4,000 years ago, the ancient Babylonians were supposedly the first people to make New Year’s resolutions. They were also the first to have celebrations to bring in a new year. Their new year didn’t coincide with ours on the first of January, though; it was held in March and was centered around the planting of their crops.
Included in a 12-day festival, which was known as Akitu, they would reaffirm their loyalty to a reigning king, or crown a new one. (If only it was that easy, right?) They also made promises to the gods to pay their debts and return any objects they had borrowed (I do have a couple of fly rods and a drill that I haven’t seen in a while. Maybe they’ll show up in the New Year.)
These promises are now considered the forerunners of our New Year’s resolutions. If the Babylonians kept to their word, their gods would bestow favor on them for the coming year. If not, they would fall out of the gods’ favor — a place no one wanted to be.
A similar practice occurred in ancient Rome, after the eccentric but reform-minded emperor Julius Caesar had his scholars tweak with the calendar and established Jan. 1 as the beginning of the New Year circa 46 B.C. Named for Janus, the two-faced god whose spirit inhabited doorways and arches, January had special significance for the Romans. Believing that Janus symbolically looked backwards into the previous year and ahead into the future, the Romans offered sacrifices to the deity and made promises of good conduct for the coming year.
Despite the tradition’s religious roots, New Year’s resolutions today are mostly a secular practice. Instead of making promises to invisible sky men, most people make resolutions only to themselves, and focus purely on self-improvement (which we all need, but may also explain why such resolutions seem so hard to follow through on).
You know what I’m talking about: I’m going to run 6 miles a day, lift weights, really get in shape, lose 30 pounds, make more money, be successful and be happier. According to recent research, while as many as 58 percent of Americans say they usually make New Year’s resolutions, only 8 percent are successful in achieving their goals. Some of this same research says most of us have quietly given up our hopes as soon as Jan. 12. But that dismal record probably won’t stop people from making resolutions anytime soon — after all, we’ve had about 4,000 years of practice.
Maybe we could give it a trial run. Let’s use January and February to feel out our resolutions — you know, see which ones we can hold on to and make work. We can make revisions on our resolutions by then, and maybe take a history page from the Babylonians and really buckle down and get serious in March.
You might want to keep your resolutions simple, like more casting practice, taking a lesson or two, and spending more time on the water. These are things that are easy to make happen, and I’d be glad to help you accomplish your goals. I’m going to do these very things myself.
I’m also going to spend more time calling our representatives, congressmen and governor concerning our water and environmental issues. I’ve got them on speed dial already; you should too! As I write this, there’s no red tide to bother us anywhere in Southwest Florida — but we can’t forget about it.
In the meantime, the fishing has been good. Let the weather and wind calm down after all these fronts run past us, and the fish will all start to eat again. The reds, which don’t mind a little chill, have been aggressive. The snook, although catchable, have started looking for the sweaters they stored away last spring. They are starting to move to their winter haunts up the rivers, creeks and muddy bottom backcountry spots.
There is still a lot of bait around right now, but as the water continues to cool, remember to shift from the baitfish patterns to your shrimp and crab patterns. Resolve to slow down your retrieves, and as always, stay fly.
Capt. Rex Gudgel is a fly fishing guide in the Boca Grande area and an International Federation of Fly Fishers Master Certified casting instructor. If you’d like to get casting lessons, book a trip or just need more fly fishing info, contact him at 706-254-3504 or visit BocaGrandeSlamFlyFishing.com or CastWithRex.com.