Fishing Stories (are never about fishing)

 In Blog, Divorce

What do we do when we don’t know what we’re doing?

I recently returned from a fishing trip to Canada. Awesome!  Taking my Dad and the men in my family to Canada was something I had wanted to do for a long-long time, but had just kept putting it off.  I’m very glad I finally drew the line and put it on the calendar.

Fishing is something that I had not done with any regularity since being a kid.  I had gone to Canada on a fishing trip with my college buddy a long time ago.  My dad has far more fishing experience than me, but again, most of it was many, many years ago when I was little.  He had been to Canada for fishing once, back in 1980.  But that was the extent of any of our Canadian fishing expertise prior to the trip.

The Canadian Shield was beautiful, being out on the more remote parts of the Winnipeg River was awesome, hanging out with my family was great, but the fishing left a little to be desired.

To begin with, our trip was a self-guided fishing event.  Guides were not offered at our lodge.  No problem, we thought.  We had a map of the river, with fishing spots indicated all over the map, and we had the opportunity to talk to the lodge staff and locals for information.  Besides, it’s Canada – where the fish just jump into the boat – right?  Well, long story short – wrong.  It wasn’t a complete skunk out, my Dad picked up two nice Walleyes and my brother caught a very nice Smallie, but let’s just say there was not a lot of shore lunch eaten.  In fact, the lodge owner apparently felt so bad at one point, that took it upon himself to hand us a bundle of walleye fillets to eat – Literally handing a man a fish, while others at the same lodge were catching way more than they could even eat.

How did this happen?  Well it was the belief that – I’ve done this before, Dad’s done this before, it’s Canada, and we know what we’re doing.  We’re grown men, we’ve caught fish, and this is no big deal.  Looking back on it, my plan was more like the skit of Bert and Ernie, where Ernie yells “here fishy fishy fishy!” than anything else.

What we didn’t realize until about the last day, was that we were using the wrong techniques for that body of water.  Not only did we not know the area, but our limited experience was in lakes, not rivers.  My prior experience was primarily casting.  Dad’s prior experience was primarily trolling (in lakes without major currents).  Not to mention that most of our experience was with Largemouth Bass, not Walleye.  None of us had really jigged before, set anchor off structure, drifted, or trolled with bottom bouncers.  At the time, we thought we knew exactly what we were doing.  However by day four, we knew we had been seriously mistaken.

I wish I had a nickel for every prospective client who comes in, sits down, and says “it’s a pretty straightforward case.” They continue – here’s the situation, here’s what I want, the facts and law are on my side, and the other side is on board.  My follow up questions are “Really?  Have you actually talked to the other side about this?  Are they in agreement with you?”  The answers are usually no, no, and no.  Sometimes that’s the beginning of self-awareness, that perhaps they don’t know what kind of troubled waters they are really in.  Sometimes quite the opposite happens, and the prospect is personally offended that I disagree with their assessment of their own case.  I’ve had more than one consult like that and all I can think is – wow, this person doesn’t even realize how much of a danger to themselves they truly are.

Why do we do these things?  Ego probably, other reasons maybe, but ultimately it doesn’t matter.  Deep down we all know that having a professional, who is has an outside, neutral perspective, who is not emotionally attached to the facts of the case, and who has experience handling your situation, who knows the techniques to use and what results these techniques create, is an invaluable resource.  It’s why coaches exist.  It’s why most sensible attorneys generally don’t represent themselves in their own cases. It’s why we license electricians, plumbers, doctors, and lawyers.  An old saying goes something like this – a smart man learns from experience, but a wise man learns from the experience of others.

Yes there are do-it-yourself divorce forms on the internet.  Yes you can Google a lot of free information. Yes you can get a low margin, high volume firm to do the basics for you.  However experience and judgement can not be Googled.  Knowing your attorney opponent can not be Googled.  Knowing how the other side may react to certain positions or approaches can’t be Googled.  Knowing what any given Judge, on any given day, in your local area, would do with your set of facts can not be Googled either.  I’m not saying I can see your future, but I have been in these waters before.   Don’t try to fake it, don’t bury your head in the sand, and don’t go it alone.

It’s similar to what the guy at my local tackle shop says when you’re looking for a place to fish as a newbie – “think small” – start in the small waters you know or can learn quickly, that are appropriate for your knowledge and experience, before you go fishing in the wide open waters that you don’t know, which will take forever to lean, and which will make you compete with the serious fishing professionals who do it all the time.  You might get lucky, but your chances are low.

I implore you – before you find yourself in the middle of a river in Canada, where the reception is bad to non-existent, Googling best techniques for catching Walleye in the fall, I recommend you talk to a guide who has been there before, and give him (or her) the benefit of the doubt on what they have to say.  You’ll feel better, I’ll feel better about your situation, and at a minimum, even if you don’t like what I have to say, you’ll walk away a little more informed.

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