A Gazette for Those Who Fish, Work at The Theatre, and The Sinews of Their Lives
There is so much out there to make us feel bad, such a variety of things, so much that we cannot change, and one thing that never changes is the penchant for us old folks to disparage and despair of the young. About whom we are usually and historically wrong. To our dismay, these kids simply will not be like us, even when they are fond of us. They insist on going their own way, while we go on in our own, for them, wrong ways. And history always seems to come out on their side, as It came out on yours and mine.
Having said this, as both confession and preamble, I enter now upon my own lament about (or on behalf of) the young, hoping to be wrong, maybe….
Two new “fishing magazines” came in the mail last week. I sat down with them only to end up tossing them aside in sullen discouragement. It felt to me like our fishing’s gone to the dogs.
We’re bombarded in every field-sports publication by the many and frantic efforts to get kids out there fishing and hunting, to teach them, convert them, instruct them, even in their school rooms. The movement has gone evangelical.
My hunch is that it’s in vain, that these newer generations will never fish as we old-timers have fished, let alone think of fishing as we have thought of it. The new “tackle” clutched in their hands will not be a fly rod, but an iPhone. That kid, standing there on the corner is receiving and sending texts, not dreaming of a new fly rod.
Still the hue and cry is to get those “damned kids” out of the malls and away from their hand-helds and out fishing-- if not for their own good, then for the future good the of sport-- especially for the greater good of corporate profit.
The battle may already be lost.
I think the effort to convert kids to the field sports is at root disingenuous. The motives of its movers and shakers are impure: they need the kids to support and guarantee the future of the industry, what with all the allied fly shops, guides, and resorts. We look with dismay at that kid walking the mall who carries the entire world electronically in his hand. He angles his world at will and almost for free. We old-time anglers simply can’t compete and can only stand by and wish we could yank the smart phone from his hand. We want him to memorialize that “barefoot boy with cheek of tan”,* with a cane pole and a
can of worms, sauntering down a muddy road to the old fishing hole. But that kid is gone forever-- as are his country-keeping parents. There is no rural America left where a kid can discover the field sports in his own sweet way. There is little to nothing left of that casual, unsupervised, impromptu, and safe way for a kid to go fishing on his own, let alone her own. No way for them to accomplish the devotion and concentration that fishing needs.
We also have to realize, I think, that for the first time, perhaps, in the history of human culture, kids do not much want to live the life that their parents lived. You and I may have had our spates of rebellion and wanted things different from our folks, but their way remained the same, safe way of life that we knew and wanted for ourselves. We lived within that continuity and tradition.
Not that these kids today know what it is they want instead of what they have (did we?). Going fishing with Dad hasn’t the appeal that it once had. Other social constituencies have come to understand this, but not the angling and hunting community, in which thinking about social issues has never been a long-suit.
When we were kids, we lived closer to what we could see was the source of our daily bread. We understood what our fathers did for a living to support us. And we tended to respect it. And, if Dad fished, it must be a good thing: such was the dynamic of our culture.
But not any more. We manufacture, actually make less and less. We appear to compute everything in obscure offices—somewhere. Our lives have tended to become abstracted from a productive, work-a-day substantial reality. We become digital in our satisfactions and leave the rest to China.
And, as if this were not enough, demographics are running against all the field sports. Ethnicities are on the rise that have little tradition of the field sports. Not even the kids may be able to save us….
While saving much of our fishing from the ravages of population and physical abuse, we have done it considerable internal harm, even as deep as to its ageless meaning.
A smart-phone along side a fly box…? You choose. That world-encompassing electronic devise is the way into a future that I deny at the peril of the most mortal part of me. Just watch my oncologist study me on his screen!
So, I say that if the kids show little interest in fishing, leave ‘em be, and well may they prosper.
*John Greenleaf Whittier’s poem “The Barefoot Boy” (1885) immortalized this American symbol.