Captain Billy Sandifer, long time PINS guide and Gulf fishing legend, once told me there are two types of anglers: those who just started and those somewhere on the spectrum of facing their fishing addiction.
We revisited this conversation often along my journey as a guide struggling with my own fishing addiction and how I balanced feeding that with the need to challenge and reward my charters.
As he explained, there is an aging process with the angler that coincides with new challenges— read as growing addictions—they seek along that journey. We’ve all been on this spectrum and all exist somewhere along it, with lines and charts that could connect us all in some piscatorial designed family bush of desire and hunger for our preferred species of the moment.
I miss the evenings watching the Gulf fade from silver to dark blue to purple as the sun sank behind us over the Laguna Madre, and I had to make the decision to avoid the smoke rising from his hibachi or from the constant cigarette dangling from his mouth. I’d give anything to stand directly downwind without complaint if given the choice today.
At the time, my addiction was chasing the biggest, fastest tuna in the Gulf on a fly. Once I landed my first triple-digit yellow fin, the addiction subsided and turned to mountain-bred native trout on the tiniest 18-sized dry fly in the smallest, stillest waters. That required a totally different type of finesse and skill than the heft and attack needed to hook a tuna.
This is the beauty of fishing. The addiction, the growing challenge, the obsession, the reason you’re probably sneaking in this article on work hours or while the kids struggle through the bottom of the fifth with the coach’s son throwing his 14th straight ball to a batter who probably couldn’t connect with a straight down the middle 43 mile-per-hour beachball anyhow.
You’re attempting to outwit a creature with a collection of nerves more described as ganglia than a brain. Your dual-lobed gray matter cannot escape them; fish live rent free in your mind. You’re fine with this. You’re addicted.
Think of Captain Experiences as your enabler. Your supplier. Your gateway may be some amalgamation of mine. My addiction started with soggy dog food wrapped around a 2-aught hook tossed into a stocked stock tank to catch blues who were the only creatures stout enough to survive central Texas’s heat and the muddy anoxic water barely fit for the cattle it existed to hydrate.
As with all human behavior, even as a child, I wanted more after those first few tugs. As I mastered the art of how to soak the bait and hold the cane pole, I wanted more species, more challenges, more ways to hold a real rod. It wasn’t necessarily the fish that intrigued me, it was the tug. The eat. The take. The feed.
The tug is THE DRUG.
You may be here seeking another snapper trip or trout trip. In your head though you may be saying that trip or fish wasn’t it. I want something different, while Kyle in the cubicle six openings down is thinking, “I’d love to catch a snapper, soaking shrimp for flounder aren’t doing it for me anymore.”
You’re asking yourself, should I book a trip to target red fish on topwater? Should I try out that wading thing everyone is talking about? What’s it like catching a shark? What does a south Florida snook fight like? What is a snook?
The answer is simple. Yes.
Remember, it’s the tug. It’s the obsession. The addiction. The desire. Heed it. Grow it. Experience all the fish. They’re mocking you.
It’s simple: Feed the fish, feed your addiction.
Article written by Brandon D. Shuler, PhD
Brandon Schuler, Phd
Updated on December 6, 2022
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