By Dylan Anderson, Government Affairs Intern
Here’s to all the teachers. My teacher is my dad, and while that is hardly unique, it is special all the same. My dad is the person who taught me patience – waiting for a fish to finally get hungry enough to eat my worm. My dad is the person who taught me sacrifice – rising well before dawn for the chance at a beautiful mallard. He taught me the importance of being still and appreciating the vibrant forest around me instead of merely staring at my fishing line all day. He also taught me some “wicked” dance moves to celebrate catching fish that I will never willingly replicate. He showed me the joy that comes from outdoor recreation and how special it is to share that experience with another person.
My dad has always been content to maneuver our fishing boat into the right spots so that I could catch fish rather than focusing on hauling in his own fish. He helped fix my snags, tied on hooks, switched my flies, and did all the nitty-gritty work of fishing so I could always have a line in to give myself a better chance of catching a fish. Even now, when I do get a fish, he is just as excited as I am and is probably the first one to yell “FISH ON!” to anyone close enough to hear (5-mile radius). He started me with simple, live-bait bass fishing at my grandparents’ house on the Niagara River. Later, he taught me the more advanced course of fly-fishing while we floated the San Juan River. All along the way, I have had a blast because my very own Mr. Miyagi puts me in the right spot to succeed and he celebrates each of my achievements as if they were his own.
I have also seen the damage a bad teacher can cause. My cousin, Gus, and I did a float trip with a cranky guide who couldn’t understand why Gus was no good at casting. We both told the guide that Gus had never fly-fished before and his cast would need some work. The guide repeated over and over “10 to 2” but I think after the first 10 times, he should have come up with another tip to help Gus’ casting form. Both Gus and the guide became audibly frustrated with the other, and by the end of the day Gus was just ready to get back on land and away from the guide. Sadly, Gus has never wanted to fly fish again, saying it was just no fun. That’s why I feel a positive experience is necessary to cultivate a passion for the outdoors, and a good teacher can do a lot to make that happen.
My dad has used our time fishing and hunting together to teach me conservation principles. He explained that I have a personal investment in conservation owing to my passion for hunting and fishing. That led to this year, when he sparked my interest in interning at Trout Unlimited for the summer. Most people look at me with confusion when I first say the name of this incredible organization, so I explain that I am giving a voice to our nation’s coldwater systems and the bellwether of their health: native trout.
Writing this piece made me think of my first experience with a pay-it-forward chain. I got up to the window at the McDonald’s drive through and the worker told me my food had been paid for by the car ahead of me. In my shock and confusion, all I could manage was a quick “thanks?” and I drove away. I broke that pay-it-forward chain in my ignorance, but I will not fail to pay forward the love of the outdoors, the joy of fishing, and the importance of conserving the resources that make outdoor recreation so special. One day, my children will receive the same lessons I learned from my dad, because everyone deserves a good teacher. In the meantime, I will try to spread the message to anyone ready to listen. If everyone can teach one other person how to fish, nature will be better off.