Well hello there, fellow fisherman.
My name is AJ Hauser and I started The Minimalist Fisherman in 2019. It’s helped me become a better angler, a better father, a better husband, a better friend, and it can help you do the same.
These articles and videos are crafted to help all of us improve – as fishermen, yes, but also as men. Our country is sorely lacking when it comes to real men. We have to do something about that. Share these posts, consider donating, and provide your own unique feedback and advice in the comments. This will help us continue to grow and influence the next generation of men, which will have a positive effect on our communities and country.
In truth… this is an extremely personal endeavor.
Day job, you ask?
I’ve designed websites, logos and brochures for over 20 years as a partner and Senior Design Lead at The Hauser Design Group. I’m also a website consultant that helps clients generate more traffic and sales (cha-ching) both online and in-store.
But my passion is creating content for The Minimalist Fisherman. It’s changed my life, made me better, and my current goal is to help other men achieve the same results both in their homes and on the water. Let me explain…
First: What is a Minimalist?
Let’s keep this part really simple. There are way too many definitions of what minimalism is and isn’t all over the web. (It’s trendy, dontcha know!)
A minimalist evaluates every aspect of their life and surroundings, and discards things that do not provide real value.– AJ Hauser
He doesn’t hoard.
He doesn’t collect.
He doesn’t gather.
Items without value are thrown away. Minimized.
This raises a big question: what has value?
Well dear reader – you get to decide what has value. Some people value relationships, others value things. Some people value prestige and others value accolades. Money? Sure. Habits? Yes. Vice? Unfortunately.
I propose we assign value first & foremost to wholesome experiences, not things.
What we do, not what we possess.
Then, we may assign value to the tools that are required to partake in these experiences. For example: a boat is required to experience the thrill of exploring a big body of water. A kayak is required to experience the joy of working up a small creek where few anglers dare to tread. A nice rod and reel are required to experience the excitement of landing your new PB. Tools – the right tools – have value.
Just be careful: it’s dangerous to fill your life up with stuff… and if collecting stuff is what you value above all else… it’s time to choose a better path.
Collecting stuff is in direct opposition to what minimalism is at its core, and when it came to fishing – my emphasis on collecting stuff is what got me into trouble… I was too worried about filling up a tackle box, a backpack, a truck, a boat and a garage… but not worried about things like time on the water, technique or learning about fish behavior.
When I realized my focus was missing the mark, that I was collecting tools instead of using them, instead of having experiences and learning principles, the path became clear.
I needed to do a complete 180.
What is a Minimalist Fisherman?
Minimalist Fishing is the careful accumulation of quality behaviors, knowledge, skill, technique and gear. Minimalist Fishermen catch more fish by constantly evaluating and optimizing what they do on and off the water. They believe wholesome experiences are more valuable than things, and keep only the tools that produce results while intentionally discarding the clutter.
A Minimalist Fisherman continuously evaluates every aspect of their fishing gear, knowledge and skill. They quickly discard things that do not provide real value. “Value” is defined by you, the fisherman.
Minimalist Fishermen will seek out the most important presentations, the most essential tools, the most meaningful knowledge and the most significant skills to efficiently master their craft. This process inevitably leads to more successful days on the water, and more fish in the boat.– AJ Hauser
These concepts, once crystalized, completely changed my perspective:
Am I a collector, or am I a fisherman?
Is my tackle box filled with baits I can confidently use, or full of stuff for “someday?“
Am I buying more gear because I’ve utilized what I have? Am I purchasing these jigs because I lost my last batch breaking off fishing woody cover? Do I need them… or… does buying more stuff just make me feel better for a brief period of time?
If any of these sound familiar, that’s ok! It’s never too late to start making improvements. Begin with this question… what is one SIMPLE GOAL you’d like to achieve?
(Not a list of goals. Not something 5 years off. What is one simple, achievable goal?)
We’ll need that answer first. We need a starting point.
Do you want to catch bigger fish?
Do you want to fish more often?
Do you want to help family experience fishing success?
Do you want to make new friends with similar interests?
Do you want to create a successful YouTube channel?
Do you want to bond with your spouse or children on the water?
Do you want to find new ways to share your passion?
Do you want to fish & win tournaments?
Do you want to use your limited fishing time better?
You get to decide.
