Throw net fishing seemed easy enough. You just take a big net with weights on the bottom, toss it out into the water, and walk away with dinner, right? Not so much. And it was a hard and messy lesson to learn in Maui’s Hana Bay during my stay at Travaasa Hana, but the one thing I did while there that will stick with me the most. Why? Because it was a lesson about fishing that wasn’t about fishing; I learned about deeper things while standing out in Hana Bay with Andrew Park, like patience, respect, culture, and life.
I wanted to run out in the water, throw the net, catch a little something, and get back and do a different activity. There was so much for me to see and do in the area, I wanted to rush off and get in as much as I could before flying back to the mainland. It was highly suggested that I do throw net fishing during my Maui Visitor Bureau trip, so I chose that activity first. But due to an ugly incident in my youth with a couple of bullheads while fishing with my grandmother at my grandparent’s home in Minnesota, I’ve never cared to give fishing another chance. I decided to be a good sport, though, and give it a try, so I wound up on the lawn of Travaasa Hana learning the proper way to set up and throw a six-foot and a fourteen-foot net.
It all started with patience. I saw how fast Andrew Park did it and I thought I should be able to do it just as quickly. Then we’d be done and I could go off to see more in charming little Hana. But whoa big fella, you have to slow down, take it step-by-step, and set the net up properly so it unfurls the right way and thus catches something. This wasn’t easy to learn, since I tend to be the type of guy who starts to put things together without looking at the directions. Only after I finish do I look at the guide to see where exactly all of the leftover parts go. But with throw net fishing, I had to learn once again how to take a deep breath and accept the very blatant fact that I don’t know everything. Here’s Andrew showing how to do it…
Admitting to myself that I didn’t know everything – even though I knew that already – was a big pill to swallow. I mean, I know I don’t know everything – I don’t know the first thing about neurology. But something like throwing a net into the water to fish seemed straightforward enough. So why take a lesson? Because it isn’t straight forward. It’s quite complicated and difficult, to tell you the truth. And so as I spent the afternoon with Andrew throwing the net again, and again, and again, I was reminded of respect. He didn’t know it at the time, but he was teaching me a very valuable lesson far beyond throw net fishing. And that, too, tied back into patience, and the need for me to slow down and enjoy what I was doing at that moment.
Andrew’s naturally patient and encouraging demeanor impressed on me the point of slowing down, learning from and sharing knowledge with others, and in the end thankfully accepting what the ocean gives you – which can very easily be nothing. I laughed at that, too, as I repeatedly threw the net into an area where Andrew pointed. Sometimes it made it there, most times it curled up in a bunch and landed in a glob of fishing line in a totally random location. But each time I respected what had happened, knowing I hadn’t paid close enough attention to Andrew’s lesson, and I needed to get out and try it again, learning from him what I had done wrong and trying to improve on it.
Throw net fishing dates back hundreds of years in the Hawaiian culture. The tradition was passed down from generation to generation. It was how it happened for Andrew, learning how to make his own net and throw net fish from his family. And it was how I was learning about what I found in the end to be one of the most fantastic aspects of Hawaiian culture I have ever experienced, which very simply, when it comes right down to it, is how to catch and provide food for not just yourself, but also your family. Your Ohana.
Was I providing for my Ohana by casting the net each time? No. I was only out having fun while learning about another cultural aspect which makes Hawaii so great. But in doing so I also learned a little something more. It was deeper than patience, respect, or culture. In the end it was about…
Trudging back up the hill from Hana Bay with Andrew I thanked him for teaching me how to throw net fish. I truly, despite my impatience and initial disinterest, had had a fun time. I had experienced something new. I had smiled. And during our time together I had enjoyed life. I slowed down, I breathed, and I experienced something deeper in meaning than how to throw a fish net. On the surface, yes, that is what it was, but on a different level it came back as sharing, learning, and being happy with what I was doing.
That is really what it is all about, too – doing what makes you happy. Recently I have been asked for advice from several different people. And thanks to the lesson I learned while throw net fishing with Andrew Park during my stay at Travaasa Hana, my answer is always the same: You should do what will make you happy. After all, if it won’t make you happy then why do it? It certainly seems simple enough, I know, but while I say it to others it is a lesson which I am still trying to learn on my own. One day, maybe, I’ll learn and take that next step. For now though, I simply have to accept and enjoy what the ocean gives me through patience, respect, and cultural learning, which is a small crab and a little kupipi fish – not exactly enough to feed my Ohana.