A few years ago, around my 39th birthday, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It wasn't a terrible case, as these things go, but it undeniably introduced a new dimension of stress into my life.
Judging from the notices for support groups and yoga and meditation classes posted in the waiting room where I went for treatments, I was not alone in my newfound disquietude.
I didn't enroll in any groups or classes. I did, however, take up fishing.
I'd never fished before, but it suddenly seemed a very good idea. I craved a river, a rod, pretty lures to dangle from the end of my line and the time to cast and retrieve, cast and retrieve. As I've since learned, my compulsion to fish in the face of adversity was not as strange as it might first appear.
You can spend $10 or $10,000 on fishing gear. A novice can keep expenses down by buying combination outfits that include a rod and reel, line and lures. These are available at sporting good stores, tackle shops and online. Two well-known fishing catalog companies, Cabela's and Orvis (www.orvis.com), are now online.
The variety and choices in fishing gear can be intimidating. Keep it simple for starters. A spinning reel is versatile, easy to use and fun to cast. A baitcaster is mechanically different, but serves similar functions. With both types of reels, you can fish with artificial baits called spinners, spoons and plugs, as well as with natural baits such as worms. Fly rods and reels, used with artificial "flies" that mimic insects on which fish prey, present anglers with more of a challenge because of the greater difficulty of casting the line.
Peggy Stock, president of Westminster College, says, "Fishing is like everything else. I wouldn't want my husband to teach me." If you also prefer to keep your marriage or significant-other relationship unburdened by fishing lessons, hire a reasonably priced guide for half a day, or ask a friend.