4 Fly Fishing Retirement Myths

I retired in my late thirties. I left a job with no upward mobility and started a business. I told myself, “Retirement is doing what I want to do.” It was harder than I ever imagined. About the time I gave notice to the company, my wife told me she was pregnant with our third child. Since then, we added a fourth.

And no, I am not on a trust fund.

The first three years was a white-knuckling affair. It took about a thousand days before I knew whether the business was viable. More than 20 years later, I’m still retired (working 60-hour weeks).

Part of my retirement plan was fly fishing. I decided that I didn’t want to wait until that magical day at 65 (or, now, 68 or 70). I wanted to fly fish and work, not fly fish after I stop working. I’ve had to debunk several fly fishing retirement myths in my mind as I’ve struggled to sustain a small business and integrate fly fishing into my schedule:

“I am not going to die.”

Up until my 40s, I was blinded by the thick veil of permanence. I thought I’d live forever. Now that a few of my friends are gone, the veil is slowly lifting. I’ve also been involved in two car crashes, both of which could have taken my life. In one, I was hit from behind by a semi-tractor trailer (the big kind).

Maybe there is no other way to escape this world other than by dying.

No one says this out loud, of course, but we often live as if we have forever to do what we love. We don’t.

“I will be healthy enough to fly fish when I retire.”

Maybe. Depends somewhat on my genes (my grandmother lived until she was 103); my father and mother are now in their mid-eighties. And somewhat on my eating and exercise habits. Oh, no!

No matter what, though, you won’t be able to wade as deep when you’re 65 as you could when you were 35. For sure. You won’t be able to scramble up the steep incline that takes you to the best fly fishing run. You won’t want to hike four miles to fish for cutthroat for three hours and then turn around and head back down the mountain before dark.

You just won’t. I know you’re a great athlete (in your mind), but your days are numbered. This is one of the most pernicious fly fishing retirement myths, simply because we all assume good health.

“I will, finally, have more money to fly fish.”

No. All the research indicates that Americans will be working longer than they expect. So if you have no money now to fly fish, most likely you’ll have no money to fly fish at retirement.

Figure out a way to create a line item for fly fishing (along with college tuition savings).

“I will have more time.”

Another big no. I don’t know a single person who is retired after a life of work and who sits at home watching Fox News or ESPN all day every day. There may be few folks like that, but most I know seem to be as busy as they were before. This is another of the fly fishing retirement myths.

If you have no time to fly fish now, most likely you won’t make time for it after you retire. Make time to fly fish now. Retire now. That doesn’t mean quitting your job. It means doing what you love.

And since fly fishing is what I love, I am fully retired.

13 Replies to “4 Fly Fishing Retirement Myths”

  1. A good friend of mine once told me that if you wait till you’re retired to do it, you’ll never do it. My father in law worked 8 days a week and spoke often of camping and traveling when he retired. He never made it. This equation also relates with what I saw my future self doing when I was young at 20 and what I actually am today. I don’t play pro ball. It never made the cover of a wheaties box. I don’t fish like Al Lindner and every trip I take to fish is not like a sene from a river runs through it. But I do fish and I do enjoy it!

    1. Well said! I love the “and every trip I take is not like a scene from a river runs through it.” So true. Love it!

    2. In my mind it is a scene from “A River Runs…”. While the reality may not match the mental image, I am still frozen in that moment where there is only the fish and me and a slender line.

  2. I have to agree with all of the points you have made here, except for the last one. I am a teacher, and I coached a sport up until last year. After 50 years in the sport, I decided to retire from coaching, and just teach. I was in that 7 days a week grind, and by doing that, I still have the finances to chase my passion, and I have given myself the time to do it.
    It is already working, because I am fishing more now than I have in a very, very long time!

    1. I can totally see that. My two boys play football, and we’ve had to figure out a workaround during the fall for hunting. This year, for example, we are not going to take our annual trip to ND until after high school football is over (fourth weekend of October). And my oldest who still plays in college hasn’t gone with us in many years.

      Coaching is a wonderful career (at least from what I see), but it can be a grind.


  3. I agree that one should find time to fly fish now, regardless of age or actual retirement. But having actually retired I find I have much more time for fly fishing. I all but gave up pursuing trout back in the 90’s due to family and work responsibilities. While I do have some regret for the years I lost I am more than making up for it now.

  4. For years I had thought I designed fishing into my career every time I took a field trip to enhance my ability to design lakes and streams. On one of those trips the fly rod remained in the truck because there was so much to see that day. Eventually the fly rod stayed in the truck every trip because fishing got in the way of turning over rocks and taking photos and notes. As my business became more successful I took fewer trips afield because I had fewer questions and time.

    Ironically, the phone rang about a year ago. A friend I hadn’t spoken to in decades owns a world class travel company that emphasizes epic adventures. David said, “why don’t you lead a fishing trip for nomadhill.com?” I said, “sure! as long as it fits into my work schedule”. UGGGG there it was, me trying to ruin my own life! I quickly wised up and figured out how to MAKE it my work schedule. Then I asked “where?” I was a bit shocked by David’s answer: “ANY WHERE IN THE WORLD”. It was as if an angel was whispering in my ear.

    After that conversation, I began my research. David did not provide regular vacations. He provided epic experiences, the kind that changes people’s lives! The bar was set very high and I needed to develop a trip of his caliber. I spent months researching the topic to find fishing adventures that were much more than landing a few trophies. These trips would be to experience very unique trout and salmon species that few people had ever experienced. They would also be field research trips to prepare me to design future habitats for rare and sensitive species of salmonids. Yes, research does often happen with fly rod in hand. If you click my name, you will see my first trip description.

    Apologies for that lengthy “trip around the barn”. That’s my personal story, but it does strike me that we all have more opportunity to fish than we think. As long as you can create a situation where you can conduct your work via a cell phone and you can find spots to fish within reach of a cell phone, you have no excuse to avoid happiness! Our back yards are bigger than we think. Go explore.

    Bradden ~ http://www.AquaHabitat.com

    1. Wow, Bradden, this is an amazing story! I don’t know how we missed it when you posted it over a year ago. But thanks for sharing this. What an opportunity! I hope you’ll have many more of these epic experiences!

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