The Smiths have been camping together regularly for 38 years. Fishing hasn't always been involved, but when it is, it's done with style.
The Disclaimer: Women Do Fish
Let me just say at the start that this writer is not sexist in the least. This article is one man's account of his long and happy marriage to a beautiful and creative woman... who loves many outdoor activities... who was an explorer as a youth... who once trained to be a wild-land firefighter... who studied conservation... who raised three girl scouts to womanhood... who married a fishing enthusiast... who has been on dozens of fishing trips, and who is absolutely not interested in fishing at all.
Many women enjoy fishing. Some of the best fishing guides and teachers are women. My two younger daughters enjoy fishing, and the older of those two is the best fly caster in the family. Mrs. Smith however, is completely convinced that she will forever be (and I quote) "quite well without fishing, thank you". Now this isn't to say she hasn't fished. I remember one occasion when she fished with one of our daughters at a small pond in a Wyoming park. She helped "reel one in" as a matter of fact. I also remember the last time she fished. On the banks of the Snake River I put my fly rod in her hand, and gave her a few pointers. It was a bit too windy that day, I believe, and Mrs. Smith proceeded to snap herself on the backside with a speeding woolly bugger. She quietly placed the fly rod down in the grass, and walked past me without a word on her way back to the car, where I'm sure she shed a few tears. She has never fished since.
I Love Fishing... She Lives With It
I remember walking around a small lake in Southern California fishing with my older brothers. They didn't want me along, but my mother wouldn't have it any other way. I didn't develop many fishing skills in those years, but I could skip a stone across the surface of that lake as well as any boy, though. Later I threw a baseball sidearm, just like I was skipping a rock. I recall sitting in a car in a torrential downpour watching my oldest brother fish on a river in Washington State that I no longer remember the name of. I wasn't that hardcore about fishing... and I still prefer it without rain. Extended family fishing trips, and several with just my dad followed as my brothers left home and started their own families.
As I matured I came to enjoy fishing in my own way, and on my own terms. I like it in quiet, less crowded areas. I enjoy streams, actively participating, and moving. I prefer using fly rods to pursue the fish as opposed to heavily leaded rigs and waiting for a fish to find the bait. I like to start fishing early and I like stopping when the sun is highest (which is a good time to take a nap). Then I like another short go-round early in the evening when it's cool again, and I can hide in the shadows. I am basically a "landlubber" and although I have fished from a boat, it has never been my choice of venues. Instead I like to combine fishing with camping, specifically a small stream, tall trees, and a clearing for a tent. I believe this specific preference is where my wife and I share common ground when it comes to fishing. Mrs. Smith enjoys camping. It was one of the first experiences we shared, and we've kept it up through our 36+ years of marriage.
Great source for material and instruction:
Mrs. Smith loves nature and beautiful places. This fact "dovetails" in a way with my preference for stream fishing, and allows me to have my best friend along on my fishing trips, even though she doesn't like fishing. Some of the best streams are in some of this country's most beautiful areas, and for years when the kids were young (and travel was cheaper) we vacationed annually in a national park or monument. Yellowstone N.P. has been our family-favorite, but Sequoia N.P. has also seen the Smith clan several times. On one particularly memorable Yellowstone afternoon, I fished from the green grass surrounding the Madison River with bison grazing only several yards away. It might have been the most surreal experience I've ever had. My wife sat in the car parked in a turnout contentedly reading a book while the kids slept, waving at me each time I turned to look her way.
Mrs. Smith has developed into one of the most skilled and organized campers in the country, and may possibly be the authority when it comes to camping with children (sorry Sarah Palin). She's directed the set-up and pack-up of every camp site we've taken, and she's played hostess to some unusual camp site visitors. We've gone through several tents, sleeping bags and camp stoves in the last quarter-century; and my wife packs it all before we leave, and keeps it all straight and organized when not in use. I take care of the fishing gear.
My Duty: Make The Experience As Enjoyable As Possible
I have one major goal on these camping/fishing trips. I have to hold at bay my tendency to think only of my own needs, and desires. If I can do that well, everyone usually has a good time. I've been working on this "skill" for most of my life; and I've been married for more than half of my years. Too often I think of my own needs; putting myself first; making myself as comfortable as possible; and serving my own selfish desires.
When my family was young, I would often push a drive much longer than I should have before taking a break. I've passed by many a roadside rest area and Dairy Queen with wife and/or children in the car and under stress. I sought the lightest and easiest camping equipment collection to transport. This usually meant the less than adequate ice chest, the not-so-warm bedding, the lightest meals and the smallest tent in the collection. These were never the wise choices, however; and some of the early trips aren't the most pleasant of memories at family gatherings. Considering the fact that Mrs. Smith is the best of organizers, allowing her to make and pack these choices radically improved our family camping experiences.
Now that our kids are raising families of their own, Mrs. Smith and I frequently travel alone. This was a bit awkward at first, because we were now free to combine camping with romance. That was something we rarely attempted on family camping trips; and it can be tricky if flush toilets and hot showers aren't available. Setting up a campsite without children was at first a bittersweet experience. It seemed empty and lonely. With each new trip, the loneliness has faded, and togetherness has taken its place. We share family memories and stories freely; and we make new ones as a couple.
Here are some reminders for making the fishing experience enjoyable for a non-fishing wife:
- Always refer to my fishing trip as "our camping trip".
- Never take work along on the trip.
- Always check the weather forecast, and make necessary adjustments.
- Always make sure the best organizer does or directs the packing.
- Ask her if she would like to stop at the book store.
- Never forget the air mattress (a must-have as we get older) and always make sure the air pump works.
- Always bring the folding chairs.
- Never camp near bees.
- Never interfere in the meal planning.
- Always participate in meal preparation and clean-up.
- Never fish all day. Break for time together, naps and unhurried meals.
- Spend all or part of the first day and the last day exploring, hiking or walking together.
- Make as close to a "smokeless" campfire as possible, and sit close together in front of it.
- Be up first and early in the morning to make yourself "presentable", build a fire, and start breakfast.
- Brush teeth and comb hair often.
- Smile a lot, even if the fishing is lousy.
- Use deodorant.
- Do all the driving. Stop at rest areas.
- Take lots of pictures.
- Look at and touch her a lot (with smiling eyes, and non-fishy hands).
- Kiss for longer than ten seconds.
- When she says it's time to leave, it's time to leave. But you should know before she says it.
- Stop for ice cream on the way home.
- Take her to a sit-down restaurant and/or a hotel for a night in the first week home. Don't talk about fishing.
Nature Deficit Disorder
I'm sure some of these reminders seem odd to the average fisherman/camper, and don't fit every relationship, or every trip. But in my case I'm much better off making a point of thinking about Mrs. Smith's comfort and preferences first. When I do that my fishing enjoyment is maximized; and our camping experience and our relationship remain fresh and exciting.
© 2010 Mr. Smith
Mr. Smith (author) from Indiana on October 23, 2011:
Thank you for stopping by. You are correct in your assessment, SlyMJ. The list was once longer. I had to remove a reference to something a bit personal when I heard that my daughters were interested in reading my hubs. Mrs. Smith and I still keep a few secrets from them. For family harmony... you know...
SlyMJ on October 23, 2011:
That looks like an extremely useful and hard-won list you have there, Mr Smith
Mr. Smith (author) from Indiana on January 03, 2011:
Thanks, Denise and Tinsky. I made some adjustments as you can see. Those are great suggestions. The marshmallows, and potatoes, however are in the meal planning category which is, as you can see, strictly forbidden (for good reason) in reminder #8.
Tina Dubinsky from Brisbane, Australia on January 03, 2011:
Mr Smith, what a fantastic hub. Thank you for sharing this with me. I think it is great that you have found a way for you both to enjoy your camping trips. I have a few camping tips to add - Keep an eye on the weather especially tropical storms and don't set up the tent under a native bees nest... they have a tendency to sting! Oh and make sure you have marshmallows for toasting and potatoes to roast in the hot coals of the campfire. An ice cream on the way home is also nice especially in summer :)
Denise Handlon from North Carolina on December 26, 2010:
Great hub, Mr. Smith. Sounds like a very workable relationship. Thanks for your perspective of the fishing rules. They may not work for everyone, but it's a wonderfully complete and considerate list. Nice priorities. (I voted your hub 'up').
Mr. Smith (author) from Indiana on December 26, 2010:
Thanks for those memories. Thanks for the inspiration.
Don A. Hoglund from Wisconsin Rapids on December 26, 2010:
My father took up fishing when he was middle age as a way to relax. we took some fishing trips, although back in the forties it was probably never more than 50 miles away. I don't think my mother ever actually fished. she stayed in the cabin and did the cooking, although I think Dad and I did the cleaning.
My grandparents were farm people and they went fishing with cane poles and worms. To them it was just something you do and not a sport.
Mr. Smith (author) from Indiana on December 25, 2010:
Mrs. Adams, I read your Ice Fishing and Hunting hub. It was fabulous. I read some of it to Mrs. Smith and we both laughed. And as a friend of Bill W., I sometimes (often) think I'm the one who is the "good sport", because "it's all about me". But you're right... it's Mrs. Smith, not me. Thanks for reading me!
Wendi M on December 25, 2010:
Sounds to me like Mrs. Smith is still a really good sport. This is Mrs. Adams here, and I hate fishing too(unless it's halibut fishing in Alaska!) So trips with Mr. Adams are somewhat similar to yours and Mrs. Smith's. As long as you're both happy...that's all that matters. I wrote a humorous hub about Ice Fishing and Hunting that tells your story from more of a woman's point of view.