Diary of a New Angler

I consider myself a pretty outdoorsy guy. I have always loved getting out in the woods, swimming in lakes and streams and hiking and biking along trailways.  I fell in love with the outdoors when I was a kid, probably less than 4 or 5 years old. My grandparents gave my parents their classic 1967 Starcraft pop-up camper, which we towed behind our old station wagon.  I really fell in love with nature on trips with my family in that old camper.

We never went on any luxurious or exotic vacations, just grand tours around the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, the Delaware seashores and the beautiful battlefields of Virginia and Maryland. We explored, we swam, we fished, we hiked and we met a lot of great people. Most importantly, my family went outside.  I learned how to cook on a fire, I learned how to appreciate birds and other animals, and I learned how to love the woods.

I can’t even begin to express my appreciation for my mom and dad.  Their early influence in getting me outside has led to a life-long obsession with all-things outdoors.  We got outside a lot when I was a kid. We would go hiking, bike-riding, camping and exploring.  I look back now and realize just how important this time I spent outside has been to my whole life.  My parents explained to me the importance of the woods, the lakes and the streams. I loved every minute spent outside with my parents and it really brought us closer. Some of our best family memories take place in some distant wooded campground, in the pouring rain, in the blazing heat or out on some vast historic battlefield site.

Of the many things we did outside, only a handful of times do I remember fishing. I have really fond memories of those times out on the water with my dad. He was a pretty active angler before us kids came along; he had a few spinning rods and an old tackle box filled with (to a 6 year old kid) the coolest, shiniest, sharpest, most dangerous-looking toys in the universe.  This box was filled with lures both large and small, some were shaped like fish (floating and sinking trolling lures), with spoons, some bass poppers, and a bunch of old hooks and other tackle that I just loved.

I’ll be honest. I lost touch with fishing during my teenage years.  It’s an awkward time for kids and their parents. I know some family bonding time on a river bank could have brought us closer during some of those strained years.  Now I am a 26-year-old professional with a deep passion for all things outdoors.  This year, I decided to try my hand at fishing.

I want to learn, understand and collect information. I want to visit different waterways, lakes, rivers and oceans. I want to learn about fish, their habitat and their feeding habits. I want to enjoy fishing with friends and family. I want to meet other anglers who can give me ancient advice that their fathers father passed along to them so that I can continue this ancient legacy. Hopefully, I can educate some youngsters down the road about all of my experiences on the water and in the forest.  Someday, if I have kids, I can rest assured knowing that I am going to march those kids off in to the woods and hope they enjoy the sights,  sounds and smell of the trees and waterways as much as I do. I want them to relax, have fun and maybe learn a little something.
Stephanie Vatalaro

Stephanie Vatalaro

Stephanie Vatalaro is vice president of communications for the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation and its Take Me Fishing and Vamos A Pescar campaigns where she works to recruit newcomers to recreational fishing and boating and increase awareness of aquatic conservation. Stephanie grew up in the Florida Keys as the daughter of a flats fishing guide. Outside of work, you can find her fishing and boating with her family on the Potomac River in the Northern Neck of Virginia.