Keep your eye on your own cork
Eddie, my youngest brother, came to spend a few weeks with my wife Nancy and me back when he was 12 and I was 28. The first day of his visit he kicked a football through my neighbor’s window and I knew I was in for my first lesson on parenting an adolescent. There would be many more.
He loved the outdoors so I arranged to take him fishing with my friend Ellis Ray and me. We dropped the 12-foot jon-boat into a large pond with a swampy area loaded with dense lily pads and flooded timber. Ellis and I had fished this area before and it never failed to produce.
E.R. was a die-hard Zebco spinning rod man. I preferred a fly rod with a popping bug and we also brought along a few cane poles with cork bobbers and a supply of worms from the garden. We set Eddie up in the middle of the boat with a cane pole, Ellis in the bow with his spinning rod and I worked from the stern with my fly rod.
It wasn’t long before Ellis caught a fish. I too began to have success. Different bait and technique, but we both were scoring. Yet Eddie couldn’t seem to catch a break. At first he thought it was because he sat in the middle, so he and Ellis changed places. No luck. We told him to spit on his hook before he baited up (some swear by it, really). Zero. Then he became convinced it was because his equipment was too primitive. After all, we had fancy fiberglass rods and artificial lures and he had just a common bamboo pole with a bobber and hook.
Ellis was a good sport so he offered Eddie his rod and showed him how to use it. He then took Eddie’s cane pole and continued to rake in fish after fish. Eddie was still skunked. We stopped for a while and had a lunch of potted meat, soda crackers and a cold Pepsi. After this, things slowed down and we decided to all use cane poles and worms.
Ellis caught a fish. I caught a fish. Eddie caught zip. It seemed that Eddie wasn’t going to pull in so much as a minnow and his frustration grew exponentially with every fish that Ellis or I brought into the boat.
“I can tell you what your problem is,” Ellis finally told Eddie. “You are so busy watching us that you missing the tugs on your own line. Son, you need to keep your eye on your own cork.” Sure enough just as he said this, Eddie’s bobber went under. He saw it for the first time and was able to respond, catching the first of many fish he would later collect that day.
There are few things in life more frustrating than “getting skunked” while everyone around you is “reeling them in.” Some of us have chased every trend, gone to every workshop and seminar and invested a pile of money we didn’t have trying to find “the magic key”. Changing positions in the boat, spitting on your hook and trying out new technology, in the end do not amount to much if you cannot sense that subtle tug on the line. “You need to keep your eye on your own cork.”
The world already has a Picasso, a Miles Davis and a Billy Graham. They didn’t become persons of reference by focusing on what was happening to the others in their field and trying to make a copy of it. They often challenged the conventional wisdom of their day. Keeping their focus on their own cork, they maintained integrity and tangible rewards came in due time.Comment on or Share this Article →