Winter is supposed to be cold and wet, that's in winter's job description. But I live in Florida, the home of anti-winter. This is where snow birds go to get away from winter. Imagine my surprise last week when I woke up to find this.
For many of you, seeing this on your car isn't anything out of the ordinary for this time of year. But for Florida folks, this is big news. People are burning their tiki huts trying to stay warm. We have seen record low temperatures for record lengths of time. Doing anything outside is miserable right now, let alone adding water and wind to the equation. The manatees are certainly having a tough time right now, and fish kills are already being reported. Most of the species that get affected by cold water can hang tough for a few days. But for extended periods like this, they have little chance. So, for many reasons, fishing isn't something I'd even consider right now.
So, in order to keep cabin fever from taking control, I once again am forced to go in to "planning" mode again. This is "planning" on a personal scale, as well as a paddle fishing scale. I don't observe any sort of New Years resolutions, but I do have an annual renewal of 3 basic goals I try to aim for. These goals are simply a desire to take better care of "mind", "body" and "soul". It's not a pass/fail thing, more of a forward progress thing. In most aspects of our lives, if we fail to progress, we simply fall behind. My process may not work for you, but it's certainly worth consideration, especially if you too are under house arrest due to weather conditions.
MIND: Learn something new every day. Whether it's something to do with your job, school, or even what your kids are doing in their lives, learn something new, no matter how slight it may be. When it comes to fishing, for me there are a lot of areas where I can expand my knowledge. I can learn more about the habits and desired habitats of the fish I hope to catch. 90% of the fish are found in 10% of the water, so do your homework and discover where that 10% of water is for you. For Florida anglers, this book should be required reading:
"Fishermans Coast: An Angler's Guide to Marine Warm-Water Gamefish and Their Habitats" by Aaron Adams, Ph.D (2003)
It's dated, but the information found between the covers is still relevant today. Take this scientific information and blend that with what you experience on the water and you'll definitely connect with more fish.
There is also the dilemma of which knots are best for your type of fishing. I can tie a few fairly well, but shy away from others simply because I haven't taken the time to learn them, even though I feel they would suit my fishing better. So, as I watch the playoffs, I might as well practice my double surgeons knot.
BODY: Get in better shape. A word of advice: baby steps. Many of us get defeated with dieting and exercise because it's a lot easier to just quit. Instead, choose to eat better (and less), take the stairs more often, get enough sleep and rest (yes, the two are different), and ease up on the caffeine and carbonation. After getting the results from my recent annual physical, it was quite evident that my health would be close to perfect if I simply got more exercise. Being off the couch does not equate to exercise, just in case any of you were wondering. I need cardio and of all things, sunlight (for more vitamin D). Yes sir, doctors orders, I need to be in the sun, paddling. Might as well take a rod or two while I'm taking better care of myself, right?
From the paddle fishing perspective, I plan to troll more often. Why not? I mean, what is the worst that could happen as you drag a lure (any lure) behind your boat as you paddle to your next location? Either get hung up on structure (which is where fish like to congregate), or get a bite as you bring a lure within striking range of a predatory fish. Worst case, nothing happens aside from getting your heart rate up a bit. You can do it!
SOUL: This is by far the most important segment of the trilogy. A healthy soul is the foundation that everything else is built on. If your soul isn't in a good solid place, then "mind" and "body" can't be either. To me, having a healthy soul comes as the result of doing things that I find rewarding. Such as, helping my granddaughter with her homework after I've had a horrible day at work. I ask myself, "who's helping who here?" Or, playing my guitar for even 5 minutes. Guitars serve little function if they're in a case. They should be on a stand or hanging on the wall, ready to be used. So if you play, get your guitar out of the case.
For years now, I've closed these articles with the saying, "Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after." I still believe that to be true. Living in a crowded metropolitan area like I do, I find that about the only way I can find some peace and quiet is to distance myself from my fellow man by about 200 paddle strokes. We all suffer from sensory overload. Too many things coming at us at once, never enough time to accomplish what we feel we need to do. So, I challenge you to let your time on the water be an opportunity to do some soul searching and soul rebuilding. Take a few deep breaths. Bring in some fresh air. Set the cell phone to vibrate. Let go. Release. Remember that a closed hand (or mind) can't grasp anything new. And, if this solitude and retrospection is shattered by a thump on the line, so be it. If circumstances prohibit you from taking your boat, at least talk a walk around the water. I'm convinced that beach sand on your soles is an exfoliant for YOUR soul.
My wife has this plaque hanging over our kitchen sink:
Ponder that... and try to live a little of it.
I'm already making plans for an outing once this weather breaks. When I started putting this article together it was 40 degrees outside. As I apply the final touches it's almost 80. Football season and this cold weather will soon be over. I for one, feel this is part of a master plan. You know, like how the baitfish spawn precludes the predatory fish spawn. OK, I guess I got a little too deep for my waders on that one. But make no mistake, it will soon be time to get back out there. We still have 2 more weekends of football season. Plenty of time to sharpen hooks and our minds. But I have a question for ya?
Are you ready for some fishing?
See you out on the water!
"Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after"
~ Henry David Thoreau