Gift of angling: A lifetime adventure that connects family, friends, history



My earliest memory of fishing wasn’t the time I actually caught my first fish. It was of my grandfather Manuel plucking me out of the surf by my pants belt after taking a tumble when the 12-foot surf rod I was so anxious to hold knocked me off balance. I was about four and a half years old and although I got rolled over a few times in the surf when I came up, I still had hold of the rod.

That was six decades ago but I still remember it like it was yesterday. I recall being soaking wet and looking up and telling him “I still have my fishing rod, grandpa.” Maybe because it’s the season to count our blessings, looking back on my life I have come to realize what a wonderful gift my grandfather had given me. The gift of fishing and the blessings of a lifetime of adventures that I learned go hand-in-hand. 

My grandpa grew up in what became Huntington Beach, Calif., in the early 20th century. Fishing for food was part of daily life back then and like his grandfather before him, he grew to be a hunter-gatherer of the sea. He never owned a boat but he surf-fished at every opportunity. He also collected shellfish in the tide pools and he loved to skin dive – sometimes swimming over a mile offshore to spear the snapper, calico bass, and other rock-fish species common to the Southern California coast. A pastime he enjoyed well into his later years.

In my generation my family prospered and harvesting seafood shifted from a pursuit of necessity to one of recreation. Fishing, planning to fish and talking about fishing were always at the heart of every family gathering or campout. 

The anticipation of collecting fresh fish and seafood to eat, replaced by anticipation of the adventure of catching them in the places they lived, became even more satisfying. 

The compulsion has driven me to float in my drift boat deep into some of North America’s most isolated places. In fact, catching a fish was only a small part of the overall experience. A lesson I learned and told others “is what they will mostly recall from their life as an angler, whether you catch a fish or not, will be the adventures you will have while trying. Even more satisfying for many, is to share the gift of angling and those adventures with family and friends.”

Not very many newspapers still have a fishing reporter anymore so I feel very fortunate to be able to speak to you all a couple of times a month. 

My hope in most reports, in the actual text and between the lines, Is to communicate how strongly I feel about angling as a family activity. And also how fortunate we are to live in a state that has so many fisheries that are managed to be “family friendly.” In 2021 I will highlight the abundant urban fisheries and others nearby that make wonderful family fishing destinations. 

Way back, my grandfather used to make his surf rods (like the one that forced me off balance) from bamboo sticks he would harvest along the banks of the Santa Ana river. But in 2020 a better idea is to head to the sporting counter of your local department store. You can spend a lot of money on fishing gear, but for trout, crappie, bluegill and even bass, the price of entry is reasonable for durable gear that should last years. 


FRANK ARMENDARIZ/THE CHRONICLEIt’s not just a “fishing rod and reel” – the gift of fishing can become a ticket to a lifetime of adventures.

I seldom recommend specific brands, but if you happen to be looking for a rod-and-reel combination as a gift and aren’t sure where to start, let me offer a package that I enjoy. 

My favorite spinning rod for trout and panfish is the Shakespeare “Ugly Stik E-lite” for 2-6 pound line: #01C18Cm. The sensitive graphite rod is seven and a half feet long and has a 12-inch cork handle. 

The extra length handle allows you to perch the handle end under your forearm and is less fatiguing for anyone to hold. The rod also has the famous Ugly Stik unbreakable tip section, making it a great rod for a young person. They won’t break the first time they stub a rock on a trail. 

There are a lot of reels available. I recommend staying away from the cheapest model from nearly every manufacturer and that you enter the market somewhere in the mid-range. Consider that for an extra $20-$30 your chances of finding a trouble-free reel that will cast thousands of times without hitch increases greatly.

I like the Okuma Caymar series of spinning reels, size #40. A smooth cranking reel, with a solid line bail and a surge-free disc drag. Coupled with the Shakespeare Ugly Stik rod it becomes a highly functional tool. 

Most of my trout spinning reels are spooled with Berkley Trilene high-visibility blue. Being able to see your line is essential and Trilene is invisible to fish. 

That’s a complete package that any angler would be proud to hold and is great for spinner or bait fishing.


Lastly, it has been a strange year for people, and COVID-19 has been a persistent, menacing threat to our health and prosperity since last March. 

A terrible wildfire burned through our beloved McKenzie River … but as I prepare this report in this season of hope, giving, and love for all mankind, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe, with good health, our humanity will also heal.

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