Last Sunday my wife and I both woke up at 4am. We got out of bed, brushed our teeth, applied sunscreen together, and then got into separate vehicles.
We met at the convenience store, and then again at the boat ramp, where we got into separate Bass Cats and headed in opposite directions.
I had nothing to worry about because not only was she in a boat that could handle that morning’s rough water, but also because that boat was being driven by Christie Bradley, consistently one of the best anglers on the Potomac who also happens to have the highest B.A.S.S. Open finish of any female angler – 4th at Tennessee’s Douglas Lake in 2013.
For a relative newbie, Hanna has fished with a lot of other anglers, including several Elite Series pros and a number of female fishermen. Most of the latter group have come to the sport through their fathers or significant others, although a few – like Samantha Sukupcak and Lisa Skelley – are serious tournament anglers in their own right. Unfortunately, those two live in Wisconsin and Tennessee, respectively. Until now, Hanna has seen the Potomac River, the fishery closest to our home, only through my eyes.
While I don’t believe that your fishing mentor needs to have the same chromosomal patterns as you, I do believe that it’s important to have a mentor, an influencer, and someone to look up to if you’re going to get the most out of the game. In most cases, marital relationships, even strong ones, are too fraught with politics and power plays for one partner to be the other’s fishing mentor. When it came time for Hanna to learn to cast a baitcaster years ago, I actually had a friend take her out and show her the ropes. Otherwise, a backlash might’ve been expensive not only because of the weakened line, but also for the potential trip to a divorce lawyer.
While Hanna said that she learned a lot from Christie during their time on the river, what made me happiest is how excited it made her about the sport and about the potential friendship. She was on cloud nine the rest of the day, and well into the week. On the one hand, I was disappointed by the fact that I am clearly no longer the angler she admires most. On the other hand, as someone who has made most of his important human connections through the sport, I understand how critical it is for her to have her own tribe of anglers - friendships she’s cultivated on her own that stand apart from our existing circle of friends. She couldn’t have picked a better starting point than Christie.