Philosophy In Fishing

I’d like to start this post with a quote by Henry David Thoreau that goes, “Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.”

Looking hard at the philosophical and psychological aspects of fishing, it’s hard not to question this statement and apply it to one’s own interpretation of outdoor recreation.

Though fishing is the explicitly mentioned topic of this quote, I would be hard-pressed to not take it as a metaphor for all forms of getting into the great outdoors.

A few months ago, a friend of mine and some family went on a short camping trip during a school vacation just to get out of the house and into the great outdoors.

Jackson Reservoir in Colorado is a prairie reservoir located in about as flat land as they come which implies that the howling wind racing over the land is going to be enough to drive anyone absolutely insane.

The week of this camping trip was no different and although our campsite was well sheltered, the shore site we were able to fish was on the windward side of the shore and so the wind buffeted us fisherman in a ceaseless gale blowing water and mucky weeds into our faces as we tried to cast.

Hoping for a reprieve during the first night, I suggested we return to camp and wait for dusk to fall to try an evening and a night bite during a time when hopefully the wind dies down.

It didn’t. The wind continued well into the evening and as we stood on the shore hours later with our gear in hand it began to look like a hopeless case for our meager fishing team. Just as we were leaving the situation with our tails between our legs, my friend spotted a small cove of rocks that were just large enough to block the wind should we choose to hunker down.

Now, I forgot to mention, the land we were on was a long rock pier that jutted way out into the center of the lake with short sloping sides of large boulders on either side.

One side was facing the opposite direction of the wind and so as the wind hit the pier, this section remained wind-free.

The question became how to stay warm if we decided to stay. Although wind free, the surface of the rocks was freezing cold and the temperature was dropping fast as the sun continued to set.

Then, to my great surprise, my friend adamantly stated we would fish no matter what. He suggested we tuck into the rocky area while encased within our sleeping bags and fish in a reclined position to hide from the wind.

Having no other option, we walked back to the camp, grabbed the bags, and huddled in interspersed down the bank.

When the night fell and the only light was from a dim, rickety old lamp that rattled and clanged behind us, the evening got mysterious and foreboding. It was near pitch black in our area with the exception of brief flashes of light from phone cameras and the lamp light reflecting off of rod tips.

In that darkness, the only thing a person could do was think.

The wind prevented us from any conversation and our phones lacked service to be of any use.

It was mesmerizing for a while to raise your hand a foot or two above your head and feel the wind suddenly sweep it away. Then bring it back down into the pure calm of the cove and into the warm sleeping bag.

These little pockets of serene calm amid the hectic, tumultuous rigors of life and nature are the things that I find to be far greater than anything I could catch while out fishing.

Whether it be a simple escape from the daily lives we lead or a cave amid a rainstorm while out hiking, the outdoors offers a simple way to slow down and live life deeply.

I don’t doubt that Thoreau felt that the outdoors was as if returning to a way of life in which he received much more than he could have ever asked for.

In my life, that’s my interpretation of outdoor recreation.

Let us finish where we ended with another quote this time by John Muir:

"Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life."

So go outside.

And catch the feeling you don’t even know you are looking for.

by Timothy

Fishing for Fulfillment

It was around my tenth birthday, and my grandmother had bought me a beginner fly tying kit so that I could follow in my grandfather’s footsteps as the family fly tier.

At the time, I understood what it meant for me as a fisherman but didn’t quite understand how it connected me to my grandfather. He had died before I was born and as such I never met him, I only knew him from stories and tales my family told me. From what I heard, his fly tying room was covered in hooks and feathers to the point where it was dangerous to walk into the room without wearing a pair of shoes.

That day, I held the fly tying kit imagining my grandfather sitting at his desk and was excited to take on this new hobby in pursuit of my fishing endeavors.

I’ll be honest, at first I was an absolute mess. Every fly was a random assortment of hooks and feathers and rubber and I distinctly remember thinking to myself that every fly was a new, unknown creation so I had the opportunity to name them all.

That was before I learned about fly “patterns” and so I went forth into the fly fishing world with a box of my very own Frankenstein flies and a sense of reckless abandon.

A few of the flies I tied were generally “fishy” looking and I like to think now that, if I still had them, fishing them in the correct way MIGHT elicit a bite but that’s probably a stretch. Or so you’d think.

One day my family and I took a camping trip way up in the Rocky Mountains near a lake that was abundant in rainbow trout that would readily take a fly from the surface or otherwise.

After spending a few days there, we had caught copious amounts of trout and at the end of one evening I took to walking the bank of the lake. As I wandered off, the lake began to come alive with the fervent splashing of trout attacking the spawning mayflies.

The evening sun sent streaks of fire across the surface of the water and sparks of light flew off the ripples of surfacing fish. The echoing smacks and slurps reminded me of all the fly fishing books I'd ever read. This is it. If there was ever a time to get out my flies, my conscience told me, the moment was now.

I raced to my bag at camp and unearthed my box, tucking it under my hand as I flew across the shoreline, the sounds of lively fish swirling around me, prompting me to run faster. I had no fly rod, so I merely took the old rig off my trout rod and threw on the fly.

Now, I guess you could say that this fly was my approximation of a hare’s ear nymph. The hook was too big and the fly itself was just a glob of hare fur haphazardly thrown on with sewing thread that did not even match the look of the body. In all areas, it should have scared fish away, not enticed them.

