I have a vivid memory of my first time fishing the Montauk surf in a wetsuit. I remember, vividly, because I was fishing with a guy named Mike Coppola, who is about the most extreme surf fisherman you’ll ever meet (‘extreme’ here meaning crazy in a way that yields incredible results) and I was trying to follow Coppola out into the surf in a borrowed wetsuit.
He’d climbed up on a boulder off the beach, and was casting, when a wave caught me, picked me up, and pounded me on the Montauk sand hard enough to rattle a few ribs.
But I got up. I kept fishing. I share this story not to brag about some intense fishing experience, because truthfully I was pretty terrified, but because I think it demonstrates one of the most important things we learn as anglers from almost the first time we pick up a rod.
Fishing demands of us, more than anything else, that we be self-sufficient, resilient, that we bounce back. It’s very rare for any angler to catch a fish on his first cast, but even if he does, his ratio of casts-to-fish, even if he’s good, will be about 1,000-to-1 after that if he keeps at the sport for the rest of his life.
And more likely than not he’ll get pounded on the beach, fall through the ice (2003), get swept off a sandbar (2001, 2004, 2007, 20… you get the picture), lose his footing in a river (2004), get stuck in an electric storm (2010) and be closer to a hurricane than any human being without a death-wish would ever want to be (2012).
Which is to say that if you’re older than 12 and still love to fish, you’ve probably been battered around, soaked, frozen and exhausted.
And the reason these experiences are so valuable to anyone navigating this ‘life,’ thing we’re all stuck in, is because they’re demonstrative of a greater truth: No one, anywhere, attains anything worth pursuing without a little punishment or sacrifice.
And as fishermen we come to understand this fairly quickly and that truth becomes ingrained in us. So when we… say, apply for a job, ask out a girl (or guy), try out for a team or try something like… raising money to find a cure for cancer... we do not expect, at first, that we will be successful by any measure any more than we might expect to hook a fish on a first cast.
We understand, in fact we’re certain, that consistency, resilience, and faith are absolutely necessary in any endeavor we undertake.
And if that means picking ourselves up off the beach, getting a few ‘No’s, or even ‘no thank yous,’ being passed over, turned down or ignored, we understand that that’s no more personal than a fish passing on a lure, it’s just life. What’s more important, we understand that the reward after the effort is almost always worth it, and then some.
And we make another cast, effort or attempt. And then another.