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“iGeners” Provide Hope for the Future of Angling

So, a Junior Hockey Player, a College Business Major, and a Soon to be Senior in High School Hop Into a Boat…

That subject line sounds like the start of a weird joke but it isn’t. I had the pleasure of guiding this group of young folks on a recent trip. I was pleasantly surprised by what transpired and it gave me hope for the future of the outdoor recreation industry…and humanity for that matter.

I haven’t been guiding for that long (coming up on 5 years) but long enough to have guided well over a hundred people younger than the age of 21. On every instance, until the aforementioned trip, these budding humans were in the company of their parents. It’s always encouraging for me to see people from my generation (GenX) getting their kids into fishing. Still, I find that most kids remain reserved in the presence of mom and dad.

Last week, when these three jumped into the boat without parental supervision, I recognized how unique this experience was for me. For the first time, I had 3 people, born in the internet generation, on the boat without their parents. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to engage in unfiltered conversation.

Shedding Preconceived Notions

I’ve mentioned this a few times recently, but I’ll put it out there again – I’ve been distancing myself from social media lately due to the amount of ugliness going on. When I think about it, almost all that ugliness is coming from my generation and those generations immediately adjacent – Millennials and Boomers. Sure – that’s anecdotal but it’s all I have to go on. Bickering, slandering, talking trash – general negativity aren’t something that pairs well with fishing nor is it healthy for our minds.

On the other side of the spectrum, folks from the internet generation seem more interested in capturing their lives and showing anyone who’ll look. People from older generations often perceive this as insecurity – but my recent trip with these three “iGeners” gave me a different perspective. Capturing and posting the moment is all that they know. Hell, the elder generations are responsible for enabling this behavior. As far back as iGeners can remember, they’ve had devices and use them in creative ways to communicate…almost like an extension of their consciousness.

Prior to my day on the water with these 3 iGeners, I thought this behavior was a distraction from being in the moment. More insidiously, I believed this behavior to be a critical enabler for the development of virtual reality – a capability that would keep these folks at home, in a chair, with a mask on, dialed into a dream world. I still believe these things – BUT – I’m becoming increasingly confident that the internet generation will continue to prefer the “real” over the virtual.

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Getting Primed for Visceral Experience

Before wetting a line, I always take the time to discuss the plan for the day followed by some time building rapport. Here’s how I began the getting-to-know-you session. “My biggest concern about the isolation happening because of Covid-19 is that you’re going to become more integrated with the technology you’re holding in your hand. Your generation was born with devices. In turn, you’ve always spent a lot of time on them. Staying at home because of Covid-19 has reinforced this trend. How are you preventing a transition into a cybernetic organism?”

They chuckled at this old dude’s inquisition, but I could tell it wasn’t the first time they had been asked a question like this. In fact, I’m confident they were self-aware enough to have already recognized this as a potential problem. This notion was encouraging and made me feel like I had a good chance at keeping them engaged all day.

Their response was that about half of their friends are enablers of the trend toward a consciousness dominated by devices and virtual reality. The other half recognizes the problems with this and makes it a point to get out, hang with friends in “real life,” play sports, and engage in outdoor activities. 50/50 – an anecdote for sure but worth thinking about.

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Staying Engaged Was Easy

Complete transparency – it was slow fishing that day. It was hot, sunny, the water had jumped in temperature the couple days prior, and (add guide excuse for slowness here). However, our time spent on the water flew by. These folks were genuinely curious about everything. How I tied knots. Why I wear the clothes I wear. Why we fished a specific spot and used the baits we used. Pro-deals blew their mind. Although the fishing was slow – the conversation was anything but.

They had a couple bets going – first fish and biggest fish. Every fish caught was rewarding to them. No judgement on size or quantity. Dragging neds and drop shots over rocks provided enough stimulation to give them hope that the next bump would be a fish. I remember thinking how awesome it’d be if all my clients were so engaged.

By the end of the day, my new iGen friends boated some nice fish and we had a great time. So much so I felt compelled to write about it. Think of this little essay as a message to the parents of iGeners and to those budding adults of that generation.

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Conclusion

After parting ways, I shot a quick text to the father of one of the clients thanking him for the business and for the opportunity to learn something new from this budding generation. I brought up the 50/50 anecdote and he assured me his son and his friends would be outdoor types for life.

I have no doubt that’s what will happen with these 3. Still, I’m less confident about the generation as a whole but a little more so after having spent some time with them. When I’m not on the water, I’m rarely in the moment – constantly pondering the future and the survivability of the charter fishing business a decade + from now. By then, iGeners will be a solid percentage of my clients…or will they?

If you’re from the internet generation, which population will you be part of in the “50/50” I mentioned earlier? If you’re raising one of these folks – where do you want them to end up and what are you doing to make sure that happens? I still have faith that humans will want to remain humans – engaged in the natural world and inviting a humbling from Mother Nature every once in a while. It might just take a little nudge to make sure that happens. Give us a call is you’re looking for some assistance – we have some ideas.

Take care,
Ryan