent on the steroid creme. Its so interesting that your cause was an allergy to a chemical in shampoos and soaps. I bet that’s what my problem was. If my blepharitus comes back I will go straight to an allergy specialist. Thank you so much for sharing this tip. I hope kids and adults out there find your comment if they suffer from our past mutual eye condition.


  14. Kent,

    A humble man with courage is a powerful thing. That wasn’t an easy column to write…all that sincerity and vulnerability helped more men than you will ever know.

    Best regards,

    Steve o

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  16. You are a very strong man kent. Is good to have people like you around us. You really did have a sad childhood. Shame on all those who made you feel bad. Because I guarantee you there are consequences for those who bullied you. When I was in middle school two of my teachers and most of my classmates boys and girls used to make fun of me every single day. I really don’t understand why they hated me so bad. I never talk to my mom about this I remember one time when my literature teacher embarrassed me one day so bad that I went to talk to my counselor. The counselor did nothing about it, instead she said everything was only a joke and sent me back to my classroom when I got there my classmates started to offend me so bad because my literature teacher had told them that I went to tell the counselor about he calling me ugly names. For two long years I was brutally been bullied. Every single day I would pray to God. Kent you and I have many things in common. We are survivors. How many kids commit suicide because of bullying. God bless you kent and thank you so much for sharing your story with us.

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