“To go fishing is the chance to wash one’s soul with pure air, with the rush of the brook, or with the shimmer of sun on blue water. It brings meekness and inspiration from the decency of nature, charity toward tackle-makers, patience toward fish, a mockery of profits and egos, a quieting of hate, a rejoicing that you do not have to decide a darned thing until next week. And it is a discipline in the equality of men—for all men are equal before fish.” – Herbert Hoover.
There’s an obvious evolutionary explanation for the widespread love of fishing. Like hunting, building fire, or gardening – fishing is an activity that our species has been engaged in for so long that it has left an evolutionary mark. If our ancestors found enjoyment in fishing, then they were more likely to survive and pass those traits to their offspring. Therefore, a lot of us really enjoy fishing.
Raise this point to any seasoned angler, however, and they’ll typically just shrug, visibly lacking any amazement. Evolution doesn’t seem to account for their love of the sport. There is a teacher in the sport of fishing that seems anything but random. The sport demonstrates various truths to us in a distilled form that we can then apply to all other facets of life. Herbert Hoover was no stranger to the unalloyed truths bound to fishing.
Today, those truths are more relevant than ever before. They’re also more accessible than ever before. The modern world has simultaneously increased the need and the availability of what we’re truly pulling out of those depths.
Hooking Fish on a Line: An Effective (Albeit Odd) Teacher
It’s admittedly weird that the act of tricking a little being to bite a hook can feel like this profound experience. That said, it also seems obvious that slowing down, perfecting a skill, being in nature, and taking a break from modern distractions can have a profoundly positive effect on wellbeing and mentality.
Take a picture, post it online, get 20 likes in the first hour. Think about a person, send a message, get a reply in minutes. Run out of dog food, tell your Alexa, it’s on your doorstep the next day. The modern world is optimized for instant gratification. The catch, unfortunately, is that all the best things still take patience. You can’t build a business in a day. You can’t get fit in an hour. You can’t write a book with a tweet. Our world is constantly training patience out of us, even though we still very much need it. Fly-fishing is the perfect dojo to refine your patience. It forces you to put down your phone and settle into a task that takes time. If this happens often enough, that patience shows up in other areas of your life.
Some of the most intelligent and talented individuals on the planet are using computers to replicate the neural networks in a human brain with one simple objective function in mind: getting your attention. And they have been unimaginably successful. Something about it seems fair, the unbridled access to information comes with the cost of exposure to artificially intelligent attention succubi. There is a way to avoid having your time wasted – by strengthening your control over where your attention is aimed. What’s a perfect way to build this skill? Pick a spot on the river and sail your fly to it over and over until something bites.
Fly-fishing is a term for an entire universe of knowledge, skill, experience, and even wisdom. A serious angler can always learn more. For those of us who take the time to achieve a high level of mastery over the sport, the value is self evident. Few things are more satisfying than practicing a complex skill that you are adept at. Unfortunately, mastery seems to be another casualty of the modern world. Maybe this is due to the fact that mastery requires a lot of patience and attention. By taking up a hobby that refines our ability to achieve mastery over complex subjects, we increase our ability to manifest what we think is important into the world.
These lessons are just the tip of the iceberg for what the sport of fishing has to offer. You could fill an entire book with lessons, and could probably write an entire book on each.
All because we tricked a fish to bite a hook.
The Golden Age of Fishing
It’s not all gloom and doom regarding the modern world. Are there problems? Sure. However, there is a richness of experience accessible to us now that has never existed in history. One minor aspect of that richness is the enormous subject of fishing.
More information about fishing is being generated per day than any person could possibly consume in a day. So the amount of information available is effectively endless. This information comes in whatever form you prefer; video, audiobook, text, podcast, etc. When at one time you might have gone years before learning an important tip related to the sport, now you can find sitting on the toilet. Need a full guide to fly fishing in Colorado? Just type, tap, boom.
There are discussion groups full of masters that have been committed to the sport for decades. These masters are getting peppered with questions that many of us would never think to ask. Even better, a lot of these people get together and trade knowledge in person. Again, this access to knowledge and experience is unprecedented in history. Want a new spot to try out? FishFearMe_398 just posted the GPS coordinates of his grandpa’s favorite spot to Reddit.
Material science has progressed at an astounding rate too. This means that gear that was once unreliable, expensive, or scarce has turned into the opposite. Sure, you can still break the bank on gear, but for a tiny investment you can get started. Not only that, a lot of the cheaper gear is significantly more effective and long lasting than its predecessors.
While we may not have the need to put fish on the table, as was once the case, we do still have a need to pull fish from water. Maybe more so than ever. However, the modern world that created the need for a teacher like our beloved sport has also made it proportionally more available to us. Which probably intuits to most seasoned anglers. Because that’s another thing you learn on the water, that most things have a balance to them.
– Kyle Rutten
One of the great things about the fishing industry is the comradery between companies who share a passion for time on the water. After meeting and chatting with Kyle from Riversmith River Quivers, we thought it would be a great if he wrote a blog for Islander about his approach to time on the water since it resonated so strongly with us.
Kyle does Digital Marketing for Riversmith.com and has an odd collection of interests that center around either computers or nature. To accommodate, he has setup his life in a tiny town in the Colorado Rockies where he works remotely between his frequent hiking/snowboarding/fishing “breaks.”