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Why We Fish: Rediscover Your Soul

Why We Fish: Rediscover Your Soul

A Pursuit of Hope

I’ve fished my whole life. Primarily for trout and mostly unsuccessfully. Just when I understood how better to catch fish with my traditional bait and spinner setup, I switched to fly fishing, ensuring I wouldn’t catch fish for several more years. Still, I was drawn. Fishing is a pursuit of hope. It’s an expectant belief that the next trip, the next spot, the next cast, will catch a fish. Even if the previous one-hundred casts have not so much turned the head of a fish, the next cast will. 100%, No doubt. In this way, fly fishing is the physical expression of our soul’s hope. To try so hard to catch and hold for a moment something so much smaller than ourselves that connects us to something so much bigger than ourselves.

It’s challenging to connect with our souls in the noise of life and work. Not because our souls aren’t there but because we are not. Not fully. Our souls are the vessels in which our lives understand and derive meaning. If they’re full of lesser things, our lives will feel starved of true meaning. True joy. That’s why we fish. We know at a soul’s level the power of fishing is not in what we catch but in what we leave behind.  

Quiet and Still

At some point in every fishing trip, I look up. I trace the peaks of distant mountains or the arced horizon of the sea and empty lesser contents of my soul into the vastness. Then, I cast undivided. Quiet and still. I contemplate rivers and mountains and their noble beauty and let only the truth voiced in creation re-enter my soul. That if these vast watersheds with their littlest sparrows are all birthed in purpose, so my life too. 

Fishing connects us to tides and currents flowing since the beginning. They, in turn, join us to a land those before us considered holy. For all who walk this good earth, creation is our inherited cathedral, built with ice and flood, perfected with the chiseling of time. Our casting in tides and currents is a living prayer, and even when we don’t catch fish, the prayers do not feel unanswered.

Listen to Your Heart

Lay out the maps. Trace squiggly blue lines and contours of the ocean floor. Go forth expectantly in hopes of catching fish and in the promise of encountering that which is bigger than ourselves. Empty your souls of empty preoccupations so that they might fill with something better. Listen as you cast to what your soul requires. What burdens need emptying, and what emptiness needs filled? And, with what? Cast in the rhythms of your soul. Learn to listen to your heart in quiet places so that you might know yourself better in the noise.

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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