Why is fly fishing so addictive?

Do you ever find yourself sitting at work, at home, in the car, completely lost in your own thoughts about your past fly fishing adventures? It’s basically a daily occurrence for me! What is it about fly fishing that continues to draw us back though? Even the most seasoned of angler, probably with multiple double figure trophy fish under the belt, is still woo-ed back to a river or lake that beckons to be fished. I mean, if I’m honest… fly fishing takes a heck of a lot of work! Firstly, it’s not the cheapest of hobbies, so it’s somewhat of an investment into, well… your sanity and well-being. Secondly, chances are if you’re in the working age bracket – 18-60ish – you probably live in a proximity that isn’t conducive for meandering streams and untouched lakes. So, if you want to wet a line, you most likely have to plan day trips or weekend trips and consider travel time, accommodation (most likely camping), food, water, and electricity. The planning alone can be quite time consuming, not to mention the packing and unpacking of your trip. Ahh, I almost forgot the first and arguably, most important factor that takes heaps of time and work. Practice! If you can’t fly fish in the first place, there’s no point going on a fly fishing trip! Am I right or am I right!?

So why do we keep coming back then? Why not just go camping, or to a hotel or to a beach? Well… I’m glad you asked! I’d argue that there are few primitive experiences that are lacking in our modernized, motorized, materialized, sanitized and scheduled lives that can be fulfilled through fly fishing. By primitive, I mean that humans have a handful of intrinsic inclinations for certain experiences and the emotions they exhibit – knowingly or unknowingly – and I’m convinced that these desires are becoming filtered out of everyday life.  

The first factor I’d like to identify is the ability to experience the unforeseen future. When where at home, where on a schedule. We know what to expect of the next 30 minutes, the next 3 hours, and the next three days. I might mention that we love our structure as well! We’ve become a premeditated and planned society. So much so that our morning and pre-bed routines are becoming more structured in the quest to enhance productivity and performance. I believe that part of the addictive component of fly fishing is because we don’t know what lies behind the next bend of a river, we don’t know when the next fish might rise, we don’t know whether a fish will rise to the fly pattern we’ve chosen. Ya catch my drift? Fly fishing is unscripted by it’s very nature. You can plan a trip to a certain extent, but not nearly to the capacity we can in everyday life. I’d also suggest that most people have an internal impulse to experience the world with a curious mind. I also think that curiosity is best enhanced without planning. Just going with the flow – in more ways then one!

Secondly, I believe that humans have an engrained compass that steers us to derive meaning, purpose, and significance from our work – whatever that may be. For work to have meaning, there also needs to be appreciation, acknowledgement , or a sense of accomplishment – even if you are the only person providing it. Now, just to clarify the term ‘work’, this could mean any labour, activities, or jobs. Getting payed a salary isn’t what defines something as work. As I’m writing this post, I’m not getting paid a dime. Despite this, I still consider what I’m doing meaningful work. In writing regular posts, I’m developing my writing ability and I feel a sense of accomplishment each time I hit ‘publish’ on a new blog post.

Now, It’s a little bit off track but I think this is the reason why so many young people are effected by mental illness. When your navigating your early adult years, you don’t have a secure job/salary, you may not have a partner, you might not even have to many friends or family members around you because of the transition from school to University or part-time work. So what’s the point then if there’s no meaning in what you doing? It’s a sucky place to be in! Despite there being no instant gratification, there is delayed gratification though, hopefully in a job at the end of Uni or otherwise. That’s what the focus should be anyway! Not on your current situation but what you’re working towards.

Back on topic now. Fly fishing provides you with a direct sense of worth when you’re in the moment. Your ‘work’ is in the casting, walking, searching, hooking, playing, and landing of the fish. Your ‘satisfaction or appreciation’ is when you are holding the fish, appreciating it’s unique characteristics and getting a photo with it. Without your work in diligently prospecting and casting up rivers, you wouldn’t have the chance to access the meaning behind the work. That’s meaningful work! Regardless of it not being ‘work’ in the modernized concept of the word. You have a clear goal that your working towards and it will take effort to achieve it.

The last point I would argue that gives fly fishing an addictive edge is the challenge that it provides. Once again, humans seem to have this innate wiring that enables us to function well and adapt to challenge. Challenges progress or regress people. Challenges can present in various areas of life – workplace, home-life, marriage, University, sports. An example of a physical challenge could be that of training in the gym. Your body experiences a challenge –  better referred to as a stimulus – and will adapt to that stimulus by increasing muscle size. If you provide a stimulus – physical, mental, or emotional – the body will adapt to it every time… for better or worse. As I’ve mentioned before, humans aren’t supposed to be static creatures. The only constant in this world is change! To move forward we need a challenge, something to push us towards progression. We’re programmed to thrive on challenging situations because they direct us forward. Maybe even sometimes backwards, however aren’t failures just fuel for the fire? So really, in the long run forward is the only trajectory!

The world that we find ourselves in might be neglecting experiences that provided meaning and value in years gone by, but humans are resourceful, and we’ll continue to seek them out in alternative ways.

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