When aging TV icons are looking for a second act, many turn to angling.
He played one of the iconic characters in the history of television — Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli on TV’s “Happy Days” — but Henry Winkler in his later years has become an expert fly fisherman and angling guru.
In a profile on CBS’s “Sunday Morning” recently, Winkler detailed the importance that fishing has had in his life. He and his wife have gone fishing in Montana, and on the Snake River in Idaho, for more than 25 years.
What hooked him? “The place of it,” Winker told CBS. “The sound of it. The green of it. And what happens when you’re fishing, you cannot concentrate on anything else. Not a problem in the world bothers you at this moment.”
In Q-and-A with Trout Unlimited, Winkler said life on the river taught him valuable lessons about patience, goals, and craft.
“As I got better at fly fishing, I realized that the anticipatory fear of something is worse than the actual doing. I find that to be one of the most important lessons, not only that I learned from fly fishing, but that I learned to apply it to my life,” he said.
Fly fishing “is a washing machine for your brain,” he continued. “I know for a fact that 80 decibels of rushing water is one of the most pleasing sounds to mankind. The river, as it rushes along its bed, helps you get rid of whatever tension you might have brought with you to the stream.”
His favorite rivers are The Ruby, the Beaverhead, the Madison and the Henry’s Fork in Montana. Though he’s been deep-sea fishing and gone after bass, he says that “nothing satisfies the way netting a beautiful brown or a colorful rainbow does.”
He’s even written a book about angling: “I’ve Never Met an Idiot on The River.” A severe dyslexic as a child, the Yale-educated Winkler credits fishing with helping him get over his most severe fear: the written word. He is the co-author, along with Lin Oliver, of a series of books about Hank Zipzer, a fourth-grader who has trouble reading. Sound familiar?
“I am an actor, a producer, a director,” he said. “With Lin, we have written 32 novels, and I am in the bottom three percent academically in America.”
Henry Winkler, America’s most famous teenager, is 71 now.
“You learn that where there’s a will, there’s a way,” he said. “I live by tenacity and gratitude. Tenacity gets you where you want to be, and gratitude allows you not to be angry or frustrated along the way. At this moment, when a lot of men my age are sitting at home, I am in the golden moment.”