Wednesday, April 11, 2018

You Don't Need a Fishing Guide. But Maybe Your Kid Does.

This awesome father/son moment (snook
on the line in Southern Florida, New Years
Day 2018) brought to you by a full price
licensed guide.  Well worth the money.
A brief search through the 10 years (yeeeeeears) of posts on this site will show any reader the total range of interaction I've had with hunting and fishing guides over the course of my 44 years.  The summary is that they love telling stories and don't let their duty to put clients "in the vicinity of" fish and game to distract from that story telling.  And that's without the Standard Guide poverty talk, leaning on his $50,000 custom truck, talking about how The Life is So Hard (while we drove to meet said guide in a 15 year old Tacoma with 3 different color panels on it).   Groan.  But you know what, there have also been spectacular human beings who have showed me spectacular experiences in the outdoors, empty coolers or not, and some of those human beings have been professional guides. 

Given that statement above - does it amount to a disclaimer? -  I suppose being a father in the outdoors has changed me in ways that are so intense and so strange that they have largely calmed my urge to write over the last two years.    Don't bother telling me you don't understand that sentence, because neither do I.    I have an intense and sometimes desperate longing within me to make those special outdoors memories that adult family members and kids, and right as my son is really feeling the dirt between his toes and the blood of the outdoors in his teeth, my slow-growing nonprofit career has finally erupted.  And thus we have a challenge.   Being the sole adult in charge of planning and leading a multi-mile hike that ends (halfway) with a rock climb with no permanent anchors is exhausting and wonderful.   

Good fishing trips are no different, and require a heavy amount of planning.  This is partly due to living in an urban area.   The kid can't walk down the street and catch a trout, or shoot a pheasant, or scale high quality granite.   But it's also partly due to Life.  You know, that part of life (in USFWS data) that shows that fewer than a quarter of Baby Boomer hunters taught their Gen X kids to hunt (and fewer than a third of those kids kept up in the sport as adults).   The part of Life where The Job takes you to Boston, and the hunt club you just joined has 80 members on 300 acres. Or for half of parents, the part of Life where you no longer get your kid's physical presence on half of weekends (or even less frequent).   "We need to recruit more hunters!"  Well, yeah.   With wages stagnant since July, 2000 (and cost of living very much not stagnant), most parents are just trying to survive.  

My Little Man with a nice redfish and
one of my favorite guides in Florida,
Capt. Justin with Native Salt
Something I landed on a few years ago was to get my kid engaged in the guided trips I take a few times per year.  Now, I've been on hunts where suddenly the "last invited guy" wants to suddenly "bring his 18 month old kid" on the hunt.  In 20 degree temps.   I'm not talking about that.  I'm talking about fishing (not hunting...yet) in a target rich environment where stress is minimized, and the normal parent-child tensions are eased (think about every time you've taught a kid a new skill, and the amount of crying and fighting involved).  

Now for all of you tough dads and moms huffing, "I'm the best teacher there is," I encourage you to search the web for things like "should I coach my own child," and of course, the answer is generally "no" if you want your child's skill to truly develop.    Reasons not to be the Boss of the Boat include:

1) You are less talented than you think;

2) You are probably too hard on your own kid when it comes to fishing/hunting; 

3) Recruitment requires fun, and if your kid's not having fun because Dad is breathing down their neck about trash in the boat (or whatever), it's less likely you're really building a person who loves the sport. 

So as you move into the spring (summer's coming too), and you just can't discern how you'll get your kid out to that honey hole for fishing or that hot spot for spring gobblers (first you've got to repair the tent, then, do we have a soccer conflict, etc etc etc), and you know all too well that the moment might pass without you getting your little guy or gal outdoors to make any new memories at all, I'm just suggesting for this moment, maybe this is the season you hire a guide, so you can sit back, watch your kid learn, and not have to worry about every single detail of the trip like you normally do.    It's not something I can afford to do on a regular basis but I'll tell you, it's increased the number of positive, even epic, outdoor memories for our family.  

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Over 12 years ago, I started this blog. There were very few conservation or outdoor blogs at the time, few websites with fast-breaking con...