Tuesday, February 19, 2008

No Brag, Just State The Facts


A boast sometimes rankles other people, especially when two or more anglers are on a trip together. Almost always, one of the people is big on himself and wants everyone to know it.

Most people could care less what people have done. The trick is to be courteous and helpful, and if asked, answer the question as well as possible without bragging yourself up.

For instance, I know how many deer I’ve taken over 55 years. It’s really too many, and I seldom bring up the topic. I’ve been fortunate to have deer hunted in many states but choose not to constantly dwell on myself and my deer-killing deeds.

On the other hand, I dislike being in a conversation that is being monopolized by an ego-freak who is determined to quote numbers, sizes, the width of a rack which invariably is larger than anyone else has taken. After a short time, the egotist discovers he no longer is preaching to the choir. They’ve left.

I mentor younger outdoor writers. All are making or have made many of the mistakes I made when I started, but in my case, there was no one to teach me the difference. I struggled, made more mistakes, and trust me—when I tell people how to avoid making these mistakes, there is not a word of a brag to it. I tell them about my mistakes and how long it took me to correct many such errors. They learn fast.

A friend stopped by yesterday, and he is looking forward to drawing a turkey tag. He wanted some calling advice, and I told him I am not a good turkey caller. I also told him that many, many hunters can call ten times better than me, but I can call turkeys. No brag involved when I downplay my miniscule calling skills, but others can associate with my lack of such because they have their own foibles. Some of these beginners are far better callers than me.

I showed him a couple of tricks I’ve learned, told him how I do it, and repeated what he’d been told before. Don’t call too much, don’t call too loud, don’t move and be patient.

Years ago, I gave my twin brother a five-minute lesson on turkey calling. I took my gent out, and the bird I tried to call came in behind us, stood there drumming and spitting, and we couldn’t get a shot. My brother was hunting a mile away, and we drove over just in time to watch him call in and kill a gobbler with just five minutes of instruction.

He got a well deserved pat on the back. My gent was disappointed for a bit, but he shot his gobbler that afternoon.

The lesson to all of this is that bragging long and hard on oneself is boring to others. If I’m asked, I’ll answer a question and quickly turn the conversation back toward them.

Beginning anglers and hunters need to boast a bit over their successes, and it’s OK. But if you’ve shot 100 bucks with a bow, it means that you’ve hunted far more than most people. It also means, if you dwell on that number without teaching, those people often think you are lying, boring or a game hog.

None of which may be true. I’m a good deer hunter and a good steelhead fisherman, and have spent 55 years at both endeavors. Unless a person is blind or stupid, it stands to reason that they have learned something along the way. Share the knowledge with others but spare the bragging.

Forty years ago I drove to New Brunswick to fish Atlantic salmon with a guide. I sought his advice on which salmon flies to buy, and he pointed them out. I sought his advice on which fly to start with, and he picked one out for me.

Two hours into fishing, my guide said softly: “Begging your pardon, sir, but I suspect you’ve washed that fly long enough.  I’d suggest a change to a brighter pattern.”

He didn’t have to dwell on the fact that I should have changed flies earlier. He offered a suggesion that I gladly accepted, and when I hooked a 10-pound salmon on a brightly colored fly, he didn’t claim any credit for it. I’d been the one to choose the fly, and luckily, it produced a fish.

He could have bragged about his knowledge and skills, but instead, offered me a pat on the back for “choosing” the right fly. I had no clue what I was doing, and it was his suggestion that made that cast a success.

Even today, I enjoy giving credit to him for me catching my first Atlantic salmon. He poled the boat into position, told me where to cast, how long a cast to make, and all I did was manage to land the high-jumping fish once it hooked itself on the strike.

Stow the bragging, and if possible, share your knowledge with another person without trying to make yourself look important. I labor in a business where there are more egotists than I ever believed possible, but I check my ego at the door when I leave home. It works for me.

Posted by Dave Richey on 02/19 at 07:17 PM
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