Hope you all enjoyed your holidays!
Another year has passed. Each one has been so special to me, not just because of my growth as a person and angler, but because of what I get to do. I am blessed to be able to give back and pay it forward through fishing. Over the past 11 years I have had the opportunity to share my fishing experiences through Bass Pro, IGFA, Boy and Girl Scouts, Fishing with America’s Finest and Make a Wish Foundation.
Recently, Make a Wish Foundation contacted me and asked if it would be possible to take a young man named Noah on a bass fishing trip. Noah is 18 and loves to hunt and fish. About a year ago, he was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and it has limited his ability to get around. He and his family came down from Georgia for a few days and we went out fishing.
Then it happened. It happened to me again. After all my years on the water, I was moved. Not by the movement of the boat or the water, but by Noah. I felt an instant connection with my fellow fisherman. After talking with him, I realized that this young man wanted to learn all about fishing. He wanted to learn all of the techniques for catching different species. He wanted to know how to fish different bodies of water. He wanted learn it all. What started out as a 6 hour guide trip turned into 10 plus hours of fishing, dinner and a life experience.
In all my years of fishing, I never put so much value in each cast. I wanted to answer all of Noah’s questions and put a huge dent in his bucket list. Noah smiled the entire day. He never once complained about the heat or his struggles. When the sun went down and the mosquitoes came out, he just kept casting. All he talked about was the next cast, the techniques, the fish he wanted to catch and the time that he had to do it. The next morning I reached out to his mom to see if he would like to go again. She said she didn’t even have to ask him. I also reached out to some local junior anglers his age to join us. Shortly after the call we all spent the day fishing. He never stopped fishing or talking about it. Noah caught over 50 fish, consisting of 5 different species during our two days of fishing and he did it with one arm.
On these outings, I learned something too. How blessed we all are and what an amazing sport this is. I will never again complain about a bad day on the water. I’ve come to realize there is no such thing. Just ask Noah! At the end of the trip, I felt it was only fair to let Noah keep the rod and reel he did all the damage with. Fishing is so much more than just fishing.
Till next time, tight lines and bent rods,
Capt. Neal Stark
Fishing with America’s Finest, Inc.
“Changing Lives One Cast at a Time.”
501(C)(3) Non-Profit Organization, FEIN #45-5494005
American Everglades Guide, Inc.