Go Fish

fish670I would never have thought it possible: I have gone–what?–maybe twenty years since the last time I held a fishing pole.

Growing up southern and outdoorsy, there were not many weeks go by I did not either go or desperately long to go fishing.

In this theatrical pondside image from our recent Missouri trip, I have just caught my umpteenth hybrid bluegill on a bare hook. All together, they might have weighed a pound. Where were those 3 pound catfish we fed in that same pond the day before?

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I once had the opportunity to have a dinner-chat with Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods. We quickly found common ground (imagine!) on the topic of fishing. It was the mystery of what lay below the surface of any pond, river, surf or lake that “hooked” both of us initially into a life-long fascination with and devotion to the restorative powers of the outdoors.

And so, having pulled in these lunkers last week, smelling the wonderful stink of fish on my hands, hooking my first earthworm in a quarter century, feeling the tug on the line from the invisible–having fished: I am a better man.

The bad news: too many kids have put themselves on house arrest, a sequester reinforced by outdoor-indifferent, overprotective parents (who don’t and probably never did fish growing up.)

The good news: fishing skills, knowledge and encouragement is happening, even in the schools! I do know that the Blue Ridge Discovery Center in Grayson County is supporting such programs in our area.

So the bottom line: if you used to fish and don’t any more, reconsider. And when you wet your first line again, have one or more children beside you. It could very well change the course of the rest of their young lives. And we so desperately need earth-advocates more than we need more shoppers, consumers and phobics!

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. My 20 year old grandson loves to fish, but does not get to do it often. His father used to take him, but he has been out of the picture for many years. I know he is sad when he fishes now; remembering the past when it was good.