Most people like to catch fish. For some reason, hunting is considered a bit more strenuous or at least it would seem so to me. But I think it is the angle you look at it. Fishing seems to be viewed in a different light. People carrying a stringer of fish and a cane pole all laid back ready for a nice relaxing time of fishing, right?
This view is for people who don’t take their fishing seriously. Along the trout stream or fishing bigger waters, those who don’t take the sport seriously consider the lawn chair as much a necessity as the rod and reel.
Yet as I age, I find that I can do a fairly good job of maintaining my hunting. But it is fishing that brings the most difficulty. Surprising, isn’t it?
I am not one to just cast a hook and sinkers baited with a worm into the pond, sit back and wait. To my thinking, a fish is a fish and I can say I like to catch most species of fish. I even justify fishing for bluegill for their wonderful taste. In Pennsylvania, it is safe to say that trout fishing rules in the spring. So I will use it as my first example of a decline in my skills.
I have always liked to use spinners when fishing a trout stream. Yes, I do use bait at times, if the situation tilts toward bait fishing. I am not a purist but have been known to fly fish at times. The problem there is I like to catch fish. I get my excitement by feeling something tug on my line and the bigger the better. When spinning along most streams, I have learned that the trout are not equally spaced in the water, but certain spots hold most of the fish.
Most of the time, the lure has to pass right through this spot. In almost all instances, these holding spots will have some kind of cover to keep the fish hidden and-or break the force of the current. That means to catch fish, you are casting into this cover and that means snagging up quite a bit. Snagging on low hanging trees, a rock or a tree lying in the stream bed means a broken line and a new spinner that needs to be tied on.
The first problem faced by the elderly is eyesight. When the light is bad, that darned line is difficult, if not impossible, to see, and the lighter the line, the harder it is to see. Not only that, but hand dexterity is gone. Sometimes, I have to ask people for help, which is embarrassing and frustrating. What I used to do in seconds, it now takes me hours or at least it seems that way, leading to more frustration. I have tried moving from 4- to 6-pound line and have even used yellow line. I take multiple poles that are preset but that means a lot to carry or going back to the vehicle. It’s still tough to fish the way I want to fish.
Another common problem facing the elderly is reaching a favorite spot along the stream. Climbing over blowdowns and steep banks is another problem. A wading staff, be it store bought or just a broken tree branch, helps, but as a sensible angler with the usual equipment, the staff gets in the way.
This past spring, I went down a steep creek bank to my favorite hole and couldn’t get back up. When I did manage to get there, it was on my hands and knees. Then I had difficulty getting to my feet. I couldn’t fish my favorite spot on the creek this year unless someone went with me. It’s embarrassing but the answer is don’t fish alone, which means sitting at home many days when the fish are biting. The human being is an adaptable creature but it is tough for me to do. I know I am bull-headed and want to go all the time, so some of it is me. Am I the only senior who feels this way? Does anyone have any bright ideas?
On a happier note, my hunting has only suffered minor changes. Instead of walking, just sit in the woods with my rifle and wait for the deer to come to me. The only big change here involves getting the deer out of the woods and, thankfully, I have a lot of friends. Groundhogs are no problem. Just drive into a field, set up and shoot. Other than watch the sun, as I can’t take the heat too well these days, but then come to think of it I never could. I even seem pretty good at reloading and target shooting. It just seemed interesting to me that the thing considered harder by most people is the one that I find easier in my old age, the one most people picture as easier is almost impossible now.
George Block writes a weekly Outdoors column for the Observer-Reporter.