The Psychology of Fly-Fishing Introduction
It is just you and the environment.
Isn’t this the most primitive stage of them all? Man against nature in a battle measured by verifiable results. We see this in hunting, in sail boating, and other maritime sports, in mountain climbing, even in extreme sports like snowboarding and rock climbing.
Nature is the most primal arena there is. Hence, there is a certain appeal to nature that makes us want to challenge it. How we fare against nature will tell us so much about how far we have come as mortals. It is a reaffirmation of our sense of self and a celebration of our humanity. It is an exhilarating feeling, a thrill that is hard to match.
And set in the backdrop of this ancient struggle is the addictive passion called fly fishing.
(Note, if you will, that I referred to fly fishing as a passion. To call it a sport would be too limiting. To call it a mere hobby would be too shallow a title for this activity.)
With fly fishing, it is you against your environment, and that environment can be one formidable foe. It controls the calmness or roughness of the waters, the velocity, and the direction of the wind, and even the factors that determine the congregation of the salmon, trout, pike, bass, or carp.
Indeed, the environment you will be competing against is a tough nut to crack, but just ups the ante, doesn’t it?
Imagine if you were able to topple all the odds against you. Wouldn’t that provide a more satisfying sense of accomplishment? Wouldn’t that tell you that you have what it takes to defeat the insurmountable challenges? Wouldn’t that reaffirm who you really are?
And wouldn’t that be a great cause for celebration?
Fly fishing, in this regard, can be considered a microcosm of life. If we can be competitive in this field, we should be able to be just as competitive in all aspects of life. It is a matter of logic. It is a matter of nature.
Therefore, many people have developed an addiction with fly fishing. Though these ideas may not be readily apparent to most of them, it can most certainly be the calling of their subconscious minds. The fish can represent their personal holy grail, that which they have longed for all their lives.
And if they can catch the fish… they can most certainly attain their personal goals.
I have asked several people why they are very much impassioned with fly fishing, hoping to delve deeper into the psychology of this angling pastime that is growing increasingly popular by the day. They, surprisingly, provided different answers for the same question.
Doug’s, who has been a regular companion of mine for two years now every Sunday in Maine, when we spend the afternoon trying to figure out the best bait to catch the biggest prize, has this to say:
“Whenever we are here, fishing and all, I do forget my worries. You do know that I underwent anger management a couple of years ago, and fishing, not just fly fishing, was one of the activities suggested by my counselor. So that is how I started. And surprise, surprise! You haven’t seen me wring your necks the past few years, right?”
Indeed, the usually calm waters have soothing effects for the soul. It helps you relax and reinvigorate your mind, body, and spirit. Fly fishing is not an exhaustive activity at all.
But it does require some patience.
You will be spending more time preparing and waiting than angling in a fish or two. This is not a pastime for a person who has attention deficit disorder.
It is the time in between noteworthy moments that makes fly fishing relaxing. Let us face it, we will not be doing anything most of the time. Hence, we are given the chance to be with ourselves, and to be just ourselves. No pretensions at all… just us and all that time. It is a fantastic opportunity for some introspection and some reflections on the things that were, the things that are, and the things in store for us in the future.
And this is the reason Doug’s finds fly fishing a perfect therapy for his cognitive distortions.
On the other hand, another constant companion of mine, Marx, has been fly fishing longer than all of us combined. He claims that his grandfather introduced him to this pastime, and since then, his life has centered on angling.
“You do know my wife, right? Yes, the current one. Good thing she is very understanding. Would you believe that the reason for my past divorces (he has had two) is fishing? Well, that is an exaggeration, of course… but there is a semblance of truth to it, though. I’d rather be with you every Sunday than talk about whatever marital problems I’m having with my wife.”
Marx’s affair with fly fishing at the expense of his marriage is not, and should not, be promoted. We are just discussing it right now to illustrate how much of a passion fly fishing has become for many people.
When I asked him why he is so enamored with this pastime, this is what Marx had to say.
“There’s something about fishing that keeps me coming back for more. Man, I cannot wait until I reach retirement age! Then, I could go fishing every day! Sundays do not seem enough anymore. I guess, what I am trying to say is that I enjoy fishing because of all the parts that make the whole. From choosing the right bait, to choosing the right spots, to choosing the right angle for the rod, to wrestling with the fish once it bites. And the feel of a fish in your hands, when it is squirming and eventually surrendering to its conqueror… man! That’s priceless!”
And this is the sentiment shared by most game fishers the world over. The thrill of the hunt!
But it is not just the hunt itself that many find thrilling. All the aspects of the hunt can provide so much excitement. Choosing bait, for example, may seem like an easy and dull task, but this is hardly the case.
Everything about fly fishing is a science, you see. The simple tasks require a lot of study, as success in fly fishing necessitates success in all the components it entails. You just do not choose the most colorful bait. You choose bait based on the fish you want to catch and the prevailing weather conditions.
In the same light, you do not just choose the catchiest rod that you can find. You choose a rod based on what you aim to catch and on how well such a rod will respond to your grip, with all the other factors considered, like your height, your strength, and even your dexterity level.
Success in fly fishing is a culmination of many things. And this is where the fun can be found: in the variety of stages that lead to the ultimate game.
But the most telling confession I have heard came from another friend of mine, Joey. Joey is the late bloomer in the group. He just started with fly fishing over a year ago and has not missed any of our Sunday sessions since then.
When I asked him why he is so engrossed with this pastime, his answer was surprisingly short but succinct.
“I just like it.”
And that’s how passions are, right? Sometimes, there is no exact reason we are so enchanted with them. All we know is that they have become an important part of our lives, hence we devote our time and commitment to them. We cherish them, treasure them, and revel in the many enjoyable and satisfying moments they bring us.
Fly fishing is a passion for the ages.
It has been with us since the time of the Greeks, and from all indications, it shows no sign of slowing down. It is becoming increasingly popular over the years. It has developed its own code of conduct. It has developed many branches of disciplines.
But one thing remains constant.
It still gives us many moments of fun and excitement.
Indeed, the psychology of fly fishing can be traced to a man versus nature construct, to therapeutic benefits, to a scientific enjoyment, and even to a need for competition. But sometimes, psychology need not be too complicated.
Sometimes, it is just as simple as loving it.
Thank you, Joey, for reminding that to us.
Best Wishes, Coyalita
See Tomorrow: “Go Fish an Introduction to Fly Fishing”
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