Respectful Representation | Public Perception of Anglers
Leading my second springer of the evening into the net, I punched my tag and pulled anchor. Rowing across the riffle I’d been fishing, I was eager to identify the man in the familiar cowboy hat. Like me, he was alone, fishing from a drift boat.
It was pouring rain and daylight was fading. The closer I got to the man, I realized he wasn’t who I thought he was. He was nice, and congratulated me on my solo limit. I wished him luck, nosed the boat downstream and pumped on the oars.
To say I was disappointed would be an understatement, but I wasn’t surprised, after all, why would the man I thought it to be, be fishing an upper tributary of Oregon’s Willamette River, more than 150 miles from his home. The man in the boat had a stature, and wore rain gear and a cowboy hat, similar to legendary angler, Buzz Ramsey. This was back in the early 1980s; I was still in high school. Buzz was a man I highly respected, though I’d never met him.
Twenty years would pass before I’d actually meet Buzz Ramsey, and when I did, he was everything I’d envisioned. Who would have thought that as a boy growing up in the little town of Walterville, Oregon, I’d have the honor of both fishing and hunting with Buzz, many times. The moment we met, we hit it off; he was a class-act, a true gentleman, reminding so much of my father, the man I most respect in life.
I consider Buzz, and my dad, two of the best anglers I’ve fished with. Both catch fish, work hard, think outside the box and love the outdoors with great passion. I’ve never seen either one of them drink, heard them swear, or bash fellow anglers with harsh words. These are men of integrity, the kind of men I want my sons to grow up to be like, the kind of men sportfishing needs.
Over the past 15 years, Buzz and I have fished a good bit together, and been presenters at multiple sportshows along the West coast. When in the public eye, Buzz is always the same; positive, fun and takes time to listen to others, a true ambassador of the sport. Another legendary angler whom I greatly respect, Jim Teeny, exudes the same demeanor. Though I’ve never had the pleasure of fishing with Jim, I want to.
Projecting a positive image is important, for all of us. Buzz, Jim, and many others like them, know they’re constantly under the microscope, but they also carry a genuine desire to help people become better anglers; I try to do the same.
As anglers, we all share common interests that bond us. In America, we’re a minority among the masses, part of a mere estimated 11% of those who sportfish. Oftentimes, how we treat one another, and the public image we project, may not be as well represented as it should or could be.
From littering on the river, to overindulging in alcohol, to carrying on with foul language in front of children, or anyone, is something all of us should be cognizant of. As anglers, and as people, we only have one chance to make a good first impression on others.
Case in point. During this past sportshow season my booth was next to that of a company in the fishing industry. By afternoon each day, all the representatives in that booth were so intoxicated, it was embarrassing. Women and children walked by all day long, hearing some of the most vulgar language imaginable.
My two sons, ages 12 & 14, worked in my booth, and for five days they heard grotesque language and witnessed excessive amounts of alcohol consumed. It was revolting, uncalled for and offended many people walking by. When a potential customer was looking to make a big purchase, his wife yanked him away, saying he’d never own anything made by this company.
He agreed and they quickly left the booth with their three young boys. Is that really the message industry professionals want to send to the public? Our goal is to encourage anglers to experience why fishing is so special, not repel them.
At another show a seminar speaker was so intoxicated, he struggled through his presentation. Many people left, some came and complained to me.
More than once I’ve been on a river and seen guides so intoxicated, they literally could not row downstream; their clients were not happy. I’ve also seen guides, and fellow anglers, intentionally tie-up holes for extended stretches, so no one would anchor by them, allowing them to eventually fish more water. Inevitably, verbal battles ensued and quickly a fun day on the river escalated into one full of tension for everyone within earshot.
What anglers do at home is their business, but when in the public eye, and on public waters, people need to be aware of how they’re representing all anglers. We must all be aware of messages being sent to anglers and non-anglers.
After all, we’re all on the same team, fishing because we have the privilege and freedom to do so. Fishing isn’t a competition, it’s a rite of passage that’s supposed to be positive and enjoyable for everyone.
In today’s world of social media, where thoughts can instantaneously be shared, anglers must be in touch with what’s being said.
Know that men, women, children and even non-anglers, read what’s written. Take this as an opportunity to make a positive impression, not to offend others and lose potential anglers.
With sportfishing license sales in a steady decline in recent years, we need more anglers, not fewer. It’s up to all of us anglers to represent fishing on a level that encourages others to see how fortunate we are to be able to fish rivers and lakes throughout North America, and make them want to experience it. Life is short, and enjoying our time on the water is a blessing, not a hardship.
- Scott Haugen
Fishing how-to books, including cookbooks, can be ordered online at www.scotthaugen.com