Fishing provides peaceful outlet for Clemons

KEY WEST, Fla. -- Clarence Clemons insists that his nickname, "Big Man," is a result of his prodigious soul and not his size. Either way, a magnetic presence and a huge frame make the nickname resonate.

And with a tireless spirit even at 68, Clemons forges on in his artistic endeavors, not letting a recent spinal surgery and double knee replacement slow him down.

So, what does a man with endless energy that has authored a book, acted in movies and plays, chased his dream of becoming an NFL player -- he was drafted by a Cleveland Browns farm team -- and served as an integral component of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, one of the greatest rock-and-roll bands in the history of music, do to relax? Fishing, of course.

While Clemons was limited this week at the Key West Redbone in the midst of rehab from a "gruesome spinal surgery", the Big Man says he can turn to fishing to gain perspective on his hectic life.

"I've fished all my life," Clemons said. "Fishing is an art, just like music. I look it at like golf. Golfing is not on my horizon anymore, but fishing is very similar. I've had some of my greatest experiences on the water. Obviously, catching fish makes the experience a lot more memorable but just being on the water is a fantastic day."

Clemons piscatorial existence started early in life as his father owned a fish market. He started surf casting New Jersey waters in his 20s and ever since then he has been hooked.

A flats angler, Clemons is right home in the picturesque waters that the Keys offer. In fact, his most significant fishing accomplishment happened right up the road in Islamorada, Fla. Three years ago, Clemons landed a 200-pound tarpon.


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"Every time I go out on the water, that memory illuminates my mind," said Clemons, 68. "Hopefully, I'll get another chance at doing something like that. It was just a great experience and I'm always trying to recreate it."

Even his latest book, "Big Man: Real Life and Tall Tales," seems as if there might be some fishing inspiration behind it. An amalgam of true stories and not-so-true stories where reality is stretched -- in some cases more than others – would certainly resonate with many an angler.

While fishing is an escape, so is music, in a sense, to Clemons. He was influenced by early saxophone pioneers like King Curtis and Gato Barbieri but his own personal flair reigns true in his playing.

"Every time I play, it's like I am painting a picture of life," said Clemons. "It's definitely a spiritual experience. When you have something you truly enjoy with music, your passion usually comes through."

Typically, when you met someone who is in a different stratosphere of cool, it is easily recognized. Clemons is that person. He speaks just loud enough so you have to crane your neck to hear. His words are always interesting enough to keep you engaged so you don't mind craning your neck. And he is typically flanked by a beautiful girl, his wife, Victoria.

Perhaps Springsteen said it best, "You all want to be him but you can't."

Maybe Clemons could be the center of a Dos Equis most interesting man ad campaign in the future. Or maybe he'll just go fishing. Whatever the case, he will always be interesting.

"It's important to find something you enjoy or a dream that you want to chase," said Clemons, who is working on another book about the details of his life. "You need to follow that and keep it in the back of your mind. I did."