SNYDER: Fishing can offer a gateway to your soul


It's amazing how a person can do something for years, decades even, and never know why they do it.

We may think we know what it's all about, but in reality, we have no clue. For a naïve fisherman such as me, this was an important lesson to learn.

James Walkins helps his nephew Aavant King, 8, both of York City, during the York/Adams County Central Labor Council AFL-CIO Fishing Contest at Kiwanis Lake in York City Monday, Sept. 7, 2015. Fishing often isn't about catching big fish. Often, it's about connecting on an emotional level with the person you're fishing with.

Since I was 6 years old, I’ve been tossing a bait into any piece of water that looked even remotely “fishy.” At first, I thought I was doing it because of the fish. The bigger they were, the more I liked the sport. At least, that was the initial thought. Upon contemplating it. I was wrong — way wrong.

After spending several seasons at the helm of a charter boat and escorting anglers through some of Alaska’s most beautiful waterways, I realized the reason we take to the water has absolutely nothing to do with catching fish. It goes way beyond that. It’s much deeper.

As the list of anglers I guided stretched into the hundreds, I realized I had become a sort of mobile psychologist. It was a totally unexpected, but crucial, part of the job.  It turns out that people don't spend a day outdoors to find a few fish. They hit the water to find themselves.

There's something about sitting in a boat with a total stranger that makes people open the gates to their inner emotions. I heard it all while on the water.

One angler shared the emotional tale of his sister’s recent death. Another was getting one last trip in before, gulp, reporting to prison. And one particularly memorable fellow from Utah shared his near-death experience involving a liver transplant. The stories I’ve heard on the water are amazing.

Many of the narratives were so intense and important to the angler that they forget about what they're doing and why they're there. I’ve reeled in plenty of fish because an angler was too busy orating his life history to get out of his chair and grab a rod.

I'm convinced the idea of catching fish is secondary. That’s why it’s so important to find a fishing buddy you like — somebody who cares and is a good listener.

It’s vital that you get outdoors with somebody you trust and value. It's the best form of therapy you’ll ever find. There's no better way to understand life in its many unique varieties than to get immersed in nature and witness it in so many forms all around you.

With Father’s Day just around the corner, you’ve got a great excuse to get your family together and head outdoors. It doesn’t matter what you talk about, where you go, or even what you do. Just get outside and talk.

Within no time, you'll be feeling revitalized and ready to take on the challenges of the world. If not, give a fishing guide a call and schedule a full-day session. You'll feel better than ever.

You may even catch a fish or two.

Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at