Life is too short to put off fishing with friends

Michael Condon
Staff Writer

For pretty much all of my life I have been out-fished by some of my good friends. Who needs friends like that?

It seems like I should have dropped the sport or those friends in favor of maintaining my personal dignity a long time ago.

But I didn’t. My friends and my fishing have always been too important to me.

My fishing humiliation started with my best childhood friend, Tom. Tom and I fished together a lot starting in grammar school. We would fish the same water using the same bait. And he would out-fish me. He did it consistently. It was rude.

I should have stopped fishing with him. But he was my best buddy, and my pride convinced me his out-fishing me was just a fluke. So I kept fishing with him. And he kept out-fishing me.

Eventually I started watching him closely. Even though he didn’t seem the competitive sort, I knew he must be cheating somehow.

He wasn’t cheating. But I did learn a few things by watching him closely.

The first big lesson was that details matter. We would use the same lures in the same water and he would catch more fish.

I finally figured out that he was using a 4-pound line where I was using an 8-pound line. I thought 8-pound test line would give me a leg up when the big one hit. He knew that 4-pound line was less likely to spook the fish and gave his lure a more life-like action.

He was right.

I started using 4-pound test line. I began catching more fish, but still not as many as Tom.

Then I noticed he would lift his rod slightly and then lower it slowly while retrieving his lure to give it a little extra flutter.

So I started to do that.

I caught more fish, but still not as many as Tom.

Then I realized that while I was watching him to learn clues to his success, he was watching the water, his rod and his line. He was focused.

So I started doing that.

I caught more fish, but still not as many as Tom.

I learned a lot from Tom. But he nearly always caught more fish than I did.

He taught me that details matter, and that focus matters.

Tom was the pinball wizard of fishing. I could do everything just like Tom and he was still likely to catch more fish than I caught.

Fortunately Tom never really cared who caught more fish. He just wanted to go fishing. That and our close friendship made him the perfect fishing partner.

Tom and I stayed close friends for a long time. We were roommates in college. He was the best man in my wedding.

e showed up a little late to the wedding and riding a horse, but as far as I could tell he and the rest of the groomsmen were fairly sober. I was relieved for that.

But then thinking back, I never knew him to show up late to go fishing.

A few decades and many fishing trips and campfires later, Tom was working at a fishing resort in Montana. We had big plans to do lots of fishing together once I finally retired.

I knew he would still out-fish me. I was OK with that. I knew I had more to learn from Tom and I was anxious to spend some time sharing some more rivers and campfires with him.

Somewhere along the way Tom got cancer. It caught up with him before I retired. We never got to share those rivers and campfires we were planning on.

I miss Tom, but even in the end he was still teaching me.

Details matter. Focus matters. And don’t put off that next fishing trip; life is too short.

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