Why we fish?

We often ask anglers in the boat, on the shop porch, in conversation Why do you fish?

As many answers as there are stars in the sky. No right or wrong ones. And that is refreshing. We all have differing reasons, an individual drive, why we fish. Below a smattering of the most common answers we receive when posing this sometimes enlightening question.

When we begin the angling journey we generally, and often, have much different goals, During that journey we generally experience personal growth and an understanding of a much larger picture.

Capt. Scott Yetter, long time Mo River guide and now long time Florida Keys Flats Guide/Captain, years ago outlined the evolution of many anglers.

Angler Goal Level 1: Catch a fish. Any fish.

Angler Goal Level 2: Catch lots of fish.

Angler Goal Level 3: Catch a big fish.

Angler Goal Level 4: Catch lots of big fish.

Angler Goal Level 5: Enjoy the day, the experience, to share in fellowship of other anglers, to cheer on your friends during their day, experience.

Many anglers strive for Level 5. Others are content with Level 1. Some never leave Level 2 or 4. Where are you at?

I remember a time 15+ years ago when life was dealing me a difficult hand. The stresses and pressures of life in the mountains at that time were taking over, winning, and that was bad. I remember the feeling I got shoving off from shore in my wooden Greg Tatman 15’x54″ River Dory. The act of pushing off created a feeling of relief. That I could get away from the ordinary life problems. Float away far from those landlocked shackles. The best part of the day was on the water. Away from the real world. Still, the best part of many days is time on the water.

I still feel that way every morning stepping into my drifter as the hull displaces water accepting buoyancy quietly catching the current meandering downriver

  1. To be in the great outdoors. Enjoy the sunrise. Enjoy the sunset. Breathe clean and fresh air.
  2. Get my being closer to nature.
  3. Enjoy the act of problem solving.
  4. To get closer to the Hunter/Gatherer in ourselves.
  5. Fellowship. Many fish to be with their kids, wife, husband, family, friends, neighbors…
  6. Learning. Most people like to learn. Fly casting is a learning challenge.
  7. Learning. Fly Fishing, the act of, requires learning.
  8. Entomology. Bugs. Some like bugs. Others love bugs.This component of fly fishing can keep you interested for a lifetime of learning.
  9. Fly Tying. I know some anglers, tyers, that like the art of tying flies, more than the act of fly fishing.
  10. Fly Tying, then fly fishing. The glory of tying the fly, then feeding that fly, to a fish.
  11. Boat skills. Some love to row.
  12. Boat Building. Building a boat from the ground up is an enormous challenge. It is on my list to attempt this feat!
  13. To take my brain away from life’s silly hassles. The politics. Your kids, family, neighbors, boss, or cranky drivers. The BS we all endure and encounter in this life journey. To truly get away.
  14. To recharge my batteries.
  15. To suck up the outdoors.
  16. To learn and gain patience, hoping to apply these skills in other aspects of my life.
  17. To step into cool mountain waters.
  18. To feel alive.
  19. To learn as a family. Together. To create and build life long bonds with each other.
  20. To understand and learn and respect the mechanisms of Mother Nature. To let Mother Mo envelope me and my soul.
  21. To take pictures of every fish and show my friends.
  22. I fish to breathe. To breathe better. To breathe deeper. To oxygenate my being.
  23. To let worldly pressures wade away, like waters flowing downstream. To cleanse myself. To let my shoulders relax.
  24. To smile and allow the sunshine to penetrate deep inside of me.
  25. To laugh, enjoy, and promote well being for all on this earth.

And many, many more reasons. We all seek differing outcomes through the fishing experience. And that is one of the reasons fishing is good. It can be so man things to so many people.

I wanted to pose this question to you. To you the angler, reader, hater, lover of this blog, Why do you fish? What brings you to the pond, the lake, the river, the bay, the ocean, the shore. Why do you do it? Why do you fish? Let us know in the comments section below.

And, enjoy your Thursday.


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  • Broken down into the simplest of reasons; I fish because I love it. I’ve been fishing since I was 4 so…almost 53 years. I could be verbose and claim connection to nature, people, my competitive spirit, water etc. But, it’s just because I love it. I don’t even hope that that is a good enough reason, because for me, it is!

    • “I don’t even hope that that is a good enough reason, because for me, it is!”

      WORD, brother!

  • Art Bartholomew
    March 23, 2023 6:13 pm

    I love the mental and physical challenge. I love the sights, sounds and smells of a day on the water. I love starting each day with great hopes and expectations. I love the connection with the natural world. I love the Red Breast.

  • Amen brother!

  • Barry Walker
    March 23, 2023 6:50 pm

    Floating on or stepping into one of earth’s rivers is spiritual to me. These are the veins of life. That we get to touch them and their inhabitants is magical. A trout on a line is the lightning connecting one to eternity.

