Norman Rockwell seemed to have a strong sense of some people’s perceptions of fishing.
The famous American artist produced several works depicting what he apparently saw as a leisurely pastime. One of his most iconic, "Gone Fishing," was of an elderly man and his dog in a small boat. The gentleman had a bunch of fishing lines in the water. He had an umbrella to keep the sun off of him. He had a pipe in his mouth.
Oh, yeah, the old man was also having a snooze. With enough imagination, you can almost hear him snoring.
Fishing has the reputation of being a relaxing time without a lot of strain. The popular perception to those unfamiliar with the sport is that it doesn’t involve much activity, and may even border on boring.
Avid anglers will vehemently disagree. Two Ontario County fisherman, Tyler DeMitry of Middlesex and Joe McHale of Seneca, say it involves plenty of activity, and they’re not fooling around when it comes to their views on its health benefits.
By the way, Opening Day of Fishing Season in New York is April 1.
“There is some cardiovascular work,” DeMitry says. “You're walking around, you are going through water and walking on banks. You're using your legs a lot. You're burning calories. You're outside. The sun is shining, and that makes everybody happy when the sun is shining.
“And I’ve never seen anyone unhappy with a fish in their hand.”
The simple act of casting, for instance, involves using numerous muscle groups including those in the arms, shoulders and back.
“You are moving your joints around,” DeMitry adds.
McHale points out there are plenty of fishing spots in Ontario County that require a good workout just to get there. It’s not just parking the car and walking across the street to a fishing hole.
“There are spots at Naples Creek where you can hike a good distance and find some solitude,” McHale said. “Some of the hiking to get to Grimes Glen will give you some great exercise.”
Grimes Glen Park provides access to Grimes Creek. Just east across Main Street in Naples, and running along the western border of the High Tor Wildlife Management Area, is Naples Creek.
The latter, which empties into the south end of Canandaigua Lake, is regarded as one of the finest rainbow trout streams in the Finger Lakes region. The rainbows spawn in Naples Creek and its tributaries – including Grimes Creek – in the spring, and jumbo fish can be caught through the end of April.
DeMitry, a 34-year-old owner of a plumbing, heating and water conditioning business with his father, Thomas, says fishing is beneficial in many ways.
“It’s good for the mind and it’s good for the body,” DeMitry said. “It teaches you patience. You can walk around in water and your balance is getting knocked around. You have to sturdy yourself. You are travelling. You are getting out of the house.
“It relaxes the mind. Work can get hectic sometimes and it’s hard to shut your brain off with everything that’s going on. Going fishing is the best thing for me. I can go and just shut things out.”
Both anglers plan on being somewhere among what is expected to be a huge throng at Naples Creek on Opening Day in the hopes of nabbing some trout.
How good will the fishing be that day? That will likely be determined a week before, and there is actually some science that goes into this. A wealth of information is available about fishing conditions of the Naples Creek area, courtesy of Whacking Fatties (whackingfatties.com). If the website deems an area “not fatty” it means you probably should just plan another day to fish there.
McHale, who has owned a boat dock sales company for the past 36 years, said he looks forward to an event a week before Opening Day, when researchers from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation conduct research on Naples Creek.
“They use an electro-wand to shock the fish,” he says. “They measure the fish. They check to see if the fish are a healthy size. About 300 to 400 people come out for that. I bring my family. You can get an idea what to expect the next week.
“It’s hit or miss. After some winters there may not be many fish there. Sometimes the condition are just right and it’s like shooting fish in a barrel.”
If the fish are sparse on Opening Day, that usually means come summer there should be plenty to be caught, he adds.
DeMitry says his father and grandfather first took him fishing when he was 4 or 5 years old. He’s been hooked ever since, and fishing has become a big family event.
“Sometimes we go with brothers, uncles and cousins,” he says. “It’s a time for the great outdoors and to spend with family. And it produces a lot of fond memories.
“One year, my brother, Justin, cast his line over a tree and it dropped into the water and he immediately caught a trout. People who watched what happened couldn’t believe it. It was so funny."
This article was originally published in Community Health for Ontario County.