Fishing: As real as it gets – Youngstown Vindicator

At the risk of sounding like Chicken Little, I confess many of the headlines these days make me worry.

I’m not panicking – not much anyway. The sky isn’t falling just yet. But I am concerned about several trends in the headlines recently. One in particular is about the erosion of the bricks-and-mortar retail shopping industry.

What’s this have to do with fishing? You turned to this page to read something about fishing, right? Facts are, however, the boom in online shopping and the resulting decline in stores makes me all the more grateful I’ve still got fishing.

As Amazon.com tempts thousands more people each day to buy, buy, buy online, conventional retail stores are staggering. Macy’s, JCPenney, Sears, hhgregg and more are going or gone.

Online shopping is certainly convenient. It’s a natural fit with the unstoppable internet and the momentum that it generates for innovative marketers. Some retailers adapt. Some don’t.

Bass Pro Shops, for instance, has learned to combine real store shopping – where people can feel, see and smell what they are buying – with online ordering – where customers are satisfied with a little picture of their goodies and a tiny description.

I buy from Bass Pro Shops online. I’ve also been to Bass Pro Shops stores – a vastly more experiential thing. And, of course, I shop locally at Fin Feather Fur, Dick’s, Gander Mountain and other retailers.

There’s something I still thrill about in a fishing tackle aisle. Racks of rods, counters with reels arrayed like expensive jewelry and hundreds of feet of lure displays vectoring off to the horizon – actually the back wall of the store – are more appealing. I can touch, see, wiggle, flex, twist and even whiff the stuff before I decide to buy.

I get the sense, however, that many around me are less inclined to get in physical touch with our world and instead seek ways to exist in some sort of virtual reality.

The day has come when we can buy anything we want or need by moving nothing more than our fingers and eyes. We don’t need to go to the store to buy clothes or deodorant, a bundle of toilet paper rolls or a super slick new fishing reel. Click. Click. Click. Done.

I may be able to do all of my grocery shopping from my La-Z-Boy, but I sure as shooting can’t sack a limit of largemouths on my laptop in the recliner.

Metaphorically speaking, fishing is about as real as it gets.

It’s sensory. The views of pretty lakes and green hills. The smells of fresh woods and fishy waters. The cool of dawn and the warmth of noon. The sounds of spring peepers in the wetlands and splashing lures. The darting dive of a released bass streaking for safety. Everything as pleasant as we want.

It’s physical. Prepping the boat, rigging the rods, tying on lures and driving to the hot spots. Aiming at targets, cocking casts and shooting the lures out to waiting fish. A hundred and a thousand times. All while standing on a moving boat and a rolling deck.

It’s invigorating. Solving riddles while sweating or shivering. Analyzing and reacting. Adjusting when necessary. Standing pat when all’s well. Generally thinking, using the gray matter for more than deciding which credit-card number to punch into an online order form.

Of course, there is much more that remains real. But in a world where it is possible to shop without leaving your chair, to drive without touching the steering wheel and to get a diploma without going to a school, I love that I cannot fish without going to the lake.

When I’m fishing, I’m living.

jack.wollitz@innismaggiore.com