By Chad LaChance
Quick, what is the most positive thing you can do to ensure the great outdoors are there for future generations? Joining a conservation organization such as Trout Unlimited or the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is a good plan and there are lots of others to choose from if you’re not into one of those two. You could also join a fishing tournament organization like B.A.S.S. that has a conservation arm. That way you can support conservation and get your derby on at the same time. Joining both types of organizations is a great idea, but the simple and most personally satisfying way to really ensure that fishing and hunting is viable in the future is to promote the outdoor sports now to those people that you have the best possibility of positively influencing. That means, of course, the people closest to you.
Let me preface the rest of this column by saying that I’m not one to discuss politics. Having said that, I personally feel that, despite a modest increase in hunting and fishing participation over the last five years, at no time in America’s history has hunting and fishing been under more attack. That doesn’t only mean direct political attack, rather politics combined with an assault by a myriad of activities vying for our limited time and attention. As we as a society become cyber-dunces, we get farther from our roots in the natural world and less able to connect with nature at all, thereby making it less valuable in our minds. We’ve been lead to believe that experiencing something “virtually” is as good as being there and of course, those propagating this myth are very good at making alternatives fun to boot.
You and I are largely immune to the charms of the “bunny hugger” groups seeking to maliciously affect our heritage or the marketing guru’s slowly dummying us down electronically. We are resistant because we already understand the allure of a fishing trip with friends, time alone in the woods or a meal we harvested ourselves. But you know what? Our kids aren’t. Many of our neighbors aren’t. Geez, even some of our own family members don’t understand our desire to be one with nature. All those folks are the low hanging fruit in preserving the outdoors for generations to come.
I’m hear to say that the most positive thing you can do to ensure access in the future is to help other’s experience the outdoors now – Like right now!
It’s early spring as you read this. Spring is a time of revitalization, so now is as good of time as any to take charge of the future today. Commit to introducing as many new people to the outdoors’ experience as you can. To be blunt, use the simple joys of fishing to get others hooked on your addiction.
During a case study in a marketing class in college, we studied a company named Nike. Nike figured out years ago that marketing shoes to kids was the most cost affective demographic because kids were the easiest to influence, would spread that influence to other kids virally and would remain loyal to childhood brands into adulthood. Why reinvent the wheel? Instead, why not take kids fishing. Influence them while they’re young and very impressionable. Let them help spread the outdoors gospel through their ring of friends and carry that passion into adulthood.
If you have kids of your own, take them if you haven’t already. Better yet, find out which of their friends haven’t been fishing and invite them to join you on a local, easy outing. The younger they’re introduced, the better, but in my experience if the kids are younger than about 10, make sure to focus on the overall riparian environment and all it’s flora and fauna, not just the fishing. Come to think of it, that’s good advice while fishing with any newbie.
Don’t have kids? Take a non-fishing friend and their kids. Or do what we’ve done – Call a local youth mentoring group and ask them to get you a couple of mentor/kid combos. The organization will be thrilled to hear from you, I promise. In both those cases, teach the adult the basic concepts and use of tackle. They can then take the kids fishing in the future without you.
Even taking an open-minded adult (A rarity, I know, but worth seeking out) fishing is beneficial. They may be harder to hook for life, but stranger things have happened. At the very least, they will have some idea of what the sport is all about and if you are lucky enough to catch a suitable fish for consumption, by all means cook it for them. They’ll see the practical side of angling if nothing else.
Speaking of eating your catch, I personally believe that the whole “Catch-n-Release” movement has hurt participation in some ways. Selective harvest, especially with new anglers tagging along, brings the whole experience full circle and adds real world value. Sharing well-prepared game with non-hunters can have the same effect.
One thing to keep in mind whenever introducing someone new to fishing or hunting is their personal physical comfort. Make sure they’re dressed appropriately (Even better if you can go when the weather is oh-so-comfy) and keep the trip to a short amount of time. A small dose of fun will be better received than a large dose of misery of any sort, regardless of how many fish you catch. I like it very local, very short and very simple for intro trips. Think stocker trout or panfish, followed by a fish fry. And of course, take and share a lot of pics. The memory lasts longer that way!
The late Jose Wejebe, of the famed Spanish Fly television show once told me “We don’t tell fish stories, we show fish stories.” It’s a great quote that has stuck with me for years – Helped me launch Fishful Thinker TV even – But, now we need to one-up it – Now we need to go beyond showing fish stories; we need to get people to live fishing stories.