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Why We Fish: Fly Fishing’s Gift

Why We Fish: Fly Fishing’s Gift

The Gift of Catching Fish

Some of us fish because of the gift of catching fish. Others because of where fishing takes us. The fish we seek live in purer places; when we go, we feel more undiluted by proximity. Whether wading in an intimate stream cascading below pines and autumnal aspens or the vast, mirrored flats of tropical blue ocean, we encounter a better version of ourselves when we cast into these waters. We tie our doubts, fears, and worries to the end of a fishing line, and it becomes hope when it merges with the water. Hope for a trout or a tarpon. Hope for a quick return. Hope this better version of ourselves will last.

This feeling comes from being fully present in a place of great beauty, doing something we love, likely with someone whose company we enjoy. Being present while fishing is easier for all of us. The world is edited, and only that necessary for the task at hand lies before us. We are in touch with our whole selves when we are fully present. We bring to bear our full mind and body, and soul. All the senses we possess raise with our fly rods, like an old tv antenna, tuning us into a clearer picture of the moment and its fullness. This is why we are moved in these purer places, even if we do not know what we are moving towards.

Being Fully Present

What, then, shall we do when we leave the mountains and oceans to enter the world’s mess? Can we be present in less pure places? Or are we destined for escapism, dreaming of our next fishing trip?   

Fly fishing is an enlightened form of living for how it tunes us into the natural world. However, this can only be true if it applies beyond the river. If so, fly fishing’s true gift is a learned way to engage the world. It’s a way to read your surroundings as carefully as complicated currents. Or a way to seek to understand others as intimately as bending into the water to turn over rocks. It’s a gift of learning to tune in – of being fully present.

There are moments more beautiful than any mountain stream – when I’m with my friends, kids, or wife, and they have all of me, and I have all of them. When I toast a new glass of bourbon with an old friend by the fire, to hear a familiar tale. When one of my sons, who are much too big to sit in my lap, does so anyway. When I pour my wife’s favorite wine and, in the candlelight glow, I get lost in the seas behind her eyes as we talk about things that matter most. Or we don’t talk at all. By being fully present, the world has been edited, and I am moved. Only now, I know what I’m moving towards. 

Roger W. Thompson is the nationally acclaimed author of We Stood Upon Stars and My Best Friend’s Funeral, as well as an avid fly-fisherman. His ability to write about fishing and adventure while connecting to the deepest meanings of the human experience has earned him the nickname “The River Bishop.” Roger lives with his wife and two teenage sons in his coastal hometown of Ventura, California, where they surf, skate, snowboard, and build furniture together. Roger will be writing an exclusive series of essays for over the coming weeks and months. We hope they inspire and encourage you.

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