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

By Kent Klewein

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.

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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.

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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,

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
www.ginkandgasoline.com
hookups@ginkandgasoline.com
 
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14 thoughts on “It took Me 25 Years To Figure Out Why I Fell In Love With Fishing

  1. Kent,

    As an educator of America’s Youth, thank you for taking the time to write this piece. It’s a fantastic reminder of the positive impact we can or cannot make with kids. I’ll be thinking of it while taking a student fishing with his dad on Friday for making tremendous growth in reading. I’ve got a seat for you in the skiff anytime.

    Peace

  2. “Fishing gave me peace and allowed me to feel free”

    I have only been fishing for a couple of years, but that quote from Kent’s article sums it up perfectly for me as well.

    Fish On brothers and sisters!

  3. This reminds me a lot of my past. I grew up as the only Asian kid in a minority community from grade 1-12, it was not easy to say the least…I also turned to fishing, I would carry a telescoping rod in my backpack and fish every day before and after school. Fast foward–Its been 10 years from highschool. I just moved out to the Roaring Fork Valley as an Architect in Aspen. Some of the bullies in my past have been in and out of jail lol. I’m lucky enough to fish the Pan, Fork or Colorado anytime I want. I also won this years fly tying contest by Orvis. I guess the lesson is that fishing is an amazing outlet, and all kids should give it a try.

  4. This is a really deep read man. It takes a lot for a person to come out and talk about childhood hardships. Awesome read!!!

  5. I too had see the piece on SEC Storied and it struck a chord with me as well, Kent, and I appreciate your writing yours!
    Shayne

  6. Thank You for sharing this with all of us Kent. While I’m sure it wasn’t easy for you, it does make it a little easier talking about these sort of things and reflecting back on it now.

    I can relate to a lot of the things you mentioned in this piece. I work in a low paying, high stress job and I too am a father. but when I’m in a kayak, on the bow of a boat or wading up to my waste with a fly rod in my hand, all of they hardships and stress of life disappears.

  7. Kent,

    Thanks for sharing…your life story will be an inspiration to anyone who has the opportunity to read it, especially those who have or are experiencing troubled times in their life…I know that it’s truly inspiration for me…

    Thanks, Tim

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