There are all kinds of sayings related to the outdoors. Some refer to ancient stories dating back to the time of Christ such as “if you are not catching any fish, maybe you should try from the other side of the boat.”
My grandfather used the saying “you ain’t gonna catch any fish unless the hook is in the water.” We also had an alternative form for hunting with hunting doves and lead in the air.
However, one of the most widely used, and it can be used for just about any activity, is “a bad day fishing is still better than a good day at work.”
I have to say though; I have had some bad days fishing. These days did not usually involve just a lack of bites however.
One of my earlier bad days of fishing happened well before I ever thought of work or having a job. My friend Bobby and I used to fish a lot during the summers. We would fish the lakes. We would fish farm ponds. We found bodies of water that no one ever thought existed covering not much more area than an average sized house located deep inside the woods and would somehow catch fish.
This one particular day we were fishing a couple of nearby ponds. We rode to the area on our bikes, as all pre-teens did back in the day. It was kind of slow fishing that day, but we were still hopeful. Bobby tied on a new lure. I decided to try a different lure too. While I was still behind him, he turned toward the pond, whipped the rod tip backwards and casted mightily as if he were trying to throw it across the water.
The drag screamed with excitement; mainly because a 50 pound bow was attached to one of the hooks on the new lure when Bobby slung forward. The hook embedded in my left arm. The result was a tetanus shot and a scar that can still be seen to this day. I did learn something that day though. There is nothing magical in taking a barbed hook out of one’s arm. You just push it all the way through.
After my wife and I were married, we took a spur of the moment fishing trip on a head boat off the coast. She did not have a lot of experience fishing near or off shore other than pier fishing. I on the other hand, spent many a summer vacations on moderate sized center console boats with my dad. Never once had I been sick or even remotely thought I would feel bad on the rolling waves. Until this trip, that is.
It started with a few people near us heaving fluids and chunks of partially digested gunk. I guess the smell and sight along with the unusually rough water, searing heat, and empty stomach got the better of me. Miserable would have been an emotion I longed for, because I would much rather have been thrown overboard and used for shark bait than remain there, with my new bride, feeling as if the beast from the movie Alien were trying to tear through my intestines and throat.
Just last year I ran into circumstances that made me think twice about how to do things on my own while on these trips. I used a paddleboard designed for fishing on a float down the Neuse River. The river was high with quick flowing currents. The temperature was only expected to hit the lower 60’s during the weekend, and I packed a tent, sleeping bag, and change of clothes into a dry bag that I attached to a cooler that sat on top of the board.
Just minutes after leaving the dock I came across a low hanging tree branch. All was well, or so I thought. I ducked the branch, but forgot about the rods I had sitting in holders on the back of the cooler. They grabbed the branch, causing the standup paddleboard to roll over. So, here I was at the beginning of a 22 mile, two day float, soaking wet on a paddleboard. The cooler rolled over top of me during the spill also. I saved all of my gear, but kept feeling a pain on my right side that worsened throughout the day.
That evening I discovered my sleeping bag had gotten wet, making it a very cold night with the temps dropping near freezing. Not only that, I discovered later I broke a rib from the cooler landing on top of me in the water, and labored to just breathe that night. I envisioned game wardens discovering me later in the week, lying there in my tent having either frozen to death or suffocated from blood filling my lungs.
The next day’s seven miles of paddling did not help matters either.
In defense of the saying though, one thing is clearly different. Even during a bad day of fishing, there is always hope and promise of a better day of fishing to come, as each cast has the potential of a hard strike and a tight line. A good day of work is the exact opposite. Only the last day of work offers any resemblance to the bad day of fishing, and only because you know you get to go fishing the next day.