I’m fast approaching a half century and for the last forty-five of them fishing has been the true passion of my life. Other hobbies have come and gone, burned brightly and captured my imagination, but inevitably fizzled out. Then, like the repentant sinner who has temporarily strayed from his true love, I return, tail between my legs, to find solace.
The question is, why?
I’m not fishing to feed my family. I’m not fishing for a living, which is a small mercy given my success rate. I’m fishing because it is the flame and I am the moth. I cannot resist the pull. No more now than when I was a boy fishing with worms under a float made from a wine cork.
It’s a philosophical question that is rarely addressed in modern day fishing literature. All of the talk is about fishing techniques, the latest tackle or exotic destination. It’s far easier to write about the how and the where than the why.
Those who address the question often say the beauty of the natural world is the drawcard. Fishing takes us to beautiful places and allows us to reconnect with nature. Catching a fish is just a bonus, as every angler who has been skunked tries to convince themselves of on the lonely drive home. Nature does reinvigorate the soul but it is only the backdrop to the main game – the fishing.
Some say fishing is a form of meditation. It focuses the mind in the moment, giving the world-weary angler temporary respite from their worries. The philosopher Henry Thoreau is quoted as saying, “Many men go fishing all of their lives not knowing that it is not fish they are after.” I don’t subscribe to that theory because I know exactly what I’m after and it is the fish!
No, for me it’s the uncertainty of the whole caper that keeps me coming back. Just when I think I have a particular river or species of fish figured out, I’m proved wrong. No two days are the same and I never stop learning. It’s all wonderfully unpredictable. There’s nothing more refreshing in a world full of predictability – predictable mortgage bills, predictable work processes, predictable school hours, predictable dishwasher cycles.
And there’s something else that keeps me coming back – hope. There’s hope in every cast, which keeps the fires of optimism raging against the cynicism of age. By necessity, fishing keeps me in the glass half full club, and that’s something I’m eternally grateful for.