I can remember a long way back, to my early fishing days as a kid. I had the good fortune of living close by some ponds and streams that offered good opportunities for bluegill, warmouth, bass and crappie.
I remember how excited I was to get to go, but not too many details about the learning process that took place.
My dad introduced me to fishing, which probably covers a large majority of anglers. I remember the first couple of fishing poles I was able to play around with, and the practice casting I would do in the backyard. I took the reels apart to clean them, and for the most part got them back together in working condition again. I put fresh line on, and whenever possible, would buy a few things at the local hardware store. There certainly were no Bass Pro Shops around in those days! But I was easy to please; a few floats, some swivels and snelled hooks kept me in good shape for several years when I was just big enough to cast and actually hit water.
So the technical aspects of fishing were shared by my dad, and the practical application of bait fishing. The eventual transition to artificial lures came from a variety of folks with suggestions to offer.
I needed to know what the rod was for and how to use it to my advantage, how to work that push-button Zebco 202 reel, and most importantly, how to deal with the inevitable line tangles that come with a novice fisherman's early efforts.
I was in upper elementary school grades when a couple of guys introduced me to inline spinning lures, such as the Shyster and Mepps. And it didn't take long to move me into using these lures more and more. Oh, I still used live shiner minnows for crappie, because I hadn't been shown a jig quite yet. Feathered jigs would soon be added to my small, metal tackle box, and I discovered it would do a great job catching all kinds of fish. However, I was still struggling with line issues, which I've found are not that uncommon to anyone. But I was becoming a more rounded angler every season.
I continued to use spinners for bass until I was shown a plastic worm, then I concentrated pretty heavily on that for a while. Using no additional weight most of the time, I'd slow-swim that worm through cover and moss beds and did quite well with it. The bass and crappie, I found, were now teaching me about fishing. And I was a pretty avid student at this game. So things changed up for me as the fish I chased began to teach me more and more about my favorite pastime.
I learned that I could fish spinners at different speeds, and that the violent strikes were usually met with an immediate hook set, while the plastic worm had to be given a few seconds before the rod was lifted up into an arch. I had a confidence fish in those days, when I needed to get into a real catching mode after slow periods during the heat of summer. And that was bluegill. I learned what their bedding areas looked like, and would catch them quite easily on a bit of worm or a small jig worked slowly across the bottom. I still have a need for a confidence fish or particular water where I can generally depend on catching fish.
Once I was old enough to get my first little fishing boat, I discovered the excitement of striped bass fishing in the mouths of creeks and around river eddies that tended to draw in baitfish. These were among the first fish I really began to keep to eat, and they were delicious. But of course, I had to be taught to clean fish, too. I had a neighbor who did a lot of crappie fishing, and he showed me the particulars about scaling and gutting fish in preparing them for the frying pan.
I didn't do too much trout fishing back in the south, because the mountain streams were a good distance from my home. And until I learned to drive and could afford gas, I didn't chase them too often. But here in Utah I've been able to expand my trout chasing habits into close-by adventures. I love the variety of fishing available here, and how you can pursue warm-water or cold-water species as you see fit. And I still learn something every time I go out.
So nailing down just one source of fishing information and knowledge, as I graduated from one level to another in the sport of fishing, is hard to do. Too many folks and factors played a role in the long-term learning that took place since the days I was just a little guy. And I'm very thankful for all those influences. I hope I can return the favor to the fullest extent.
Brad Kerr is an avid angler who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.