I had an experience this week while fishing that threw me off my focus a bit. I had it set in my mind that I wanted to fish a specific feature on a specific reach of the Gunpowder River. I arrived at the parking area, and there were only a few cars. I thought I may be able to have the reach to myself and enjoy some quiet reset time. I had caught my personal best brown on the Gunpowder there a year or so earlier, and I was hoping for similar success. As I hiked up to the spot, I found two younger guys with their dogs splashing around and loudly enjoying the water, which made me grumpy. I put on my best smile and waved and said hi; they were not happy to see me either. They had grumbly responses and seemed pretty annoyed by my presence. I was hoping I did not have the poor poker face they did, but I probably did. I turned around and fished upstream of them and moved away from where they were.
I know it’s a heavily pressured stream, and this time of year there are multiple recreational activities that utilize the resource. Hikers, dog walkers, swimmers, tubers, and kayakers frequently are on the river and the adjacent trails. Our parks and public natural resource spaces are a tremendous gift to all of us and offer a chance to enjoy nature. When the areas get crowded, they lose one aspect of the fishing experience I really enjoy: solitude.
I fished moving away from the pair. It seemed as if they were getting louder each minute as I was still in their line of sight. This may have been entirely in my head, but I definitely felt like they were trying to push me away with noise. I imagined them as a younger version of Statler and Waldorf from the Muppets, a peanut gallery hurling noise instead of insults. I wondered if I was becoming the grumpy old man and if they thought I was the peanut gallery. The competing uses of the resource and the expectation of uninterrupted time created an awkward space for me. I felt off and I started to ruminate a little on how annoyed I was and how those youngsters had no respect. I am the grumpy old man (certainly using the word “youngsters” is proof of that!). When did that happen? I casted into a tree, got hung up on a snag, and lost two flies. I was starting to not have a good time.
So I moved around the bend, out of sight of the two guys and sat down to re-rig. I concentrated on tying good knots and on taking my time, breathing slowly and imagining a nice take and hook set. I thought about a couple YouTube videos I have seen with Scott Major (Pa Woods and Water) and Benny P. (Lively Legz) and how gracious and kind they are to people who walk up and speak to them while fishing. I generally am quieter and more reserved on the water. I only speak to other fishermen when it clearly seems like they want to chat. But I admire the kindness and openness they show on the water. I then thought about the comments I have seen on different YouTube channels and blogs that are finding fault and picking at minor slip ups or even worse exploding into some attack on ideals. I had a lot of brain traffic for just tying on a new rig.
I mentally landed on understanding that people need some safe space. Projecting my disappointment on someone else isn’t fair. I had been in a conversation with my kids earlier in the week about giving people space, understanding that our wants and needs can’t always be met and to find ways to compromise and be a team, especially when our resources are limited. We talked about looking at situations as a grandparent might, with patience and understanding. I needed to follow my own advice.
I cast into the run and caught my first fish. My mood lifted. I moved upstream and caught a couple more fish. I ran into a guide and his client and spoke with both of them, sharing pleasant conversation and wishing them well. I was proud I didn’t give my experience over to the peanut gallery in my head. It’s a hard thing to have our expectations interrupted and to receive negative feedback. Sometimes it becomes a lot to handle in the moment. In those times it may be helpful to sit on the bank, re-rig, and appreciate your blessings.