Why I fly fish – it’s pretty simple to explain. I often get asked, “Why do you fly fish? What do you like about it?” This question typically comes from folks who are dabbling in it or thinking about trying the sport. If that is your question, let me try to answer it.
Several years ago, I tried to improve my golf game so that I could spend more time with a friend. I soon realized that I didn’t love golf. In fact, I found it frustrating. I remember golfing on the Cottonwood Hills Public Golf Course just west of Bozeman, Montana, and looking down the hill at the Gallatin River. I longed to be fly fishing. My friend didn’t fly fish. So I found other ways to connect with him. We both loved to play softball. But I decided that day I was done trying to do things I didn’t enjoy.
But exactly why do I love fly fishing for trout (and salmon at times)?
Engaged with the Outdoors
Fly fishing allows me to experience the great outdoors in an interactive kind of way. I love mountains and the clear rivers or streams that flow through or below them.
Obviously, there are other ways to experience my favorite parts of nature. I’ve done outdoor photography, backpacking, hiking, and a bit of non-technical mountain climbing. I even reached the summit of Long’s Peak in Colorado (14,259 feet) twice. All these were great experiences. But unless I’m photographing my fishing trip or heading to a high mountain lake or stream, neither photography or backpacking does it for me. There’s something about standing in thigh-deep water as the snow softly falls or sneaking up on rising fish that allows me to interact with nature in a way that other pursuits do not.
This is not a knock on outdoor photography or hiking or anything else. It’s just a reflection of how I’m wired. Pursue whatever lets you engage with nature most fully and brings joy.
Addicted to the Riser
I’m also addicted to seeing a trout rise to take a dry fly and to the fight that follows. What else can I say? Fly fishing gives me an adrenaline rush and a sense of satisfaction that most other outdoor sports do not.
One exception is calling in bull elk during the rut in archery season. But nothing else quite compares with fly fishing.
Connected to the Art and Skill
Years ago, I fished with a spinning rod and a box full of Mepps spinners.
That brought me a lot of joy at the time. But I love the aesthetic side of fly fishing. There is a grace to casting (when done well). There are also endless ways of improving my craft – reading waters, identifying insect hatches, tying flies, maneuvering a drift boat, and casting.
Fly fishing gives me the chance to be part of something that I can never fully master. It offers a lifetime of learning. Even the literature of fly fishing is rich and often reflective.
I should add that fly fishing is more doable at this point in my life than other outdoor sports that bring me joy.
As I mentioned, I also love bow-hunting for elk. The crisp September mornings, the bright yellow aspen leaves, and the echo of an elk bugle across a canyon make me happy. But this is where reality kicks in. I no longer live ten minutes from good elk hunting.
A decade ago, I moved to the Chicago area.
The time and cost of hunting elk in Montana as a non-resident are simply prohibitive. It’s the cost, mostly. So out of my two outdoor passions, I’m grateful I can still pursue one of them. Fly fishing for trout is generally less expensive. I can afford to go to Montana at least once or twice a year to fly fish. Besides, I can find great fly fishing three seasons of the year (spring, summer, and fall) as opposed to a three weeks of the year (for bow-hunting elk). I’m hoping to bow-hunt for elk again one of these days with my brother in Colorado. But until then, I’m content to fly fish.
If fly fishing appeals to you, give it a try. The sheer thrill of landing a trout on a fly rod might turn out to be something that brings you as much joy as it brings to me.