The Many Stages of an Angler’s Life
As seen in the June issue of "Saltwater Texas"
The memory of an angler’s first rod and reel brings forth warm emotions along with many happy and animated stories. The Zebco 202, 303 and 808 is a common thread and have been in almost every fisherman’s hands at one time or another.
My first rod and reel, an indescript short metal rod with a Zebco 202, served me quite well. Hauling up countless bluegill and sunfish, it was a workhorse that probably held the same short piece of line for many, many years. No maintenance was necessary, or even thought of. Then one day, my Dad upgraded my Zebco 202 with a shiny Zebco 303. Branching out for bigger quarry, a heartier reel with more and better line was necessary. With a new, improved reel on the old metal rod, bigger quarry came into play. Catfish, carp and perch quickly took the place of little sunfish. A few years later, a new Shakespeare fiberglass rod and a Zebco 808 told everyone that I was an accomplished angler. With such fine equipment, the sky was the limit!
Wherever a fisherman begins, the learning process never ends. Versatility is the name of the game and becoming knowledgeable about all of the different styles of fishing, whether freshwater or saltwater, is key to being a strong and proficient angler.
The starting point for many saltwater anglers was probably shrimp under a popping cork, free-lining finger mullet caught with a cast net and a 5 gallon bucket or cut mullet soaked on the bottom. The goal of any angler’s first stage of fishing is to catch fish, any fish.
Getting proficient with a wide gap hook and some live or dead bait, anglers eventually move to the second stage of fishing. With limits of fish, an electric filet knife and baggies of filets on every outing this angler has progressed. Catching lots of fish, learning about specialized gear, line, tackle and techniques, the second stage angler starts to feel pretty good about finding and catching fish on a consistent basis.
Then, even though catching fish with bait is still great, all of a sudden, there is a feeling as though there must be something more. New to the tackle box that used to hold just hooks, weights and corks, there’s an additional tray with new top waters, plastics and spoons.
Venturing off out of the boat, wading forever shorelines in search of trout slicks, tailing reds and showering bait, this angler has moved to the third stage of fishing, the search for a trophy fish. No longer obsessed with baggies of filets or limits of fish, this fisherman wades untouched waters, searches lonely shorelines and reads the water for signs of the ultimate prey.
Once achieved, many anglers move to the fourth stage of fishing. The sunrise starts the day, relieving the mind and soul of stress and anxiety. Dolphins splash nearby and a camera is always handy. A few good shots at sightcasted fish or just a day spent with best friends or family make a fishing experience so much more than catching. The angler in the fourth stage of fishing just wants to be there, on the water, experiencing all that Mother Nature has to offer for the day, whether fish are caught or not.
Wherever you are in the four stages of fishing, there will always be more to learn, more to observe and an unlimited number of experiences to be cataloged. No day is like the previous and all are cherished. The lucky angler that strives for the fourth stage of fishing will be very richly rewarded.
See you on the water with a fly rod in my hand.