Kids these days.
They spend all their time playing video games, checking social media, and …
Richard Wiese sees them all over the place. Compo Beach, Ford Road, the Saugatuck Reservoir — in large groups and small, even alone — teens and tweens are spending time (lots of time) enjoying one of mankind’s oldest activities.
Richard has a dog in the hunt. The longtime Weston resident — a former president of The Explorers Club, and host and executive producer of the Emmy-winning “Born to Explore” — grew up fishing at Stony Brook Harbor and on the Nissequogue River, just across Long Island Sound from here.
But when he took his young sons Alex and Ricky out on a boat, they quickly grew bored.
Then came COVID.
The pandemic was “an inflection point,” Richard says.
Stuck inside not of their own volition, starved for contact with friends — but warned by parents about doing anything in close proximity with them — his twin sons began hiking and biking.
For Richard — who grew up “doing actual outdoor activities” — it was a joy to see.
Particularly since his 2 boys were among the most avid young fishermen.
It happened organically. Kids were discovering the lure of fishing on their own.
And though they thought they were just having fun, Richard knew they were gaining life skills.
Every hour spent fishing — not on a phone — teaches “patience and perseverance.”
When they fish, youngsters who are hyper or anxious grow calm. “It’s almost like Zen meditation,” Richard says. Then they focus, for far longer than on other activities.
Fishing represents “optimism and hope. There’s always the promise of catching something — maybe even the big one.”
There’s also a connection with nature. That’s especially important, Richard says, for young people who spend far more time indoors than previous generations.
And — go figure — fishing is educational too.
Richard’s sons and his friends discuss water temperature, the right weight line to use, the best way to cast, the biology of the river, the weather, the birds nearby.
“Fishing is all about problem-solving,” Richard notes.
Not to mention responsibility. The same teenagers who throw their stuff everywhere, all over the house, learn quickly that if they do that with their fishing gear, they’ll spend way too much time later untangling lines.
“Every day is Earth Day” to fishermen, Richard says. His sons have learned the importance of keeping rivers, reservoirs and Long Island Sound clean and healthy.
Just a few years ago, the only folks fishing on Ford Road were men in their 50s and older. They’ve been joined by teenage boys — and Richard’s 14-year-old daughter Sabrina.
The Wieses did not fish here over spring break. They were in South Africa.
But Alex and Ricky were less interested in a safari than in fishing. “We’d pass a pond, and they’d ask what was in it,” Richard says. “They talk about fishing incessantly.”
Except when they don’t.
Fishing is great for sitting quietly, next to friends.
But as Opie Taylor-ish as fishing seems, Alex, Ricky and their friends are still 2023 teenagers.
They have not given up their devices completely.
Yet these days when they’re on their phones, they’re likely to be checking out their Fishbrain app.
It’s where they find tips, tools, forecasts, tide charts and more.
And where they feel part of the worldwide fishing community. The app is filled with photos.
The young local fishermen learned quickly how to show off their catches.
“They hold them way out in front of the camera,” Richard says. “Every one looks monstrous.”
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