Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What floats your boat to Mayberry?

The passing of Mayberry’s Andy Taylor (aka, stage and screen star Andy Griffith) got me thinking about how the simple things in life can often be the most rewarding. It also caused me to reflect on a subject I’ve been turning over in my head for some time now: fishing. Not so much the act of fishing as why it holds such a broad appeal.
To be clear, I’m referring to angling, which is what most of us think of when it comes to fishing. Anglers typically use rods, reels, hooks, lines, sinkers, baits, lures, floats, etc. This kind of fishing can be as high tech or simple as you desire or can afford. And it can be conducted purely for recreation or for more serious pursuits, like feeding your family.
I rarely fish. Okay, I haven’t been fishing since I was Opie’s age. Still, I’ve watched with amazement at how so many different kinds of people have such a deep passion for the activity. Whether it’s a fishing hole, pond, stream, river, lake, marina or even ocean, I have witnessed folks everywhere I’ve lived casting their lines into the water. From smaller places like Battle Creek and Dayton to major cities like Houston and Los Angeles, people were always fishing. From the look of them, they came from all walks of life. Yet, so often times they were doing it shoulder to shoulder.
Funny how it’s so easy for folks to get it in their heads that they’re so different from each other. Oh, it’s true people come from diverse backgrounds, have wide-ranging personalities, preferences and all. But those are just details. It’s my position that most people share more in common than they realize. My observation of people fishing seems to bear that out.
Not a lot of talking that goes on. In its place I have sensed a quiet force that binds them, an apparent unity of purpose. On some occasions I’ve overheard conversations though. They’ll go on about the best places to go; the most effective lures to use and why. Then there are the inevitable tales about the one that got away.
Is it the tranquility of the pastime that promotes the seeming harmony I’ve witnessed? Fishing is something everyone in the family can do – sometimes together. Maybe it’s the restorative effect fishing has that draws people to it. They comment about the ‘power’ of water, running or standing, and the lap of the waves. They refer to the sun and the smell of the fresh outdoors, how it stays with you; the anticipation of the next catch, not knowing what you’re going to get.
Then there’s the range of folks I’ve seen fishing: female, male; old, young; poor, rich; all races, all colors; small, large. You describe them, I’ve seen them fish. Sometimes alone; other times strung together along a bank, pier or bridge. Here’s a riddle: what happens when you put two people from wildly different backgrounds in a row boat on the water? They fish.
Maybe it’s the power of nature. Some who fish claim a purity and simplicity around the activity; others describe its restorative effect. Fishing is a great way to stay healthy. It’s grocery shopping with a pole; a pastime where trade secrets are passed down and stories are shared. Or silence is enjoyed.
We’ve all been to Mayberry. Not the small Southern town but the place in our mind where we experience and appreciate the simple life. Some get there by fishing. I get there by mountain bike. How do you get there?

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