Our Outdoors
Nick Simonson

Attitude, Character, and Enthusiasm are the keys to muskies

It sounded like the hardware store jingle as the long-time guide laid out his simple plan for muskie fishing. "ACE is the base for success with muskies - Attitude, Character, Enthusiasm," he bellowed to those of us in attendance at the banquet. Simply, he summed up what makes a good angler - the mindset that a person can catch fish, the integrity that we will do so responsibly and the enthusiasm of childhood extended into every cast and crank of the reel handle. I left the lecture surprised at how easily it was all put together.


Generally, we as sportsmen go on the water with the idea we will be catching fish, approaching each point or piece of structure with the know-how and experience to locate, entice and fool fish with our offerings. Even in new situations, where we might not be too sure of the basic elements - where the fish are, or what they want to eat - we apply previous knowledge and adjust our plan from there.

It has also been said that good anglers go fishing, but great anglers go catching. The positive attitude only results from experience, from mastering one situation and moving on to another. Contentment generally leads to a plateau in the fishing experience. To the inexperienced the plateau seems like the apex, to the experienced the plateau seems like an enjoyable, yet unjumpable hurdle. The importance is to expand horizons, fish for various species on various waters, expanding horizons and seizing new opportunities.

Doing so isn't always easy; it means breaking out of comfortable patterns, locating new spots, adjusting old tactics, burning calories, gallons of gasoline, yards of line and a selection of lures in an attempt to find what combination is needed. Through it all, the stick-to-itiveness pays off with heightened knowledge and that perseverance through the trial-and-error phase, as the Good Book says, builds character, the second element for success.


Character means doing what is right, even when no one is watching. One doesn't have to lapse too philosophical to understand good character on the water. Being courteous to nature, to fellow anglers, to property owners and ultimately to all who come after you is the right thing to do. Picking up after yourself and others, respecting the resource by staying within the legal and ethical limits, limiting your footprint and caring for the catch are signs of good outdoor character.

These behaviors not only enhance personal enjoyment, but also the enjoyment of others, and hopefully fuel the fire and excitement in the next generation of sportsmen. You don't necessarily have to point everyone who asks in the right direction every single time you catch a few, but making sure the right direction is still somewhere out there is the responsible thing for all anglers to do.

There's a karma that goes with it too. What goes around comes around - and bad lapses in judgment beget worse consequences in the long run. Good deeds, while they may be their own rewards, often bring other perks with them and they seem to be both immediate and long-lasting. That's not to say that every day will be a success, but then if every day was, we'd never grow.


Regardless of the outcome, which obviously varies day-to-day even for the best anglers, there is a reason we are out there punching holes in the ice, or casting at shadows under the surface - and that is to have fun. There's a joie de vive peculiar to anglers. It is pretty obvious that we do what we do for the love of it all - for the challenge of our skills, for enjoying nature, for just getting out of the office or away from the TV.

Modern angling is found at the crossroads of simplicity and complexity. The activity is so basic - just man versus nature. But it too is complex - weather, time of year, water, air pressure, moon phase are elements provided naturally; now add in electronics, 6.1 gear ratios, and the endless debate of green pumpkin versus watermelon. Each part of the puzzle is exciting. We attempt to understand them, and enjoy unlocking the mysteries and combinations. When we do, the result leaves us with memories that are relayed again and again until they are tall tales amongst family, friends, and if we're lucky, whole communities.

Most all of us have gone through our tackle boxes at one point or another, and just thought of the memorable fish we've caught on the lure we happen to be holding - a Senko, a Daredevle, a firetiger Shad Rap. And of course, it is natural to picture fish we COULD catch next time out with those lures. That hope, that enthusiasm for things to come, is something particular to anglers.

As the New Year approaches, focus on these three things, a simple summation of what it takes to be a successful angler. The same can be applied to hunting, and probably to most pursuits in life and life in general. In the end it really isn't surprising to those who love the outdoors that much of what we need to know to savor the amazing journey through life can be learned season after season…in our outdoors.