Sam Venable 

Department of Irony

Relaxation is an Excellent Way to Go BonkersSometime around 1980 B.C. (Before Computers), when I was a full-time outdoors editor for newspapers and magazines, the American Fishing Tackle Manufacturers Association published a report about the relaxation qualities of fishing.

The study was conducted by  Dr. Jerome Singer, a professor of psychology (he’s now professor emeritus) at Yale University School of Medicine.

I won’t get into the intricacies of the project, except to say it involved—and I quote directly—“electrophysical instruments to measure changes in muscle tension on the forehead” of subjects. Sounds painful, but what do I know about high-brow research?

In his summation, Doc Singer noted that “of the many possible techniques for changing one’s mood and reducing stress, fishing has special advantages for alleviating tension and creating an atmosphere of calm relaxation.”

Furthermore, “the calming effects of being near water are evident again and again in clinical and experimental studies.”

Lo these many years, I’ve kept a copy of that report. I refer to it from time to time when I need reassurance about how peaceful fishing can be. The process works like this:

“You are fishing, and you are calm,” I tell myself. “There is no tension in your forehead or any other part of your body. You are relaxed. You are tranquil. You are placid. You are carefree.” (About now is when I cast into a tree or lose a big bass.) “Sonuv-%$#!, no ‘count piece of %$#@&, kiss my everlovin’ ^%#*, skuzz-butted, chicken-cluckin’*&#!-it to %$&! anyway!”

And, boy, do I feel better!

To illustrate further, let us imagine a hypothetical (harrumph) case in which a fictive angler named Sam Vena… — I mean, uh, oh, let’s say Herb Jones — is serenely working his way along some rocky shoreline when his seasoned ears detect the “slurp-poosh!” made by a school of stripes slashing into a pod of shad minnows.

Herb swivels 180 degrees in the pedestal seat of his bass boat and immediately sizes up the situation. He sets aside the outfit he has been using and selects another one at arm’s reach — a rod and reel specifically rigged for moments like this.

Herb smiles contentedly. He is peaceful. He rears back to cast into the fray and enjoy instant action…and in the space of two milliseconds, he tangles the lure into the outfit he set just aside, snaps both rods like matchsticks, throws a melon-sized backlash, grabs a third rod not realizing its lure is embedded in the boat’s carpet, immediately causing carpet-embedded to become finger-embedded, then trips over a tackle box and scatters fifty dollars’ worth of fancy gizmos from bow to stern.

There’s every chance Doc Singer heard me — Herb, I mean — “relaxing” all the way up there in his lab at Yale.

Sam Venable is an author, comedic entertainer, and humor columnist for the Knoxville (TN) News Sentinel. His latest book is
“The Joke’s on YOU! (All I Did Was Clean Out My Files).”

He may be reached at