Why do you fish? It’s a common question and one that many people can’t really answer – at least not in the philosophical way it’s typically presented. Some fish for sport, some for food or, if you’re like me, you just fish. I’ve always fished; it’s what I do and I have no real reason why. I need no reason really, but if you press me, I suppose it boils down to personal enjoyment. In a nutshell, fishing is fun and having fun is reason enough to do anything.

But wait, I fish for a living – how can it still be fun? It just is, but as with anything else, sometimes it’s more fun than others. When we’re three hours into a film day and haven’t caught a fish, it’s a lot less fun, yet, I still thrive on the challenge. When I have a guide client and the fish aren’t cooperating, it’s stressful for me – like any other job that isn’t going well at the moment – but I still find the personal enjoyment I seek when we do finally work it out and I’m snapping that oh-so-important grip-n-grin photo. Even when it’s work, it’s fun work.

More fun is better than less fun and over the years as an angler I’ve determined a few ways to put more fun in my angling. Since Fishful Thinker’s company moto is “teaching the world to fish big” – and knowing that to fish big is to have fun in the process – I thought I’d share a couple of the ways to maximize the fun quotient.

One of the easiest ways to have fun fishing is to scale your tackle to the size of the fish most easily available to you. For instance, my house backs to a lagoon that is often loaded with juvenile smallmouth bass ranging from about six to twelve inches. Sure, I could launch the boat and go seek out more trophy sized specimens, but I could also grab either the ultra light St Croix panfish rod spooled with 3# NanoFil or 3wt Avid fly rod and get after the ambitious punks dwelling in the backyard. Many grins can be had by working a tiny panfish popper only to have an eight inch long smallie smash it and jump like mad during the ensuing tussle. Is it a trophy fish? Nope, but he made me smile and that’s what counts.

IMG_3117We have all been trained that catching bigger fish is better and honestly I too enjoy that challenge very much. But if I can fish more by accessing fish immediately available, especially if I size my tackle to the quarry, then I can have more fun. Most folks have access to some sort of park pond, creek or even seawall if you’re in a salty region, making this kind of opportunity to get out more often very realistic. Set your sites on just catching, not catching monsters and simplify and downsize your tackle. Who knows, maybe you’ll get lucky and catch a legit’ biggun’ anyway, but if not, you’ll have fun getting your string pulled early and often by little tykes so long as you have light enough tackle to keep it fair.

Along the same lines is to take advantage of local waters; many of us get so used to seeking out trophy fish spots that we drive right by local stuff. In reality, we could spend less money and fish more if we occasionally dropped our focus on the quest for biggest fish we’ve ever seen, instead focusing on, say, the biggest fish in the pond we live by. A challenge is a challenge and you’ll get more fishing in if you fish local.

Another great way to put more fun in your fishing is to fish for what’s biting rather than being so focused on one species that you struggle to succeed if they’re not biting. Sure we all love walleyes, but if they are in one of their moods and ain’t wantin’ to play your game, try for some perch or pike or smallies or whatever else is in the lake you’re on and that conditions are more suited for. Geez, smallies love a sunny day while walleyes often don’t, so why fight it? Be happy catching smallies.

The Linder brothers made themselves famous by showing up at random places and then fishing for whatever the waters would give them. They didn’t predict what they would catch ahead of time, they let the lake dictate the species. Then when they arrived back at the dock with a boatload of whatever, they looked like fishing rock stars. In reality, most of us would catch a lot more fish – and have a lot more fun – if we followed their lead and fished for whatever is easy to catch at that moment. For the record, Fishful Thinker TV often employs this concept because we whole-heartedly believe in it. Sure there are times to buckle down and fish for a specific species to the exclusion of all others and it’s the best way to learn more about said species, but if you want to grin more, fish for what’s biting.

Another excellent way to have more fun in your angling is something I learned while fishing with my wife and also various kids; that is take a break. You don’t have to fish every second you’re on the water. Us hardcore angler types get so obsessed with catching at times that we loose site of the fact that we’re around water and riparian habitat. Perhaps take a midmorning dip in the lake or beach the boat and go for a walk. Take some binoculars and search for wildlife or pack a nice picnic lunch, anchor up and enjoy the time on the water. At the end of the day, you may have caught a few less fish, but I’d venture a guess that you will have landed a few more smiles.

When it’s all said and done, catching trophy fish is a small part of fishing and not necessary for true anglers to be happy. After all, Thoreau said something to the effect of “many of us fish our whole lives without realizing it’s not the fish we are after” – and who am I to argue with that kind of wisdom!