One of the special things about fishing is that it matters to different people in different ways for different reasons. While we all might agree that any day on the water is a great day, I’ve come to believe there are five certain elements that, when added together, equal the best and most memorable fishing experiences. I’m interested in what others think, but here are my five elements of a great fishing day:
5. I catch something. I know, I know. There’s supposedly this level of nirvana where anglers don’t really care about catching fish. If that’s true, I’m not there yet. But I am at a point where I don’t really care how many I catch. It’s more about the how and not the how many.
4. I see something. It’s important to look around a bit when you’re out there on the water. Sometimes you’ll see things — a soaring eagle, a playful otter, a laughing child — that impress memories more lasting than anything that might land in your net. I once had a duck-billed platypus pop up and give me the once-over, just a few feet away as I was fishing the Mersey River in Tasmania. I don’t really remember anything else about the fishing from that day.
3. I share something. It’s pretty consistent that my favorite days are ones I share with friends and family. Sharing stories, trading casts, swapping flies. That sort of stuff matters more and more with every trip I take. Sure, I will say that there is also something to be said about solitude and connecting with your own thoughts while out on the water. But those thoughts that come from the river are often things I share down the road. (I’m doing it right now).
2. I remember something (or someone). So much of my time on the water is spent remembering special people and places from experiences that happened before. Some of those people are gone now, and I think it’s warming to watch a fish eat, and then think thoughts like “I’m pretty sure Charlie is watching me now.” Or to step into a stream and think, this looks a lot like the river I grew up fishing. The memories are the most important “keepers.”
And 1. I learn something. That doesn’t necessarily have to come from a guide or another angling companion. If you fish long enough, and keep your eyes peeled, you realize that the greatest teachers of all are often the fish themselves. If I can watch the river long enough to head home scratching my head and thinking, “Jeez I didn’t realize the fish would do that…” I count that as a win.
Experience all five of those things together on the same day, and that’s my “trophy” experience.