There’s this tiny picture of me at an incredibly young age in Colorado just after I caught my first fish. Since I don’t remember, the story says that I absolutely lost it with excitement when I caught that fish. Even though I don’t remember that moment, I can definitely picture it. I can see myself jumping up and down after I first felt that feeling on the line of something moving and caught. There is no feeling in the world like catching a fish and reeling it in. The whole world could be burning down around you, but when that fish is on, you are completely in the zone. It is moments like these that solidify my love for fishing.

I have been lucky enough to go deep-sea fishing in Alaska. I know this next statement is geographically off base, but going out there in that little boat made me feel like I was a character in Old Man and the Sea (my favorite book). It was a completely different type of fishing than I was used to. You basically have to drop your line down about 200-300ft and while the boat is drifting, continue to bob your line up and down while dodging heightening ocean floor. The hook on these lines is gigantic, so if you get stuck on the bottom, the whole boat is stuck. Well, of course in learning anything, you fail a lot at the beginning. Snag after snag after snag. But I stuck with it, and the first fish I caught was a 5 foot long gnarly looking fish that looked like it was directly out of the dinosaur age. The second fish…a 90 lb halibut. When I set the hook on what I thought was a fish…it didn’t move. Immediately I thought I was hooked up on the bottom again…but that fish lifted up off the ocean floor and for the next 45 minutes I was in agony trying to get this thing to the boat. On a quick side note, a few days later I brought a halibut to the boat that was twice the size and was estimated to be around 200lbs…but by awful luck my dads fish sawed off my line and the prize went swimming away. So is life. Anyways, I spent 8 days in Alaska fishing my heart out catching unbelievable amounts of fish. I was in heaven, and I learned an incredibly amount through that experience. When you are fishing for small 8lb black bass, it’s really easy to real them in and get them to the boat. When you are fishing for 100+ lb halibut, you are going to have the time of your life trying to get it to the boat. Your back will be on fire, you will be in pain, you will be tired, but the feeling when you get that thing to the boat is pure joy and astonishment. So is life…you have little goals they will be easy to accomplish…you have big goals…you will have to put in the blood, sweat, and tears to rein it in. You will want to give up, but there is something deep inside your mind saying…keep going…this is going to be huge.

I stream fish a lot at Calaveras Big Trees State park in the Sierra Nevada. I have been going there with my dad ever since I was a kid. At a young age, I developed a knack for reading river water and how to “present a worm to a fish.” Often it was me and my dad fishing side by side. I will always remember the things he taught me both verbally and from watching him. These are some of the things I learned.

  1. Be gentle, but when the time comes, strike hard and fast: Fishing is not a power sport. You do not need rippling biceps or huge forearms to be a good fisherman. You need soft, quick hands. When you cast your line into the water, and you are watching it drift down the river, if you have soft hands you can feel every single bump and nibble on the end of your line. There is this almost complete easy of tension in the body, but a heightening sense of anticipation as you can almost “feel” when the fish is about to bite. When that fish does finally take the bait, you strike hard and fast and all of your patience has paid off. A great majority of the time in stream fishing once you firmly set the hook you will bring the fish to the rocks. Everyone once in a while though, you will catch a fish that completely throws you off guard. Those are the thrilling experiences.
  2. Line in the water: The more you throw your line in the water, the better chance you have of catching something. This may sound like a “duh” moment, but let me explain a little further. In life, if you are out to accomplish great things you need to constantly keep trying every single day. Because, at least what I have found, life is going to life you. You are going to get thrown down, beaten up, dust in your eyes, discouraged…but as long as you keep getting up and trying again, something eventually will stick. Same thing with fishing. I have had some terrible days fishing up until a couple of hours before we were going to leave, and then I absolutely killed it. We call it “fissssing” when we don’t catch anything. Well the general rule is…never fissss. To not fisss is to not give up. Keep trying and keep throwing that line in the water. Eventually, something will stick and you will catch something. Achieve your goals. You are not always going to achieve them right off the bat, but if you keep writing them down and trying, you will get there.
  3. Take Risks: I tease my dad every time we go fishing about fishing upstream from me so if he ever falls in I can pull him out. He has an incredible knack for falling into the river. But here’s why. As ungraceful as he can be sometimes, he is not afraid to take a risk to get to a rock which could be the perfect place to catch the biggest fish of them all. He has had some spectacular moments eating it into rocks and into the river. But every time he gets back up. Take a risk. You might get hurt, but physical and pain in the ego is nothing compared to the great rewards you can achieve.
  4. Happiness: Do what makes you happy. If fishing makes you happy, then go fishing. If lifting makes you happy, then lift your heart out. If writing every single day….you get the point. It is your life. Live it how you want to. In the end you are the final judge of how you lived your life. When I am on my death-bed, I want to be completely burned out and exhausted, and say “What a wonderful life.” I think the concept of death is so scary for people because they see it as an end to something. But I personally have come to feel that if you lived so much in the time that was allotted to you and gave it everything you had, then you will live on with the people who you touched. The physical may be gone, but the heart grows stronger and the memories become solidified. You better believe that I will be writing in a blog or whatever medium comes to exist when I am 110. When that time comes, I will look back and smile.

The more you put your line in the water, the better chance you have of catching something. There is no doubt that you will catch something. You just have to keep trying and trying and trying. Live your heart out. Ask yourself why you do what you do and learn from yourself each and every day. I am starting to learn that I love writing in the mornings because I wake up and feel that my mind has been cleared through sleeping at night . today is such a fantastic opportunity to go out there and win. Win at being you. Win at achieving your goals. Win at life. And if you only remember one thing from this entire post, its to continue fishing for the big one.

Evan Sanders
The Better Man Project