I fished in the fifth annual Fall Fly Fishing Challenge held in Sarasota, Fla. Had a great time.
The event was sponsored by the Mangrove Coast Fly Fishers and the Sarasota Chapter of the Coastal Conservation Association.
Didn't win. Didn't care. I finished one fish short in the Trout category of the Open Division. My tournament partner, Capt. Pete Greenan, caught 10 spotted seatrout to my nine.
I did have fun. That's what it's all about.
Of course, some might claim that's a loser's cliche. I've placed in the tournament a number of times, so I really do fish to have fun.
You should, too. Always.
I give 40 or 50 talks to various organizations annually. Often -- especially when the audience is made up of non-fishing types -- I'll ask for a show of hands by all the golfers present.
I'll tell them what a great game golf is. How there's nothing better than taking a swing, hitting the ball on the sweet spot and sending it 300 yards straight down the fairway.
Then I tell them I used to play golf. And there were many days I'd pick up my ball on the 18th green, walk away, look up at the sky and think, "I should have stayed home and gone fishing today."
Then I tell them, "I've never ever been fishing and said I should have stayed home and played golf."
Fishing is catharsis. It's a break from monotony. It's a time to get away from your problems. And the concentration and focus that fishing requires certainly allows you to do that.
Fishing isn't the same for all folks. Some head out to their favorite bridge or pier, cast a line out, sit down in their beach chair, pop the top on a beer, open a book and pray a fish doesn't come along and spoil the tranquility.
That's quite OK.
For others, it's a constant battle to catch fish.
Most begin at the same level and progress at their own rate of speed and interest. Some begin by fishing nightcrawlers under a red-and-white bobber and continue doing so for the rest of their lives.
Others start with worm and progress to lures. Some even end up fly fishing.
No matter your choice, the experience is all the same. The sport offers a chance to unify with nature, inhale the beauty of this earth and every once in a while catch a fish.
I have taken dozens of anglers for walks along the Florida west coast beaches in search of the wiley snook. For some, it's all about snook and nothing but snook. While they're straining to see a lunker in the surf, I'm looking around and seeing dolphin 100 yards off the beach, frigate birds circling high overhead, barracuda zooming in on unsuspecting mullet and maybe even a lovely lass in a pretty bikini.
Oh, yeah, I see a few snook, too.
Anglers come from all walks of life. Some are young and some are old. Some are rich and some are poor. Some left-handed. Some right-handed. Some Republicans. Some Democrats.
The fish don't care.
I paid $50 to enter the Fall Fly Fishing Challenge. I competed as hard as I could. I prepared a couple of weeks in advance. I fished to win.
I really didn't care.
I had fun.
And $50 is a very cheap day of entertainment.
By the way, I won the Snook Division of the tournament a few years ago. I can't remember what year or what I won.
I do remember I had a great time.