Recently, while covering the Bassmaster Elite Series event in Charles County, Md., a friend gave me some of the best advice I’ve ever been given.
It was old advice — something I’ve been hearing and preaching to others myself for years. But I guess I needed a reminder.
The advice: When you go fishing, leave your troubles behind.
Folks, when it comes to heart-to-heart, rental-car consultations, it doesn’t get any better than that.
See, I walk around with a lot of anger.
I have precious twin toddlers who have both been diagnosed with autism. Since I was 41 when they were born — and since the odds for autism increase substantially in children born to older fathers — I stay mad a lot.
I know it’s an irrational anger. Deep down in my heart I know there’s nothing I could have changed to make things easier for them.
But try telling yourself that when you’ve got two kids that just don’t act like everybody else’s. Try telling yourself that when — even if you didn’t mean for it to happen — it really is your fault to some degree.
It’s been especially bad lately with the twins getting older.
I see smiles all the time - and I cherish them all. But they’re almost 3 years old now, and I’ve never heard the words “daddy” or “bye” or “I love you.” Between the two of them, their vocabulary consists of “eat, outside, stop” and “done.”
The idea of them not having the same opportunities as other chidlren is hard to stomach. The idea of them being mistreated by society infuriates me.
With no one to really blame, sometimes the anger boils over onto those around you. It’s kind of like yelling at the dog because you’re mad at the cat when neither of them actually did anything wrong.
I don’t usually air out my problems in print. I like to write with the philosophy made famous by college football coaching legend Lou Holtz.
He said, “Don’t tell other people about your problems, because 80 percent don’t care and the other 20 percent are glad you got ‘em.”
But I’m telling you all of this to make the point that, as fishermen, we’re blessed with a built-in escape from these kinds of troubles and worries. It’s not a permanent escape or a genuine remedy for anything. But I firmly believe a three-hour fishing trip at just the right time can add years to your life.
It gives you some time to clear your head and recharge your battery.
It gives you a chance to talk with God — if you have some catching up to do — and a chance to channel some of that anger into hook sets instead of using it to pick fights with your wife about a dirty kitchen that you helped dirty up as much as anyone.
As anglers, we have been given this gift — a passion for a sport that can serve so many purposes.
It’ll feed your family, whether you’re bringing home fish for the table or big tournament checks to fill the fridge like Justin Lucas did at the Potomac.
It’ll allow you time together with your family and friends or some time to yourself.
It’ll give you a sense of exhilaration and a sense of peace all at one time.
Your troubles will still be waiting for you when you get back to the dock.
But if you handle things right on the water that little bit of relief you gained will make them easier to tackle. It'll make you more of a rock for those in your life to lean on.
So take my advice.
Go fishing, and leave your troubles at the boat launch.
I got my friendly reminder last week.
Consider this yours.