Article - General

Why We Fish

By Tony, added on 13/10/2009

I have been thinking about why people go fishing most of my life and still haven't come up with a satisfactory answer. One thing seems certain the main reason is not really to catch fish and I have always thought the process was far more important than the result. Many would deny this but I think denial is a delusion.

There seem to be two main ways of fishing, you can either pick a good spot and stay there. Americans aptly call this still fishing or you can rove. Some of my best fishing in Canada was fishing done with the help of a small wood-canvas canoe carried on the side deck of my engineless cutter the Northern Maid. I used this canoe to enter the then many still nameless rivers that entered the Pacific, dumped it on the bank and fished upstream. Now firmly attached to the shore in a relatively waterless land I still prefer to fish from the bank and walk upstream.

Traditionally wandering anglers have fished in three different ways. The first is an American method and the angler uses a very short rod with a bait-casting reel mounted on top. Usually plugs are cast. The second method started in Britain and uses a slightly longer rod with a fixed spool reel mounted underneath it and usually spinners are cast. The third is the ancient method of fly fishing and this method nowadays uses rods about nine feet long or double handers up to twice that length when fishing for salmon. Originally if you refer back to Dame Juliana all rods were eighteen feet long but in the 1400's rods were too heavy to cast so the good Dame and those that followed her just 'dapped' their fly or used a worm.

Now a fourth very modern method is to use a 'switch rod' which is cast with either one or two hands. This rod can also be used for what the British disparagingly call 'coarse' fishing. I hate this term for I have known many artists who use their 'coarse' tackle in a much more environmentally sensitive way than some crass plutocrat who has the fishing rights to some of the world's best rivers. When an angler chooses to remain in one spot and perhaps fish not with a fly but a worm that is every bit as valid as anything Halford ever did.

Personally I think it is a mistake to allow yourself to get pushed into any category. Most of my life I have been a 'fly' fisherman principally because it is the easiest way to fish. Digging up worms is hard work. I prefer a longer than usual rod than most fly fishermen and don't use a fly reel with its permanent drag. Instead I use a free-running centre-pin like an Aerial or Okuma but I do use a heavy silk line. This enables me to keep repositioning my fly (or worm) without keeping on dragging it out of the water. My Aerial allows me to cast upstream and then 'free-line' my lure or bait downstream. All the time systematically searching the river by 'switching' the line from one part to another.

My fishing method disturbs the water far less than using bait-casting or spinning tackle. Nowadays though in America bait-casting and spinning are on their way out and fly-fishing is the thing. Since the movie A River Runs Through It every American wants to imitate Brad Pitt by wading into the wildest of rivers and no-one fishes anymore without chest-waders. This is a serious mistake because now most anglers thoughtlessly blunder into the shallow spawning gravels and destroy them. In the past I waded 'wet' (without waders) so never stayed in longer than I had to and of course avoided the places used by the fish. Impecunious anglers become better anglers because they don't need to stand in water to avoid getting caught up in trees.

So why do we fish? I think most of us do it because we like the places where fish live. Water intrigues us. It covers almost three-quarters of our Earth so we obviously screwed up when we named it. Also it is beneath us in the ground and frozen into ice at the tops of high mountains and at the poles. It's everywhere, unavoidable and essential for us to drink. Like all life we are drawn to it and without it no life could exist. We are just giving water the attention it deserves.

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