Fishing is about the thrill of having life on the line and a deep desire to be outdoors. Catching is just a moment, but fishing takes all day, and sometimes all night. What makes you come back is watching bright satellites trace across the stars in the glow of the gathering dawn. Or having a few seconds of intense eye contact with a perched bald eagle.
The many hours spent on the water will always far outweigh the time waiting for the bite. It leaves a lot of time for cannabis.
Anglers huddle on the shore, take to canoes and kayaks or blast over the waves to reach their prey. It’s a four-season activity, too; many hearty souls while away the winter in ice shacks atop frozen lakes, or head out into cold and angry oceans. Such pursuits often create instant camaraderie among complete strangers, with a rod and a reel often serving as an international language. Add in a generously packed bowl, and friendships are forged.
As a hobby, fishing offers endless possibilities. Fly-fishing is contemplative, lure-fishing bass is more competitive and ocean fishing is for those who like to bring home dinner.
Then there’s the adrenaline rush of snagging a tuna, tilefish or tarpon, or even a 15-pound lake trout. You can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on equipment chasing sailfish, or have just as much fun hooking perch with a $15 rig.
As a kid growing up in New Jersey, fishing on the ultra-cheap was an adventure. We’d stand ankle-deep in the sloppy mud of local creek tributaries on steamy summer afternoons with hot dogs on our hooks, hoping to bring home fat catfish as our reward.
Sometimes we would pool our change and spring for a Styrofoam cup of worms, and, with small hooks and bobbers, we’d catch buckets of panfish. We didn’t have a taste for them, but our neighbor would pay us a few bucks for the catch and order us a pizza.
I was seven when my grandfather took me out on the ocean for the first time, to catch bluefish. For those without their own boat, another way to get salt-water bites is to hop on a local fishing “party” boat; I still take these today. From Massachusetts to Florida, California to Oregon, there’s a striking similarity of the rather senior-age weekday party boat clientele. Since stoners come in all ages, you’re bound to find us on these trips.
A party boat takes from 25–75 people out on the ocean for the day. Many on the boat are usually complete novices using rental equipment. Everyone stands at the rail trying to bag as many fish as possible. The party boat’s mates supply the bait, and also bring the fish in over the rail and clean them at the end of the day.
In April, on a trip 30 miles offshore for some large cod and haddock, I stepped out on deck into a cloud of familiar smoke. Three guys, all over 70, were passing a large joint. We talked for hours. They all had spent years in construction and toked all over the world. Seeing them on the bench, laughing in their rubber boots and puffing away, was a highlight. That day was also particularly memorable because everyone on the boat reeled in 20–35 pound cod.
Fishing also involves a fair amount of superstition. Like the dislike of bananas: The notion is that bananas somehow bring bad luck and a lean catch. Some captains and mates don’t care, but others check coolers and throw the offending fruit overboard at the dock, I kid you not.
I took up kayak fishing on larger lakes a few years back. The solo experience is challenging and meaningful. Safety is key. And absent the usual companions, the time becomes deeply meditative.
Drifting alone in the gentle wind, feeling the reassuring tug of the lure 30 feet below and buzzing all of one’s senses as you tune in to the moment is for the purist. No sonar, no motor. Imagination is the key; a mental picture of the creatures and watery terrain forms to help guide your cast calmly, and you await the strike.
Time spent fishing also makes room in my mind to consider all the things that get pushed out by the flurry of communication on a regular day. These moments, with a puff on a pipe or a pen, are perfect. It’s this precious time alone or with others that’s always the real catch.
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