Instagram is deceptive. Fishing is not glamorous.
Yet social media is saturated with pictures of good looking people holding good looking fish on good looking boats.
What you don’t see in those pictures is the hard work that made each Instagram photo possible. For starters, someone (who may not have made it into the photo) worked tirelessly to locate that fish. Or someone bought, stole, or inherited numbers from someone who worked tirelessly to find that fish.
While I guess it’s possible, anglers don’t usually find fish by chance or without any effort. Instead, they spend a lot of time and energy learning fish behavior and exploring new areas. They figure out what tackle, rods, baits, tides, and seasons work best. They figure out, sometimes through agonizing trial and error, what works and doesn’t work for targeting certain species. They lose fish and learn from their mistakes. It’s all part of fishing–the good, the bad, and the ugly. Nothing glamorous about it. Except the Instagram picture.
That leads me into the story of our four day fishing trip in St. Marks, Florida.
The first three days we were there, we struggled. I’m talking spider-with-one-leg kind of struggle. The kind of struggle that makes you wonder “WTF is happening right now.” We went three days without catching anything worth keeping. So bad we laughed. We never leave the coast without something in the icebox.
What we did do on day one is fry the trolling motor as we fought wind pushing us around in 1.5 feet of water. Rocks, rocks, rocks everywhere. And more rocks. Rocks. I swear they were dropping from the sky. The trolling motor couldn’t get us two feet before it hit the next rock. What we thought would be a good idea to explore a new area ended up being a huge disappointment.
We then attempted to make our old inshore spots produce over the next two days. Nothing. No fish. Trout don’t count. They weren’t what we were after. Where did all the reds go? We found a few but not the usual size.
It was too rough to take the flats boat offshore the first three days. It was probably too rough on the fourth day but we pounded our way out to a reliable spot in search of cobia anyway. Finally. We found fish within five minutes of anchoring.
What you don’t see in the picture above is the sweat, blood, and for me, the near tears, that went into fighting sudden 3-4 seas in an 18′ flats boat, the nastiness of cutting bait, throwing artificials day after day, anchoring and repositioning with an offshore anchor (inshore broke and we’re saving for an iPilot), the frustration of hitting rocks in new territory, the slime, grime, and guts that stained my clothes, or the uneven sunburn. You also can’t see what invaluable lessons we learned or the challenges that pushed us to our limits.
You also can’t see how much work, concentration, and skill it took for Jordan to navigate waves that wanted to roll the boat.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. But I don’t agree when it comes to fishing. In order to appreciate a good catch, you have to experience it. The whole thing. Not just the landing. It’s hard work and it isn’t pretty no matter how glamorous it looks on Instagram.
So I leave you with this picture of me struggling as a slimy cobia begins to slip out of my hands: