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  • Writer's pictureKen Kowach

The Great Outdoors: Fishing out meaning through belonging

Remember when we were kids, how much we loved to spend time outside? The world was our oyster. We were like Calvin and Hobbes, where we could imagine just about anything, even limited to the space of just our backyard.

And then many of us grew up and forgot about “The Great Outdoors”. (not the movie)

Lately, though, I have been able to have a lot more flexibility with my time due to the pandemic of course… and with that additional time, I have spent some of it rekindling something in my life that has allowed me to re-experience “The Great Outdoors”. (again, not the movie)


I love it. There’s just something about it. And that’s what I’m fixing to talk about today.


Bottom Line Up Front

Fishing is an excellent outdoor activity. It provides a deep immersion and connection to the world around us, likened to a spiritual experience of sorts.

This immersion provides the angler with a sense of meaning and purpose through belonging, since the outdoors, in nature, as it is naturally, is where humans ought to be.



I have the benefit of living in a town that has seven different lakes sprinkled throughout it. Only town residents and their guests are able to have access to these waters, so I am certainly blessed.

There were a couple of forces that pushed me to fall in love with fishing recently, but I would say primarily it was because of the pandemic. It wasn’t only because I had so much time on my hands (since I am told to stay home for the time being), but more so because I found myself finishing projects, and then… running out of projects (actually money to fund those projects) around the house.

And then came the terrible two-year-old that still lives inside of me.

Being home all the time, cooped up indoors, was a recipe for disaster. I became a growing powder keg, day after day.

mind explosion

Legitimately, I was driving my wife insane and she needed me to get out of the house (get away from her). She could tell I was going crazy and I primarily chalk it up to me not having purpose or meaning in a functional role around the house, and that is a difficult transition to make when my purpose has been leaving the home most days and working to provide for the family.

Something odd happened. I started fishing, but that isn't the odd part. I realized how happy I was, even to be alone, and that was the odd part.

Originally, I thought that since I am a pretty social person, that had been the issue, that it was because my normal social life was being put on hold in quarantine.


Developing a love for fishing

There is something sublime about staring out at the water, reeling in, or maybe not even reeling in, with live bait, and you just stare at the bobber.

Personally, I have taken a liking to lure fishing, especially with the marabou jig and bobber setup, specifically for crappie.

And let me tell you about crappie.

picture of a 12 inch crappie
12 inch crappie

They aren’t incredible in size, so the sport of it isn’t super showy.

They don’t really fight like large-mouth bass do, so they’re not as exciting.

They aren’t gorgeous fish either, but they aren’t ugly like bass… that’s for sure.

But there is a certain method that I enjoy with the crappie jig and bobber setup. After you cast, and the jig settles in the water, you lift your rod up slowly, bringing the jig closer to you a foot or two, and then you let it settle, and you do this over and over again.

But what I have found that is miraculous about it is that I find myself almost trying to coax the fish, entice or tempt even, to just take the bait so that I can reel him in.

The selection of the location of the cast is critical too. Picking the right spot will increase the chance of a strike. And speaking of which, there strike is… not really much to speak of.

Unlike the cave man-ish bass (which inhales the bait and dives down… ) the crappie is... sophisticated.

They first take their napkin and unfold it in their lap, swirl their wine to check the lacing, and then they promptly nibble at the jig.

Once you see the bobber moving around a little, you have to react quickly and set the hook before the crappie realizes it has been duped. And then you’ve got him.

They’re quite tasty too.

ceviche made with crappie
Homemade ceviche made with crappie

However, I appreciate them not only for their flavor but more importantly because of the "universe" connection aspect that they recently showed me. (I emphasize that because this isn’t a universal lesson for people to learn to go and fish crappie.)

It may sound silly, but I am being dead serious. And it may not only just be some weird connection between myself and the fish (not only just crappie)

It is a connection that happens between myself and the outdoors and nature around me. I feel more in tune because I am trying to empathize with the fish and select out where I would be hiding.

I’m looking back and forth along vegetation strewn across the water bank. I study the current of the streams or I see how the wind billows at the peaks of choppy water.

The point is, I find myself deeply immersed, losing track of time, feeling connected with the world, and the universe that I was created with and within.

And I seriously doubt it is just me thinking this. I’m sure there are plenty of other anglers, hunters, hikers, etc. that can attest to this immersion.

And it hasn’t only been just through fishing. I find myself appreciating and caring for the plants that grow around my house. I get somewhat of the same effect but not as much as I do in natural settings, as opposed to "unnatural" nature (e.g. perfectly manicured lawns and shaped bushes).


A sense of meaning through belonging

I suspect that the sense of meaning and purpose that I get when I fish comes from the heightened sense of belonging.

I belong in this world, not only because I was made in it, but because I am one with it. It sounds hokey. For some, it sounds unchristian. (C'mon, even at least seven of the twelve disciples of Jesus were fishermen.)

But in my opinion, it is true. Our natural habitat is this world. Learning to care for it only comes through appreciating it in its natural splendor, and we can only do that through the first-hand experience of getting out there and being alone in it, to connect to it.

It feels like a tremendous step toward achieving self-actualization, or at least a sample of what it may be like.



Getting in touch with the outdoors is important. It is something my parents made sure I did as a child. I am remembering why that is important.

As humans, we were not made to live within a concrete jungle, just as the lion was never meant to be caged.

Our natural habitat is the world in which we were created, in all its natural magnificence. We can learn to find a deep connection and appreciation for it if we just spend some time connecting with it.


The Woke Hack

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” - Psalm of King David

Time to Pay it Forward

Let me know if you get the same thing out of spending time alone outdoors, or just spending time outdoors with family. Also, feel free to tell me that my opinion is bologna.

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