Start a new tradition with an old classic and let the serenity of fishing bring you together.
The most restful adult day I ever spent was on a sport fishing boat out of Dana Point Harbor. (The second most restful day was rock climbing out at Lake Perris.) In both cases, my mind was totally focused all day on what I was doing and the scenery around me. Climbing, my nose was inches from the rock face, my hands and feet attuned to every ridge and bump that might give me a handgrip or foothold. I was concentrating too hard with every sense and every muscle to think about the future or past.
On the ocean, it was the sight of the dappled water, and my wholehearted attempts to feel what was going on with my line. Was that a hit or just the slight pull of the currents deep under the surface? The boat rocked gently and I patiently pulled my line up over and over, and sent it back down again. I caught some good fish, but that was almost secondary to the experience as a whole. All troubles were left on shore. For hours, I was simply where I was.
Fortunately for me, I was on that boat with a couple of friends who were master fishermen. They gave me instructions, untangled my snarls and tied my hooks on with invisible knots that wouldn’t scare off the fish.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t possibly ask them to sacrifice another day of their own fishing to help me out. I’ve gone fishing since then, taken the kids to drop a line in the harbor (where we accidentally caught an octopus and had a major struggle to get it to stop clinging to the railing so we could send it safely back down to the depths), even went for a fishing lesson in Mammoth where the supposedly fool-proof lake failed to yield any fish. They might not have measured up to that day-long ocean trip with friends, but they’ve always been fun and restorative.
We’re entering that busy time of year — school and team sports clashing with hectic preparations for the holidays. That makes it all the more important for us to consciously create times of relaxation, in which there seems to be all the time in the world and nothing more important to focus on than whether a fishing line is moving. It doesn’t have to be on the ocean. A visit to practically any of the county’s regional parks will yield the sight of fishing hobbyists sitting by the side of a stocked lake, lines in the water. It looks just as calming as a boat trip. Trees often dot the perimeter, providing a shady spot to soak up the relaxation.
Fishing has become a little bit of a lost art except among aficionados. Tying tackle and casting a line used to be common knowledge. I have no idea how my parents, who grew up in The Bronx, learned how to do it. But some of my favorite memories are of them taking me and my siblings various places to drop a line. In fact, that was literally what I was doing much of the time. My parents couldn’t afford rods for us kids, so we’d sit on a dock with a spool of fishing line and lower our baited hooks directly into the water. We actually caught a lot of fish that way.
As you can tell, fishing brings up a lot of memories for me, and a warming sense of nostalgia. Whether I was sitting on the dock as a 6-year-old, or as a college student, casting a line off the Cape Cod beach with my dad to catch scup, fishing is associated with family, with learning from my parents — including my mother’s lessons on how to scale and clean a fish — with wrapped sandwiches and moments when we could cast off responsibilities and gently and quietly become absorbed in our activity together.
If you have no idea how to get started, you’re in luck. These days there are ways to learn without finding an expert friend to let you tag along.
Dana Wharf Sportfishing gives a free dock-side fishing clinic every Sunday. The lesson is followed with a five-hour fishing trip for which children 12 and younger fish for free when an adult ticket is purchased. Use of equipment is included. For more information and reservations, call 949-496-5794 Ext. 7. | danawharf.com
LBC Fishing Lessons in Long Beach does cost but offers a wide range of classes. The pricier ones provide you with your own new rod and other fishing equipment to keep. Less expensive group lessons also are available. Call or text 310-735-2689 for more information. | lbcfishinglessons.com
Laguna Lake Park, a municipal park in Fullerton, offers low-cost lessons periodically through the year, though it’s more active in late fall and winter. The lessons generally include tackle and bait. | cityoffullerton.com
Orange County regional parks stock their lakes with catfish during the summer and trout during winter. There’s no charge beyond the $3 or $5 entry fee to the park (or save yourself money and hassle by buying an annual pass good for all the county regional and wilderness parks). If you feel you have the skills to get going without lessons, this is an easily accessible and inexpensive option. The parks also generally have picnic and barbecue facilities in addition to their playgrounds. Bring a picnic and make a day of it. | ocparks.com
Remember that in most situations, adults will need a fishing license; licenses are not required for those younger than 16.
Fishing makes for too many grand memories for us to let it become a lost art. Time to start relearning the joy of no-stress times for ourselves and passing them on to our kids.
By Jessica Peralta