“Get the net.”
Three words and I knew. Whatever it was, it was big and it was my job to scoop it out of the water and into the boat. It was my job to land the fish. I was eleven years old and no stranger to fishing, yet every time I heard Mr. Jedele calmly say those words, my heart would pound through my chest as I carefully made my way to the stern with the net, reviewing my job in my head…
Don’t show the fish the net too soon.
Don’t get tangled up.
Don’t get in the way.
Don’t go from the top.
Don’t be afraid.
Don’t let it get away.
I spent a lot of summers up in Spooner Wisconsin with the Jedele family, and every morning at 5 a.m. Mr. Jedele would ask a cabin full of people if they wanted to go fishing, I was always good for a yes.
We would fish for hours, mostly in silence, but it was what I observed that taught me the finesse of hooking a walleye and the art of reeling in a feisty northern pike. In silence, I learned what kind of bait certain fish prefer, how to set up my rod and reel, and how to tie a clinch knot.
Sometimes we would fish for hours without one bite. Other times we could hardly keep them from jumping in the boat. We went in the rain and the cold. I lost a few big ones. I got tangled up a lot. But with every new adventure my confidence, curiosity and love for fishing grew.
There’s just something about fishing that’s so good for the soul. My stomach gets excited. I lose track of time. My troubles disappear. It’s peaceful out there; waiting, wondering and watching for what might surface, even if it’s nothing at all.
Through all my years, here’s what I’ve learned from fishing…
YOU WILL GET STUCK IN THE WEEDS: There will be times when you are stuck. Don’t stay stuck. Pull. Tug. Back up. Go full speed ahead. If none of this works, cut the line.
LET THE FISH BITE; FEEL THE WEIGHT: If you don’t have patience, you could pull away right as something amazing is about to happen. Wait for it…wait…just wait.
BE QUIET: You can say a lot by being quiet and learn a lot too.
GET THE NET: Catch the people you love when they fall. Reel them in when they are drifting away, and dive in after them if you have to.
YOU’RE NOT GUARANTEED A FISH: Just because you did everything right, doesn’t mean things won’t go wrong. If you fail, try again. If you keep failing, get a guide.
BRING OARS AND LIFE PRESERVERS: Be prepared.
EVERYONE HAS A FISH STORY: Listen to people around you; especially the older ones. You’re going to miss the way they told their stories when they’re gone. Learn the story and add your own flavor to it, but never forget the moral or the punch line.
A BIG ONE WILL GET AWAY: You are going to lose repeatedly. The biggest victory you can make is conquering your reaction to disappointment and adversity.
LEARN TO SET UP YOUR OWN ROD AND REEL: Don’t expect someone else to pay your way. Self-sufficiency is priceless.
DON’T BE EMBARRASSED TO USE A BOBBER: If you’re sinking, ask for help. Sometimes we need others to help keep us afloat until we can cast again.
JUST ENJOY BEING IN A BOAT: Sit. Listen. Look. Be in the moment, because every moment, the moment is gone.
DON’T GIVE UP TOO SOON: Stick it out. Try different things; a new angle. Exhaust all of your options.
TAKE THE FISH OFF THE HOOK: Don’t let other people do your dirty work and don’t hang around with people who ask you to do theirs.
TRY NEW SPOTS: Don’t stay in the same place for too long; especially if nothing is happening.
LET SOMEONE ELSE REEL IT IN: Let someone else shine. Give someone a moment they’ll never forget. Be generous and kind.
No matter what, you can't catch anything if you don't get out on the water.
For the Jedele family. Thank you for letting me reel it in, for your kindness and generosity; and for all that bait. (John, Mary, Karen, Joanne, Donna )
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