Everyone’s talking about “flattening the curve” to slow the spread of COVID-19. But what does that mean for the sport fisherman here on Vancouver Island and across Canada? Though we’re seeing extreme measures like the state of Washington shutting down all recreational fishing and local lodges and guides putting trips on hold, many people are still finding solace in what I would call “the original self-isolation & social distancing sport.” And they should, shouldn’t they? As long as people are following the guidelines to keep their distance, limit social interactions, and avoid touching anything more than is necessary, isn’t fishing as safe as hiking? Wasn’t it only a few days ago that the news was suggesting playing golf? It gets me to thinking about all those solo trips that brought me such peace and pleasure every single time. It gets me to thinking of how little social interaction is really needed—or even desirable—for fishing.
Of course, fishing with friends or family is fun, but I would bet my last bobber that the majority of people reading this article know exactly what I’m talking about. Fishing alone is one of the most serene and rejuvenating experiences one can have.
I take fishing most seriously when I’m fishing alone. Whether it’s kicking out the belly boat on a small lake, launching the kayak to chase some lingcod, or packing the 26′ Striper for a multi-day trip in Barkley Sound or Campbell River, I’ve always done plenty of solo fishing. Chad Green and Gary Van Kooten would religiously give me a hard time about heading out on a trip on my boat and not being able to “find a buddy,” but was I really looking that hard? Perhaps it’s my choice in music (cue “Eye in the Sky” by Alan Parsons or the entire Pink Floyd anthology)?
Fish When You Want
I get to leave the dock when I want. Sometimes that’s 5:00 a.m., and sometimes it’s “when it’s time.” “Joel, you coming out or what?,” a 7 a.m. text would come from Gord MacDonald, fishing from a 17′ Montauk in some serious rain while I was all cozy in my boat’s cuddy at Poet Nook watching a movie. “Wait for it,” I’d reply. Luckily, I got my limit that day just the same, along with the headshaking “lucky-you-did” nod of begrudging approval.
Fish Where You Want
Go left, go right? It’s up to me and me alone. Like buying loot in a video game with rewards for a successful mission, I get to “level up” at the cutting table for knowing exactly what I’m doing at all times. Actually, I’m humbly thanking the Fish Gods with a silent prayer as I toss the scraps over the dock to a waiting seal.
Zooming into a busy Cape Beale and to land a 22-lb Chinook solo in front of an audience of guide boats, well … that’s a feeling that you don’t talk about in polite company, except around the campfire or in an article on a fishing magazine’s website.
Master Your Skills
I get to hone my skills. Having a doubleheader of coho on, rods franticly twitching, while turning the corner at Sanford Island in Barkley Sound makes for the kind of stress that I welcome any day of the week. And finding that perfect spot of slow water on the edge of the Cowichan where the big one was waiting just for me … I mean, come on. That’s just the best. Or calmly (not really, actually) netting fish one-handed while steering my boat in a following wind near the rocks…
Bury the Screw Ups
Pulling a fly out of my cheek? Never documented. That “pigtail” at the end of a line with missing tackle? Move along; nothing to see here. Oh, and that pinnacle that took a cannonball—nope, never happened. Wait, wait … hooking that tree on a back cast and breaking my leader? Me? Not likely.
For me, fishing has always been a solo sport. I always come home with fully charged batteries. And I guess for me, going fishing with others is really like trying to reach nirvana, collectively. When I’m lucky, I get to share the experiences and make memories with family and friends.
Truth be told, fishing really is the original, and ultimate way to self-isolate. It may be just what we all need in these crazy times. Right?
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