Let’s get the usual suspects out of the way first. You vowed to quit smoking, cut back on the sauce, take the local pizza delivery number off your speed dial and prove to friends and family that the milk of human kindness courses through your veins.
And how is all that working out so far?
New Year’s resolutions are somewhat an obligatory annual delusion. Like new gym memberships that go largely unused by February, any promises you make January 1 to hike the high hill to self-improvement may have turned into a slide down a slippery slope by St. Patrick’s Day at the latest, and that’s a holiday when all bets are off anyway.
But we plod on, that willing spirit and weak body notwithstanding, in the hope that we can accomplish something positive in our daily schlep through the minefield of life. Thus if you’re looking for some incentive to keep these promises of self-denial, try stuffing your holiday-enlarged posterior and belly into the Neoprene chest waders you bought 5 years ago.
It’s akin to bragging “I ran, and finished, the NYC Marathon.” Twice actualy. I did, but it was 30 years and about as many pounds ago. It’s not a 2023 resolution to try that stunt again. Hopping, or being helped, onto a party boat for winter cod, porgies or blackfish? Possible.
Most resolutions don’t work out because we set unrealistic goals, and sportsmen are no exception. You will not promise to paint the entire house inside and out so your better half will concede that you need a bonefish trip to The Keys, or vow to give her a Tiffany’s gift card in exchange for two weeks trout fishing in New Zealand. I suggest you aspire to more modest and attainable goals, such as changing the magnets on the refrigerator door.
For hunters and fishermen who notice their waistlines are now thicker than their hairlines, I suggest there is still time to drop a little weight before you waddle into the streams of spring. A “little weight” is about as much as any of us will lose.
So let’s get crackin” and tackle these challenges to make us again clean of lung, lean and mean and ready to climb hill and dale for grouse or slosh through slippery rock-strewn streams for a chance at a 5-inch native brook trout.
I propose then, our New Year’s resolution is to dream about good times in the outdoors to come, and maybe hitching a real ride on one or two of them. In 2023 it will be permissible, if not a downright resolution, to take more streamside naps, hunt slow of foot, fish on a pond where no motors drown out buzzing insects or croaking frogs. You will strive to watch your dog work good cover for 10 minutes without opening your mouth and always have a kind word for another man’s dog.
This year take a kid fishing and make good on that promise that you’ll “get together” with a longtime friend for a day afield or on the water, especially those who are stiffly wobbling along the back nine of their lives. This could also be the year you resolve to be the guy who brings an extra sandwich to share as well as a Thermos of hot coffee and be wise enough to laugh at the missed shots, snapped tippets, torn waders and the pocket full of .12 gauge No. 6’s when you decided to take out the “little .20 double” for a change of pace.
And Lord help me, I want to take my granddaughters surf fishing while I am still semi-ambulatory.
Make it a point this year to read about our favorite and treasured endeavors without enduring words and phrases on the order of gin clear water, Hawgs, bucketmouths, screaming reels, protesting drags, inhaling baits, or exploding water in a fish blitz slaughter or any nitwit who begins a column with “Needless to say.” Perhaps sit yourself down with the outdoor life as recorded by Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Corey Ford, Gene Hill, Nash Buckingham, Robert Ruark or Charlie Dickey.
In 2023 you will release more fish than you keep, but not look down on those with a hankering for a fresh fried trout in a campfire pan now and again. You will offer to share the bounty of any hunt with landowners generous enough to allow you to walk their woods and fields or anybody with a long-handled net to scoop up the 5-pound fluke you caught off a high pier. I vow to myself that I will not head out to fish this April without checking to see if there are any mummified nightcrawlers in my vest, nor rock hard green sandwiches.
It’s a list to work on, but there are 12 months to tackle the task. In the words of a wise man: “Most of our future lies ahead.”