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Why Do We Fish?

Posted on December 7, 2018 at 8:05 PM

Did you ever wonder why people go fishing? After a life time of fishing, I have observed five stages of a fisherman’s life: 1) catching the first fish—any size of fish will do; 2) catching lots of fish—the more the merrier; 3) catching bigger fish—bragging rights; 4) catching fish with lighter tackle and by fly fishing—it’s the challenge that counts; 5) catching fish is not as important as the experience. Applying these five stages to my own life, I note: 1) catching blue gill in a river near the farm where I grew up in the 1940s; 2) catching perch, bass and walleye in Lake Erie in the 1950s and 1960s; 3) catching black marlin and tuna in Australia in the 1970s; 4) catching salmon in the 1980s and sailfish and tarpon on a fly in the 1990s; 5) now, as an experienced charter captain and fly casting instructor, teaching others how to fish rather than catching them myself.

Initially all of us go fishing to catch fish, but as I have pointed out, it is not the entire story. Why would people pay a sizeable charter or guide fee to catch fish that they could purchase at the fish market for pennies on the dollar? Being with family and friends, enjoying the scenery, learning how to fish and quality of the experience also rate high on customer surveys. Fly fisherman often rate the challenge of hooking a fish on a fly at the top of the list---the experience more than the catching.

There are also those who own their own boat, but once again the cost per pound of each fish caught is likely higher than the fish market. And what about those folks that spend hours fishing from shore? I have witnessed fisherman in Florida lined up on fishing piers and waiting hours for a bite, why are they there? Part of the answer is that all people that fish don't move beyond stages 1, 2 or 3 and that is ok too.

I think there is another factor, harder to define but perhaps most important---the spiritual experience. A connection with God's creation. If you search Google for "Quotes about Fishing", you will be amazed at the number you will find. One of the best known is by Henry David Thoreau, "Many men go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not the fish they are after". How about one from Dennis Blue, "If you wish to know a persons true character, take them fishing". The movie, A River Runs Through It, helps explain the almost religious experience many of us have about fishing.

Please let us know your thoughts, why do you go fishing?  

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