Monday, August 26, 2013

Commitment and Obligations.....

Commitment by definition is the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause or activity, or an engagement or obligation that restricts freedom of action, where as an obligation is an act or course of action to which a person is morally or legally bound.

For 2013, these terms hit close to home for me in many ways.  I committed myself to participate in a variety of kayak events this year - the KBF Open & Invitational in March; the MS Shad Shootout in April; the annual YakAttack Tournament in May; the Angler's Club Challenge in August; the Chesapeake Bay Kayak Anglers Tournament and the annual Tidewater Kayak Anglers Association tournament, both in September.

Additionally, as a Hobie Fishing Team member and the Central VA Local Pro, you are obligated to support the Hobie brand whenever possible.  For 2013, I was honored to assist and represent both Hobie and the good folks at Appomattox River Company during the annual Fishing Expo in January; and subsequently at their annual Demo Day and impromptu Rigging Party in June; Other events have included continuing to support the Central VA Heroes On the Water fund raiser events at Bass Pro Shops in February and an information booth at Applebees on Veterans Day; along with a clean up day in April and a couple outings to date in support of the the Tidewater Chapter of HOW.  My commitment to two different chapters for HOW is one I take very seriously and is known by many of my kayak friends.

Having personally served in the military was what inspired and motivated me to volunteer with HOW, plus it creates a sense of pride every time I help out.  I harken back to my time in the service often.....whether it was the time I spent deployed around the globe in support of various training exercises; supporting the ideology of democracy while fighting in a foreign war; manning a desert security checkpoint at night armed with two 30 round clips, an M-16 and a couple grenades; or surviving a SCUD missile attack that killed a number of our US Marines no less than a quarter mile from my outpost - all of these life experiences contribute to who I am as a person and are a grounding influence in how I prioritize my daily life.

Fast forward to this year.......

Outside of the kayak and fishing world, my life revolves around work, being a father and provider have taken center stage for me of late.  This year in particular has brought to the forefront a number of challenges, most notably the birth of our first daughter while my wife is out of work for the foreseeable future and coaching my son on his travel baseball team.  While these two do not necessarily go hand in hand, they are both very time intensive as you can imagine.  All of these commitments and obligations make the next chapter in this story all the more sweet and fulfilling.

You see, all the events that have happened to date this year and all the hard work I put in on the water with my son finally paid off in full a couple weeks ago.  Back in January, I had set a number of lofty goals for myself, most notably was to catch a citation in either fresh or salt water.  Another goal of mine was to take my son on the water with me as many times as possible.  Once the weather started to warm, I signed him up for the Shad Shootout where he promptly caught a number of shad, none less than 15", with his largest being an American Shad at 19.25".  I also took him on several saltwater outings once school let out to the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel complex, Back River and Lynnhaven Inlet.

These outings in the saltwater are where the magic happened recently.  The Virginia Marine Resources Commission holds an annual saltwater fishing tournament where anglers compete to see who can catch citation class fish across multiple species.  If an angler is fortunate enough to catch six citations from the different recognized species during the calendar year of the tournament, they can earn the award of Expert Angler.  What many people don't realize is that there is also another tournament going on at the same time - the Junior Angler Award.

This program recognizes those anglers who have not turned fifteen years of age who have caught six different recognized saltwater species in Virginia waters.  Last year and the year before, my son missed the award by one species due to school and baseball commitments.  This year, I had a goal to give him every chance to earn that award before the summer was over.   Well, I am proud to say that my son received his official letter of recognition, award certificate, decal and hat from the VMRC on Saturday recognizing him as one of their 2013 Junior Angler Award recipients.
Now, not all the outings in the past two years were favorable, nor resulted in success for him.  Several of the trips resulted in missed hook sets, lost fish, unfavorable weather conditions, strong winds, strong current, a non-existent bite or outright boredom.  Most days ended with an all to familiar scene as we made our way back to the launch empty handed.......
However, he persevered like a trooper each outing and toughed it out.  The first trip to Hampton Roads was a bust, but the following week in Back River resulted in the first saltwater species of the year - a croaker.  The next outing was the epitome of pure fish catching by my son.  I armed him with a simple one hook bottom rig and some fish bites in a variety of flavors and colors and a second rod rigged for trolling.   Almost immediately, he started catching one fish after another.  In a period of four hours, he managed to catch the remaining five species he needed.

On the way out, we always troll a simple curly-tailed grub and jig combo.  This day was no different, and he started off with a chunky little speckled trout right in the main channel not five minutes into our trip.  We made our way to a secluded and protected spot and quickly found a good choke point for the incoming tide, and he quickly landed a spot, sea bass and baby redfish.  The last fish was a juvenile flounder from the same area a short while later.  Over the course of the last two years and during the whole time he was catching fish on this day, I never mentioned the program, nor the award he could earn.  Not even after I knew he had met the requirements for the award.  I wanted it to be a surprise.

When I saw the package waiting for me when I got home this past Saturday, I too was a little anxious, but I wanted to let this award stand on its own and not take a back seat to the other family activities we had planned for the rest of the weekend.  So I waited until tonight after baseball practice and dinner to present it to him.  To say that he was ecstatic when I showed him what he earned is an understatement.  The picture says it all I think......
So, to all my friends who have wondered what I have been doing this year, the lack of reports or questioning my dedication to the sport of kayak angling, I hope you might think of me in a different light now that you understand what I was working towards.  My family is my primary commitment and obligation and one that I will not sacrifice for the sake of just getting out on the water by myself.