It was a combination that prompted my journey down this path… and my journal helped me realize it…
My Journal Opened My Eyes
I hated journaling in grade school, but randomly picked the behavior back up in 2014 while in a dark place. My business was suffering, my employees & clients were suffering, my family was suffering. I remember walking outside one October night crying out to God almighty, begging Him for help –
“PLEASE GOD – WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO?!”
“I know!“, I thought, “I need to devote 150% of my time and energy to my business – that will surely make me happy!”
So I did.
I gave it everything I had.
And we grew.
We hired more.
I sold more.
Landed bigger accounts.
Made a buncha money.
I was on a roll! I was fixing my life!
But… then I noticed that keeping the business afloat was beginning to devour my soul. It was subtle at first, but I felt it. Every week it seemed to get worse. I’d sink deeper and deeper into the pit, and ask myself:
“Next week it will be better – right?“
“Happiness is just around the corner… right??“
“This weekend I’ll get caught up and have some time for the kids – right???“
“One more massive sale, then I’ll be able to sleep at night and stop staring at the ceiling and drinking just to shut my brain off… right?!!??“
I was wrong.
Relief never came. The stress only got worse, and in 2019 I began to read the journal started 5 years earlier. One evening, while drinking too much and thumbing through some of the entries, it hit me: instead of “fixing my life“, what I was actually doing… was killing myself.
I was mentally and physically drained, very overweight, drinking heavily, lacking sleep, I had lost my faith, my purpose… all while chasing a slightly better income.
And for what?!
So I could have nicer things.
More and more things.
So I could accumulate more STUFF.
My family knew that I loved them, but at gatherings, I never felt like I was 100% plugged in. I was always worried about the next email, the next sale, the next job, the unhappy customer, or the proposal that was being reviewed by the board… and so I was there, but I wasn’t really present.
On top of that, I was neglecting my passions almost entirely. I was neglecting the behaviors that made me who I am… well… they did once upon a time. Playing sports. Lifting weights. Writing music. Fishing, hiking and camping – all gone. Now they just represented who I once was.
I was depressed and STUCK. Few things are worse than feeling stuck with no purpose… no direction… no GOALS… it was time for things to change.
The Minimalist Fisherman was a major part of that change in my life.
In order to reclaim the lost skill of fishing, I had to reduce the amount of clutter that had been accumulated. I never went fishing anymore because there was never enough time to get everything ready. There were so many things! Equipment, boat, trailer, truck, 15 presentations pre-rigged on 15 rods, 37 bags of plastics, 4 containers of plugs… you know… “just in case.” It was overwhelming. Too much with my workload… so I always stayed home!
If I wanted to start fishing again, I knew I had to be able to go at the drop of a hat. 10 minutes here, 20 minutes there. Whenever a slight window of opportunity would appear I’d need to grab a pole, a bag and without overthinking just… GO.
So I minimized everything and began to rebuild from the ground up.
I also started to write in that journal even more. Some entries were pushed out to the world through this website, which led to the identification of key concepts that improved my fishing. But they also improved other areas of my life as well! They allowed me to shed the build-up that was preventing me from being the father, husband, friend and fisherman that I wanted to be. I had to change where, when and how I worked. Had to set boundaries with customers. Had to take a good long look at every aspect of my life so that I could clearly define the behaviors that I wanted to incorporate, and what I needed to discard to regain the time and energy required for the things that mattered most.
I started to spend more time with family, pay more attention to my wife & children, work on my diet and exercise, get more sleep, drink less, and ultimately have the best end-of-year fishing run in Illinois to date… and these trends have continued, consistently, ever since. I’m not writing about “things I think might work” or “nifty hypothetical concepts I thought up on the toilet” – I’m writing about what I did wrong, and what I did right, so you can experience the same benefits in your life.
We can all explore more water and catch more fish while being better fathers, husbands and men.
Hey… that’s a good (big) GOAL!
I’m still working towards this same goal myself, bit by bit, task by task, behavior by behavior… we’re never really finished, after all. But I’m present. Not letting family (or clients) down as much. It’s all connected. I’m growing as an angler, and as a man. I’m finally back on the path…
If not… don’t you want to be?
It all stems from the decision to start… and you’re already here… so let’s get started! Below you will find a link to a critically important concept that changed the way I look at everything. No doubt, one of the most useful tips I’ve learned to date, and I know it will help you too.
There are many fish to catch, and many improvements to make… keep pushing my friend.
Take a quick break, then click to learn the difference between motivation and drive. If you have a friend or family member that wants to be a better angler & a better man – share this page with them!
Tight Lines & Godspeed, Patriots.
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