I spent much of my youth bass fishing. I grew up across the street from a lake, and as soon as I got my drivers license, everyday after school I would drive to Bull Run River fishing till dark, always wading in the river. Fishing brought me so much peace, joy, and discovery, and really helped cement my connection to nature at an early age. And then I became a vegetarian and convinced myself that I should quit fishing. It wasn’t until 25 years later that I took up the pole again, first trout fishing last year in the high mountain streams and lakes out west, and now finally bass fishing again in the gator-filled ponds and canals of Florida. It was actually the dawning of this White Wolf energy that got me back into eating fish. I swear, I feel like the White Wolf lives inside me; he is a very real presence in my life and consciousness. And he DEMANDS fish. No joke. That is the sole reason I took up fishing again.
But oh boy, I did not expect the level of peace and fulfillment that fishing would bring me, and I can now understand why I spent so much of my youth waste deep in a river with a pole in my hand. As a man who has been practicing silent meditation for 29 years, I see now just how effectively fishing quiets and focuses my mind, and it’s exactly this that I was addicted to as a youth, and perhaps what set the stage for me taking up such interest and commitment to meditation. For example, some of you know that I had been fulfilling a vow that required me to chant a rather lengthy mantra 11 times a day for 121 consecutive days, called a Maha Rudram. It took about three hours to complete everyday, so naturally I would be chanting during the midst of many activities to get it all done. I would chant as I drove, did yard work, cleaned the house, etc… I was still fulfilling the vow when I arrived here in Florida at the beginning of March, and I assumed that chanting softly while fishing would be a pleasant way to get my chanting done. But everytime I picked up that pole and cast it out, my focus would become so extreme and my mind so quiet that I would instantly forget about the chanting. Hours would go by, and then I’d realize I had neglected my chanting and have to quit fishing to get it done. No other activity derailed my chanting like that. No other activity could make me forget the world, myself, my duties, and my worries to such a degree. Now that I’ve taken back up the sport, it’s actually become one of the cornerstones of my nomadic, van-dwelling lifestyle. I really only focus on a few things as I drift around: fishing, yoga and meditation, reading and writing, photographing and filming wildlife, healthy cooking, and of course, writing and producing music. These things are all my life consists of now. This is what I love and how I choose to spend my time. This is why I sold my house and walked away from my friends and career. I’ve elimated all distractions that come between me and the things I love or that bring me meaning.
When I arrived in the Everglades, since I hadn’t bass fished in 25 years, I did have a bit of a learning curve to get over; there is so much I had forgotten. But there’s plenty of fishermen and bait and tackle shops around here to squeeze for insight and information, and I wasn’t shy at all about instigating conversations, asking questions, and seeking tips. I got up to speed fast and and actually soon found myself more knowledgeable and capable than I was even as a youth. As a youth, I just wanted to jump right in, and throw whatever I had to work with at the fish, learning by trial and error. Now being a bit more mature and having the advantage of the internet, I really did my research, watched a lot of fishing videos, read a lot of blogs, and educated myself as best I good. I learned about different lures, when to use them, and how to work them properly. I learned about best times of day to fish, feeding habits of bass, and the best places to look for them. And I got some decent tips about good local fishing spots. Within a couple weeks I went from having very little luck, to being quite confident in being able to catch and take home a good meal whenever I wanted, only using artificial lures. But everything in nature is cyclical and changing as well. Fishing spots dry up. Techniques that worked yesterday don’t work today. So I also learned how to experiment, shift up my strategies, and continually read the waters for changing conditions. All in all, I’m pretty proud of myself for what I’ve learned and accomplished over the past month, and I’m deeply grateful that fishing is back in my life. I can’t wait to get back out west and apply the same effort to trout fishing. I did pretty well last year as it is, but them trout better watch out this year!
And for the record, I only use lures when I fish. I do still harbor a bit of an ethical hiccup in regards to catching and slaughtering fish, but I remind myself, that even time I catch a fish with a lure, that fish too was in the process of hunting and killing. It’s the classic “the hunter becomes the prey” scenario. There seems a certain fairness in that. But fishing with live bait is a whole other story. It sacrifices the life of an innocent middleman to hook the fish. It’s like saying, “Hey there little worm or minnnow, I’m going to kill you and sacrifice your life, so I can kill and sacrifice this guy too!” It’s just one more ugly step. I like to keep it pure and keep a little art in the sport. Still, I don’t exactly enjoy killing the fish, but I must say, I find fileting the fish to be oddly peaceful. I enjoy it quite a bit, I’ve gotten pretty good at it, able to pull nice, boneless filets off a bass or trout. And I certainly enjoy eating the freshest of fish. I’m convinced that when you eat a wild mountain trout or a strong-fighting bass, you receive a degree of its vigor and wildness, far more so than when eating a farmed, or store-bought fish. This lifestyle is making me strong and virile. As a balding 47 year old, it feels good, man.