You rarely find “fishing buddy” listed as a necessity in a how-to article about fishing, but a buddy is every bit as necessary as tackle or technique.
Recalling all the times when patience and persistence paid off for me, a buddy was there every time. When it’s cold and windy, when the only things biting are flies, fishing with only yourself for company can be torture. With no one to provide distraction, you tend to fret about the icicles hanging from your nose. You find yourself worrying about petty things, such as losing the feeling in your fingers and toes. A buddy will entertain you and distract you from thinking about what you could be doing if you were in your nice, warm home. He or she will keep you fishing long enough for something to change, hopefully for the better.
Besides providing distractions, buddies can give you most of what you need. Without buddies and their pickup trucks, my clamming trips to the beaches at Ninilchik would’ve been few, instead of many. Without buddies, I never would’ve launched my 14-foot skiff in the surf at Deep Creek and got into some great halibut and salmon fishing, or got so many scary stories to tell my grand-children.
Before a buddy becomes a buddy, there’s a first time. It’s like going on a blind date. You find yourself thinking, “Is this someone I want to go out with again? Can I trust him to take me out without having to try to swim to shore? What was I thinking?” When too many “dates” turn bad, it can turn you against fishing with anyone.
Finding a good fishing buddy is like finding a good fishing hole: They’re hard to find, and the best ones are already taken. I long ago gave up trying to find a buddy who felt the same way about things that I do. If such an animal exists, I probably wouldn’t want to spend much time with him. Having differing opinions about things makes conversations lively. If you voted for Obama, it’s not as much fun to needle your buddy about being a Democrat.
Some guys use fishing as an escape, not so much to the wilds, but from their wives and kids. Some of these probably have a fishing buddy or two that their wives can’t stand. Having this guy along ensures that she won’t be along, yet another purpose for fishing buddies.
Don’t get me wrong. Women can be wonderful fishing buddies. After you’ve lived with one for a while, she’ll give you few surprises of the unpleasant kind. In an emergency, you know whether she’ll scream like a little girl and faint, or wrap a bungee cord around your neck to stop the bleeding. In good times and bad, you know what to expect from your woman, her capabilities, how she’ll react. Right up front, you’ll know if she can bait her own hook, or if you have to do it for her. You know if you can trust her to shoot a big halibut without putting a hole in the boat, or in you. If you fall overboard, you’ll have some idea of what she’ll do by way of rescuing you.
When you find a good fishing buddy, don’t take him or her for granted. Nurture your good buddies as if they were your closest friends, which they may well become. Accept their weaknesses, appreciate their strengths and thank them often. Without them, fishing just wouldn’t be the same.
Les Palmer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.