Humans of Harker: Fishing for peace

Ryan Chang immerses himself in the present


Katie Wang

“A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for. Life is really about going out and opening your mind and ears to new things and the rest of the world,” Ryan Chang (12) said.

Standing still at the edge of the bank, Ryan Chang (12) patiently watches the water’s glassy surface — and has been for well over an hour. Suddenly, a pair of tiny, round eyes appear and begin to rise from the murky depths. Readjusting his grip to capture the long-awaited bite, Ryan reels his fishing line in carefully, until, at last, the fruit of his hours-long labor hangs before him. A smile stretches across Ryan’s face, as he recounts his most gratifying catch.

Since Ryan first tried out the unique pastime three years ago, catch-and-release fishing has remained a constant in his life. He now fishes around once a month at various locations such as the Stevens Creek Reservoir. 

“Fishing is about enjoying myself,” Ryan said. “If I’m free and I don’t have a lot on my plate, then it’s definitely a good experience to engage in.”

His fishing journey was greatly inspired by his father’s heritage, an aspect of life he explored through his family’s annual trips to Hawaii. As the only fisher in his family, though, Ryan cherishes fishing as a way to unwind on his own time. Much of his progress spurs from his own efforts to improve, whether he is researching techniques online or learning through trial and error. 

“Fishing was a combination of my own curiosity and just being a kid and seeing those little floating eyes in the buckets of local fishermen in Oahu,” Ryan said. “Fishing takes a lot of expertise and experience. It’s something to admire — in the drive it takes and the perseverance one needs in order to be successful.”

Throughout his years of fishing, Ryan’s patience and perseverance have played key roles in his success. Long periods of waiting while fishing naturally led to a sense of tranquility for Ryan amidst the business of his daily schedule.

“It’s great being out in nature and in the water away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life,” Ryan said. “[Fishing] really gives a sense of tranquility and peace to really reflect. It’s a good way to immerse yourself in nature.”

Many hours spent outdoors shaped Ryan’s outlook on nature and taught him to live in the present, fully appreciating his surroundings. His love for nature stems from more than just fishing, though.

Shortly after he began fishing, Ryan volunteered for Hoʻ oulu ʻāina, a nature preserve in Hawaii, where he joined locals in cultivating the land and growing crops in preparation for a harvest. The natives’ reverence and mindfulness towards the natural world instilled in Ryan a more open-minded approach as he worked alongside them.

“I got to not only participate in the gardening experience, but also get a really good mindset of the cultural experience of what Hawaiians’ true connection is to the land, and the elements such as the rain and the air, and how that all plays together and how they view the world,” Ryan said. “One point they really emphasize is this theme of gratefulness. Fishing lets you be grateful for what nature has provided you with.”

Because of Ryan’s emphasis on appreciating whatever nature hands him, he is willing to wait hours for a bite; patience in and of itself is ingrained within fishing.

“I spent 10 hours on the water catching, throwing [the line] out there and catching nothing,” Ryan said. “The mindset of perseverance or focusing on a certain detail also translates over to outside of the fishing world as well.”

Ryan’s quiet persistence guides him through other walks of life. Close friend Muzzi Khan (12), who has known Ryan since third grade, observed the extent of Ryan’s patience over the years. Sharing two classes with Ryan this year has given Muzzi insight into not only the type of student Ryan is, but also the type of person he is. 

“Ryan is very hardworking,” Muzzi said. “He enjoys putting in the time or making his work detailed. He is one of the few people who really spent a lot of time thinking about [a long-running] project. He has a detail-oriented focus, putting in that work over a long extended period of time.”

Ryan’s meticulous attitude similarly reflects in his academic life. As upper school U.S. history teacher Dr. Chuck Witschorik observed, Ryan constantly strived to learn more in his class: he regularly visited office hours to discuss class material or hone in on certain aspects he wanted to know more about.

“Ryan showed admirable initiative on his part to extend his knowledge,” Dr. Witschorik said. “He’s enthusiastic to learn and to continue to discover new aspects of [the subject].”

Ultimately, after several years of experience, Ryan takes to heart the lessons he has learned from fishing. At peace by the creek, Ryan often waits for hours on end for a bite. Likewise, Ryan’s persistence manifests itself in his lifestyle outside of the activity.

As Ryan looks forward, he believes that one should never be afraid to venture into new areas, similar to casting a line into unclear waters regardless of what awaits, and dive deep into uncharted territories.

“A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for,” Ryan said. “Life is really about going out and opening your mind and ears to new things and the rest of the world.”