Many years ago, a friend from Nelson – Ben by name – gave me some great advice. I was talking to him one day about fishy things when I mentioned that I had been too busy to go out fishing.
“Well Tony, here’s a bit of advice. When you’re on your death bed, you won’t wish you’d spent more time in the office,” he said.
His reply left me thinking. He may have said it with a laugh but I knew he was serious.
The problem is today, people are almost invariably too damned busy. I am often reminded of that when I happen to bump into other anglers or hunters. I might also chance to independently meet a couple of fishing chaps, younger than myself and working. And the conversations usually follow a similar pattern.
“Get out fishing over the weekend?” I ask.
The replies followed a common lament, “Too busy during the week. I’m doing 50 and 60 hours a week. Comes the weekend, there’s the family and kid’s sport; besides I’m just stuffed.”
It’s not an uncommon situation, particularly for today’s young parents. For many, the 40-hour working week doesn’t exist anymore; it’s been eroded. Ironically, the government gets us to enjoy Labour weekend – a direct celebration of the 40-hour working week. Yet for many, indeed most I’d wager, the 40-hour working week does not exist.
I recall back in 1970 when politicians said to prepare for earlier retirement and more leisure time in the Autumn of our years. That promised more fishing.
However, successive New Zealand governments, since 1984, have slyly eroded our standard of living in economic terms so that most households can no longer exist on one average income but need at least two average incomes to sustain a living for two adults and two children.
The situation is aggravated by a rampant consumer-driven economy spawned under the free market neo-liberal Rogernomics mantra.
It all comes down to the cold hard fact – there is a finite number of years for a lifetime of fishing. That has been driven home to me over the years by the loss of some fine fishing fellows. We’re all mere mortals.
I tend to fish on my own, but I also enjoy good company. Many years ago, I fished with a delightful character Andy. He loved trout fishing. Our first trip was into the upper Karamea by helicopter. It was our mutual friend Lawrence’s 50th birthday and his wife Pam asked Andy and me to take him fishing as a surprise trip.
So we whizzed via chopper into the mountains and the Karamea, camped up the tributary the Crow River, and had a wonderful time. We did quite a few day trips to the upper Wairau’s Rainbow country in Marlborough.
Later, I recall Andy ringing up to go fishing. Why he had a big brown trout lined up by the mouth of a river a tributary to the Wairau, Marlborough’s main river.
“Sorry, Andy. I can’t. I’m too busy, just now.”
A fortnight later, he phoned again but again I was bogged down by being “busy.”
“But next month,” I replied. “I should be right to go!” I promised.
Soon after Andy was admitted to hospital with a rare latent cancer that had unexpectedly flared up. He never left the hospital alive and we never fished for that big “double figure” brown. I regretted that I never went. I should not have put off the chance. A couple of mornings spent fishing would not have mattered to my busy schedule.
More recently, another close friend passed away due to the ‘Big C’. Lloyd had contracted prostate cancer but it got to his bones. We hunted a lot together and we fished, too, whether for kahawai, snapper, or trout. Lloyd was fun, jovial, full of banter and quick with and a very good shot and a topspin fisherman.
I can think of others such as Canterbury’s the late John Morton, amazingly creative fly tier, ambidextrous fly caster and skilled fly fisherman.
John with his zany humour was just fun to fish with. I fished on a number of occasions with him, swapping quips and just enjoying the day – fish or no fish. But I wished I had fished a lot more with him.
I guess when fellow anglers close to you pass on it’s a reminder of your own mortality. That should be a spur to go fishing and it doesn’t matter whether you catch a fish or two – or not.
Famous American conservationist Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862) put it succinctly when he wrote: “Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.”
Being busy encroaches on our lifestyle or as Thoreau might say on the art of living. Society is obsessed with being busy. Ever noticed at the supermarket or petrol station checkout, the tired question often is “Having a busy day?” I often politely reply, “I’m trying not to be too busy,” or similar.
American writer Ted Trueblood was a boyhood hero of mine in the fishing and hunting world. I avidly read his articles in the US Field and Stream. He was a superb writer, unpretentious, practical, and with a warm style.
From 1941 to 1982, he was an editor and writer for the Field & Stream magazine. He became the fishing editor of the magazine in 1941 and moved to New York City. In 1947, Ted moved back to Idaho to “fish, hunt, and write about it.” Ted had his priorities right.
Sadly, Ted Trueblood died at the age of 69 on 12 September 1982.
I’ll always remember his ‘Rule of Tomorrow’: “Never say I’ll go tomorrow. When you get a chance to go fishing, go. If you wait until tomorrow, tomorrow will drag into next week, and next week will drag into next month, and next month into next year and someday it will be too late.”