For some folks, it means no more than putting a worm on a cheap rod and bobbing it for bluegills. For others, like those of us who are purely addicted, fishing is a way of life.
That's what makes the sport so great. Anybody, no matter how much experience they possess, can head out on the water and have a spectacular day.
But what really makes a person a great angler? Is it luck? Is it money? It's a question I think about a lot.
So far, I've found four common traits among the best anglers I know. These people are curious, consistent, persistent and good note-takers. Although it's hard to believe after browsing the ads in nearly any fishing-related magazine, expensive tackle and lots of gadgetry isn't necessary to be a top-notch fisherman.
A trophy fish has no idea what brand of fly rod you're waving. But they do know when you present them with a bait or fly that's appetizing. That's why curious anglers consistently do well. They study a fish's environment and experiment until they find something that works. Instead of rushing out to buy the latest hot lure they saw in a magazine, good anglers figure out why it works.
Sometimes that process takes a while. That's why persistent anglers do well. Often fish just won't bite, no matter what you throw in front of them. Weather patterns, water conditions and the time of day all impact a fish's feeding activity. If you want to regularly catch fish worth bragging about, you have to be willing to stick with it and wait for favorable conditions.
Once the fish start biting, you had better pay attention. Consistent anglers figure out what conditions work best, and fish those same situations whenever they can. If you know trout like to bite when the barometer is dropping and rain clouds are moving in, you can look for those conditions and create reliable results. By avoiding the times when you know fish won't be biting, you can save a lot of time and frustration.
That's why every good angler keeps a detailed logbook. By studying and learning from the past, we can accurately predict what will happen in the future. Nobody can possibly remember everything they need to know to accurately pattern a species of fish, let alone multiple species. But with the help of a logbook, all it takes is a few minutes of studying your past experiences and the tactics and locations for the best possible results become obvious.
Fishing is a different sport for every person that picks up a rod. It doesn't have to be complicated. Anybody can be good at it. Start honing these four traits and you'll be bragging about your catches in no time.
Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org