  • Why I Fish – Searching For a Rise

    Sitting on a bank my eyes scan the surface of a river, of every river …an act that has now become as natural and sustaining as an infant breathing air…

    I am searching, hoping, looking … to see a rise…that which gives hope that at all times there is beauty within these waters…within this life…

    A brief view of what may lie within and below the surface of that which is instinctively desired…

    Beauty we are told is not skin deep ….

    A rise, a momentary vestige of proof that beauty lies within this ever moving looking glass beside me… circumstantial evidence existing merely upon the surface of that which my eyes can not look away from…

    This river and all rivers, like time, constantly moves forward without seeking anyone’s consent or direction…

    Patience, humility and an understanding that time is not the only measure of commitment, are each required to access a more intimate view…

    A remarkable beauty that lies within and below an otherworldly alluring, moving and crystalline sheen of life, which protects the beauty that lies within from being seen by casual or uncaring eyes..

    I have learned over time to come humbly to each river, to not rush with expectations or demands to see the beauty that lies within …

    The act of slowing down, observing without doing, of seeing instead of merely looking, of quieting a mind otherwise filled with noise and chatter resulting from daily expectations and fears…

    For one to fall in love and not to simply love, for one to experience a lifelong taste of beauty instead of a mere momentary burn of emotion…what am I looking for?

    Am I here to merely see a rise, providing proof of beauty, or does lasting joy and fulfillment require an interaction with that which the rise marks?

    As I focus on the gliding surface of that which a rise may form, the ennormity of the surrounding mountains and boundary-less sky fade… not completely away but somehow pushed gently with respect to the periphery….

    To never have been fooled by the beauty of a rise.. while knowing the fears of looking honestly into a mirror …

    At all times there is beauty within these waters…whether I see a rise or not, what I have come for to see and experience is here…

  • The excitement, learning, developing and progression, teaching, traditions, survival, spiritual, fish variety, get away, adventure, history, challenge, purpose, a place to think, therapy, test, patience, explore, community, diversity, inclusion, fun, failure, success, truly believe its in my blood… kind of a wide variety for me and I am sure the rest of us.. its a great question and when I sit and think about it I can’t find a reason why I wouldn’t fish

  • I am so happy to have reached level 5. That doesn’t mean that I am a good fisherman, just that I’m content and enjoy the beauty of the whole experience. Someday I hope to be a good caster.

  • allan roberts
    March 24, 2023 3:21 am

    Mr Traver knew that 12 hours spent on the water seemed like a ten minute day.

    I fish because I love to;

    Because I love the environs where trout are found, which are invariably beautiful, and hate the environs where crowds of people are found, which are invariably ugly;

    Because of all the television commercials, cocktail parties, and assorted social posturing I thus escape;

    Because, in a world where most men seem to spend their lives doing things they hate, my fishing is at once an endless source of delight and an act of small rebellion;

    Because trout do not lie or cheat and cannot be bought or bribed or impressed by power, but respond only to quietude and humility and endless patience;

    Because I suspect that men are going along this way for the last time, and I for one don’t want to waste the trip; because mercifully there are no telephones on trout waters;

    Because only in the woods can I find solitude without loneliness;

    Because bourbon out of an old tin cup always tastes better out there;

    Because maybe one day I will catch a mermaid;

    And, finally, not because I regard fishing as being so terribly important but because I suspect that so many of the other concerns of men are equally unimportant – and not nearly so much fun.

  • dan from ohio
    March 24, 2023 6:58 am

    “Many men go fishing all their lives without knowing that it’s not fish they are after…” H.D.Thoreau
    A fascinating question. My answer seems to vary, but his quote kind of sums it up for me.

  • The movement of the water allows my mind to be still.

    The focus I’m able to maintain on the bobber or the dry is lacking from almost every other aspect of my life. I wish I could bottle it up and use it for other things. But I can’t so I go fishing.

  • Because it makes the ugliness of life more bearable. It is escape.

  • “ We fish for pleasure; I for mine, you for yours” Leisenring

  • I am level 1 2 3 4 5 depending on position in the boat and hour of the day. I have no pride, i will nymph it, swing it, play on top too. Pride gets in the way of catching fish. Worms you bet! Pink disco balls all day long! In the end its fun to trick fish.

  • To feel the tug…duh!?!

  • Carroll jenkins
    March 24, 2023 8:52 pm

    Do you miss that Tatman?

  • Because it’s more rewarding than any other 4 letter word I can think of!!

  • wayne e clayton
    March 25, 2023 11:09 am

    Fishing has been the only constant in my life,other things come and go .Only fishing remains

  • Terry L Armstrong
    March 25, 2023 4:46 pm

    I am with Mr. Roberts. Robert Traver’s “Testament of a Fisherman” is the best explanation of what fishing is, and why I fish that I have ever encountered. Especially “not because I regard fishing as being so terribly important but because I suspect that so many of the other concerns of men are equally unimportant – and not nearly so much fun”.

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