As I’m sat at home through the Coronavirus lockdown, twitching my thumbs and desperate to be out on the water, I’ve been mulling over why I enjoy fishing so much.
My fishing experience started, as many have, as a child. My dad used to take me and my brother, Beardy Paul, fishing, both course and fly. My dad worked hard and didn’t have a lot of spare time but the little he did have he spent taking us to football and fishing. Its only now, as a parent myself, that I can understand the mixed emotions; the draw of the open space and quiet but also wanting to spend time with your family. I can’t remember too much about those early experiences (other than having a double-up in the Lake District!) but it must have sown a seed. Eventually, however, football, girls and the lure of the pub got in the way.
It was Beardy Paul who tempted me back in. He had started fly fishing again in his forties and we met up one day at Farmoor Reservoir. The casting came back relatively quickly but I was clueless and, needless to say, blanked. We arrange a weekend the following year where we would fish for a couple of days at Meon Springs and camp overnight. I bought some new gear, started reading online tutorials and, for the first time, got that feeling of anticipation which would stick with me and give me many sleepless nights in the future. I was still rubbish but I caught my first trout on a buzzer that weekend and the itch grew. But, back to the original question; why do I fish?
Our family has always been mildly competitive but in a good way, the way that makes you want to get better at something. There is certainly an element of competitiveness in my fishing; always trying to do better than the last time, to catch more or bigger fish and, to an extent, trying to catch more than others (especially Beardy Paul but it doesn’t happen often).
But its more than just a numbers game. Its the thrill of the hunt; working out where the fish are, what they’re feeding on and what tactics to use to fool them into taking your fly. I’ve had rock-hard days where I’ve tried so many different methods and eventually I’ve got it right and brought a couple of fish to the net. As much as I like catching lots of fish, its these days that often give me the most satisfaction. Tying my own flies added another dimension; the satisfaction from fooling a fish on something you created yourself just adds to the enjoyment. I also get a lot of pleasure from he process of tying flies and find it quite therapeutic at the end of a days work.
The tug is the drug
It’s an often used expression but it perfectly summarises the joy and addiction of getting that take. Without doubt it is the pinnacle of fishing, the singular moment in time all anglers look forward to the most. Whether its the sharp tug from a stripped lure, the arm-wrenching suddenness of the buzzer take or the gentle sip of a dry fly, the rush of adrenaline is certainly a drug that brings us all coming back again and again. Who could ever tire of it?
I generally dislike new age hippy shit words like this but actually this one word does encompass a lot of what I love most about fishing. Anglers have long understood the physical and mental benefits that fishing brings: the fresh air, being in beautiful places surrounded by nature, time away from the stresses and strains of life, time to yourself or time with friends and/or family. But if there is one aspect which I treasure above all others its the way that fishing allows me to concentrate so much on one thing that my mind becomes free of all others.
I run my own business in finance and have a young family. Mentally speaking, I’m always on the go. Fishing is the one things that allows me to truly switch off from everything else. I’ve spent twelve hours on a boat and barely thought about anything other than how to catch that next fish. It’s the single most relaxing thing I know, even if I’m physically exhausted by the end of the day. As soon as I set foot on the bank or boat, I can feel any stresses draining away.
There are other things of course: I’m a bit of a tackle tart and enjoy getting new stuff, tying my own flies, the anticipation (I love having something booked at least every other week to look forward to) and, to a limited extent, I’ve enjoyed a few competitions. But the points mentioned above are the aspects of fly fishing that keep me addicted.