November 17, 2021

The Fish and The Birds

Finding The Right Angle

I have been a fisherman my whole life. As a child, that's how I bonded with my dad, and both of my grandads. As an outdoorsman, fishing has been one of my many conduits to commune with nature. It's one of the few activities I have practiced my whole life, and I find solace in that when I need grounding. Some people say fishing isn't about catching fish, it's about relaxing and enjoying the moment or whatever, but for me, when I am fishing I want to catch fish. After investing time in learning about their habitats and patterns, I became a pretty good fisherman. When I'm fishing I am not as relaxed as I am focused. I get tunnel vision and don't really think about much else besides what I need to do to catch the next fish. That focus is a form of therapy for me. I love that feeling when the rod bends over and you set the hook, fight the fish while reeling it in, and finally to hold the fish. The fish aren't always biting and if they aren't biting the best fisherman in the world can't catch them. I try my best techniques to convince them to bite, but it's ultimately out of my control. and that's what got me hooked.

  As much as I enjoy fishing, just being in the wilderness is my greatest joy. I spend a lot of time hiking through the woods and boating on the water. For the past 10 years I lived in a rural mountain community called the Red River Gorge. I spent a lot of time kayaking along the river that gives the name to the community. Floating down a lazy river is a wonderful way to experience up close and personal interactions with wildlife. After a family of River Otters inquisitively swam laps around our boats long enough for me to get out my phone and snap several blurry photos of them, I decided I needed to buy a quality camera to begin recoding these magical moments. That is when I got bit by the photo bug. From then on, my camera went everywhere with me and I began developing the skills to identify as a nature photographer. 

    Eventually I decided I wanted to see every inch of the 100 mile long Wild and Scenic Red River. I usually only paddled around 5 miles a day and went so slowly I really was able to experience every inch that wonderful river offered, and every inch offered something beautiful and unique. It was an adventure far greater than anything I could have imagined, and by the end of it something inside of me had changed. By the time I floated into the Kentucky River it it seemed as if the river was alive, like I could really feel it's pulse, the heartbeat of the community and the giver of life. I achieved such a connection with nature. 

   Several weeks later, after completing this mighty endeavor I felt a little lost. I needed something to occupy my free time and when I realized trout season had begun I decided to go fishing. Trout fishing had been my most recent fishing interest. Growing up a bass fisherman, I had it dialed in to catch bass, catfish, and most other farm pond or creek fish. But the trout had always eluded me. They were a challenge and I hadn't ever put in the time to figure it out. After moving to an area known for trout fishing, I decided it was time to learn. I spent all summer honing my techniques until I was a competent trout fisherman, tying my own flies and fly fishing hard to fish areas. 

   After a few casts I hooked a nice sized rainbow trout, reeled him in, netted the fish, and gazing upon my catch I felt guilt, worried the fish was stressed by my hand, and I released the wild animal with a pang of sadness, aware I had lost my penchant for this lifelong pastime of mine. For the next few years I continued developing my reputation as the predominant wildlife photographer of the Red River Gorge. My fishing tackle collected dust while my photography equipment collection grew and I promoted myself as a photographer.

   After a decade of peaceful mountain life, it was time for a change. I found myself living along the barrier islands of coastal Carolina. The upside to this move is the vast variety of maritime wildlife around here to captivate my photography interests, but the flip side is dangling world class fishing in front of me like a carrot on a stick. During the move it became obvious that I would succumb to my lifelong love of angling. It was inevitable. I smothered those feelings of guilt and sadness like a bad dream, as if my previous life never occurred. I took to salt water fishing like a duck to water, and have been saddened to observe my photography equipment collect dust while my new fishing tackle collection continues to grow. 

  I have by no means lost my interest for photography. It is a blend of being discouraged about marketing myself as a photographer and time management, choosing to spend what little free time I have going for that quick rush of the next big catch versus photoing nature to simply share on facebook. And perhaps by depriving myself of the values I'd developed back on the river, I have lost a little of my inspiration for celebrating wildlife through photography when I'd just assume be catching dinner. Ultimately I am looking for balance between both of these loves, a harmony that will sustain my life as a photographer and fisherman. I will keep you posted along my journey in the quest for harmony between these juxtaposed passions.