I cast the fly as if I had a fly rod, whipping the line back and forth and pulling it in just like I had seen in the videos. After a few tries I got some sort of hand on it and focused on watching the little bug in the water.

The reason I watched it so intently was because the fish actually followed it. Whether out of pity or hunger, the rainbow trout would race behind it and nip at the fly just enough to tap the rod in my hands.

In a way, the fish were teasing me, baiting me into one more cast, one more throw.

Whatever the reason, I was absolutely transfixed. A fly that had been made by my own hands was baiting fish into nipping at it as if it were a food item.

From that day forward I remember what it was like to realize the power I had discovered at my fingertips- that through learning the art of fly tying, I could catch fish with the tools sourced and created by me. It was like magic, and I was hooked.

To this day, I am still empowered by that knowledge and no longer rely on store bought flies to catch fish. I own a fly rod of my own and tie flies enough to make them for my friends and family.

When I fish, I remember my grandfather. Though I never met him, my flies are a legacy passed down to me through family ties.

I fish for fulfillment. I fish to connect with my past, enjoy my present, and inspire my future.


Crappie at Waverly Lake

This afternoon when I got home from work, Brayden was suffering from a case of cabin fever and wanted to get out of the house. He begged and pleaded that I take him to the park. 

I debated back and forth in my mind whether or not to ask him if he wanted to go fishing. I knew that once I committed, I would have to follow through. 

I'm glad that I did. We headed down to the local sporting goods store and purchased a couple of fishing licenses and headed over to the park with about an hour of fishing light left in the day. 

I was just as excited as the boys and offered that we stop at the first available fishing spot along the bank of the local pond.

After a few casts with a bead head woolly bugger, I had a good tug on the line and set the hook. Everyone was excited as I pulled in the fish. 

It felt like a good sized fish, relatively speaking. I saw that it was a nice crappie and let them know. I told Brayden to get the net and delayed the retrieval of the fish. 

With Bruce's help, Brayden successfully netted the fish. Our first fish of 2017!

Tight Lines & Happy Fishing!

Brigham Brewer

New Book by John Gierach Coming Soon!

John Gierach is one of my favorite authors of all time! I wrote a review on him here. A new book of his will be released soon by Simon & Schuster. Here's the lowdown:

John Gierach, “the voice of the common angler” (The Wall Street Journal) and member of the Fly Fishing Hall of Fame, brings his sharp sense of humor and keen eye for observation to the fishing life and, for that matter, life in general.

John Gierach is known for his witty, trenchant observations about fly-fishing. In A Fly Rod of Your Own (Simon & Schuster; April 4, 2017; $25.00), Gierach once again takes us into his world and scrutinizes the art of fly-fishing. He travels to remote fishing locations where the airport is not much bigger than a garage and a flight might be held up because a passenger is running late. He sings the praises of the skilled pilots who fly to remote fishing lodges in tricky locations and bad weather. He explains why even the most veteran fisherman seems to muff his cast whenever he’s being filmed or photographed. He describes the all-but-impassable roads that fishermen always seem to encounter at the best fishing spots and why fishermen discuss four-wheel drive vehicles almost as passionately and frequently as they discuss fly rods and flies. And while he’s on that subject, he explains why even the most conscientious fisherman always seems to accumulate more rods and flies than he could ever need.

As Gierach says, “fly-fishing is a continuous process that you learn to love for its own sake. Those who fish already get it, and those who don’t couldn’t care less, so don’t waste your breath on someone who doesn’t fish.” From Alaska to the Rockies and across the continent to Maine and the Canadian Maritimes, A Fly Rod of Your Own is an ode to those who fish—and they will get it.

Conservation of Our Outdoor Resources

We must keep the lands public, the water clean and the forests thick with life.

Many of the most well-known outdoorsmen of days passed were also strong conservationists and naturalists. Theodore Roosevelt comes to mind as a person who championed many national parks and also supported conservationist ideas up until the day he died.

As president of the United States, he kept his outdoorsman roots and continued to hunt and fish throughout his presidency. Teddy was an outdoorsman who explicitly understood that the state of our environment directly translates into the state of our sport within it.

If the streams are pure and pristine, then the fish within will be strong and healthy and bountiful for all fisherman to enjoy and partake in. If the stream is soaked in oil and chemical run-off, then the fish’s existence will mirror that unhealthy environment.

As outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen we all have a responsibility to be champions for the land and waters we explore. We must keep the lands public, the water clean and the forests thick with life.

One act of conservation that anglers and hunters can partake in is that of switching from using lead weights and shot to steel or tungsten.

Lead is harmful to the ecosystem. The toxic metal can be lethal for game birds like geese and ducks which swallow rocks in order to digest their flora based diets. Sometimes along with the rocks they may inadvertently swallow some lead.

Some statistics indicate that the number of organisms that die from lead poisoning each year ranges from 10 to 20 million with most deaths stemming from migratory bird species.

Along the same lines, many other organisms may ingest lead when scavenging the carcasses of already deceased animals. These numbers are harder to determine because they seldom die near the point of ingestion.

Whether or not we live in a state where lead is banned from use in outdoor pursuits we can all consider making the switch and do our part to protect the health of our public lands and waters.

These little acts, however insignificant they may seem, can add up when more and more people take up the effort.

If we do our part, our public land and water can remain public and healthy for all of us to enjoy for generations to come.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of My Hunting & Fishing.

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