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Lessons Learned At The Fishing Hole


Sometimes, the worst fishing days can teach you the best life lessons.

There I was last Friday, fishing in my favorite spot, on my favorite lake, Lake McMurtry. It was probably 6 pm, and I already had my first catfish on the stringer.

That's when the trouble started. A minivan pulled up, and a man jumped out, and informed me that I would need to leave his campsite. I politely pointed out that I had paid my $6 fee just like everyone else, and I didn't see his name posted on the spot.

That's when he told me that he had paid $10, not $6, to reserve the campsite, and directed me to a nearby post with his name tacked onto it.

Now, whether paying an extra $4 grants you the right to claim ownership of a piece of publicly owned shoreline is a discussion worth having, but I didn't get the sense that this gentleman was in the mood to have that discussion.

So, repressing my rant about how he rented the dirt, not the shoreline, I left for my second favorite spot.

I arrived at the nearby site, and found it pleasantly vacant of campers. Unfortunately, the situation had changed by the time I returned with my poles.

A large group of adults in inflatable tubes had floated into the shallows in front of the campsite. I introduced myself, and asked if my fishing here would bother them.

"I think we've scared off all the fish here, buddy," one of the men said. "They're probably off in the other direction."

I added a couple of expletives to my silent rant, and once again packed up and left for a new spot.

I arrived at my final spot, the crowded boat dock, at around 8 pm. I fished there for two more hours without so much as a nibble.

Driving home with my single catfish in the cooler, I was not a happy camper. I only get to fish on the weekends, and all of my spots were reserved through Sunday. It was probably the most bummed-out I had been after an afternoon of fishing.

As I sat in the garage, cleaning my lone fish for the day, I resolved to not let the camping boom ruin my weekend. I hopped online, and found a recreation area I hadn't been to on the other side of the lake. Since the sites I like to fish were reserved all weekend, I decided I might as well check it out.

By 9 am Saturday, I was driving to the far side of McMurtry. The trip took an extra twenty minutes or so, and the roads almost certainly did a number on my alignment. I followed a long, winding road, and ended up in the next county over, on the other side of the lake.

This is where the lesson comes in.

This side of the lake was busy, sure. There were lots of families camping, fishing, and barbequing, but something was different. People were mingling, shouting to one another about an impressive fish, or to come try this hunk of brisket. Being a newcomer to this side of the lake, I set up on the end of the boat dock.

I was careful to reel in my lines for approaching boats. The men entering and exiting their vessels would stop and ask how my luck had been, what bait I was using. They assured me they wouldn't run over my lines if I left them in the water.

I'd show them my stringer full of catfish, recommend Danny King's Punch Bait, and wish them luck on their way out. Although I had come to this spot to get away from the crowds, I found myself smiling with every interaction.

Around 2 pm when the boats came in, fishermen gathered on the dock to swap stories. Stringer in hand, I left the dock to cheers and congratulations on catching dinner. Turns out, I had better luck from this dock than I had in my previous favorite spot.

So don't get mad when the universe runs you away from your fishing hole. It might be leading you to your new fishing home.

Sloan is an Oklahoma State student interning at The Countywide & Sun this summer.


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