Long Live The Man Cave | Kayak Angler Magazine | Rapid Media
Ric Burnley typing on a computer in his man cave. Photo by Ric Burnley

Finding sweet salvation in a world gone mad.

My wife makes air quotes when she calls it my workshop. The realtor described it as a detached garage, but the only car inside is my daughter’s forgotten Barbie Jeep. It smells like the dead eel which years ago escaped my bait tank. Fishing gear stuffs the shelves, hangs from the rafters and spills out of cabinets and boxes. Crickets sing along with my single Bluetooth speaker and the dusty corners are infested with black widow spiders. It’s dark, dank and probably a little dangerous, but it’s my man cave.

If you’re a fisherman, you’ve got a man cave. Even if you’re a fisherwoman, you probably have a man cave. Fishing is one of the most gear-centric sports in the world. Rods, tackle boxes, rigs, lures, paddles, PFDs, seats, crates and carts all must go somewhere. Whether it’s a shed, garage, spare bedroom, furnace room or even a walk-in closet, it’s a man cave.

Let’s face it, the man cave is more than a trunk to store junk. It’s an escape pod, my isolation chamber, a happy place. Windy days and late nights spent piddling around are a welcome distraction from reality. Shoot, I wrote this editorial sitting on an old stool with my feet propped up on a cracked five-gallon bucket.

Anglers embrace fishing as a social sport. Tournaments, clubs, meet-ups, even hanging out at the tackle shop on a winter day brings like-minded individuals together. This year, there will be more kayak fishing tournaments and events than ever before. I have hundreds of friends on social media, most of them have fishing in common. Strength in numbers gives recreational anglers power over the forces against us.

Sure, we’re part of a community, but, when the rubber hits the road, kayak fishing is a solitary sport. One angler in a one-man craft under his own power making his own decisions and facing the consequences alone. We may hit the water with a group of friends or fish in a crowd, but when it comes down to it, it’s rugged individualism that draws many anglers to the sport.

I work with crazy people and live with two women. Then there’s the guy who cuts me off in traffic, the woman in the check-out line arguing about coupons, the garbage man, mailman, taxman, the insurance company, customer service, banker, baker and candlestick maker. Dealing with people is becoming increasingly more difficult. Add in the constant barrage of media messages: buy this, eat this, look like this, do this, say this, live like this. It’s overwhelming.

Fight the power and you get crushed. Argue and you get sued or shot. The world is crawling with people and it seems we’re powerless against the crashing waves of bullshit. Has the chaos contributed to the rise of nationalism and mass shootings? People feel powerless, out of control, on the brink. Every direction I turn, I’m being told what to do, drained of energy, worked to the bone without a chance to fight back. Every direction except one. Fishing.

To escape the madness, I retreat to the water. When I’m not on the water, I can get away to the man cave. Hey, if I spent hours just sitting on the beach or holed up in the garage, people would think I'm crazy. Put a rod and reel in my hand and it's okay, I'm just fishing.

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