They say that nothing worth having comes easy, and this is certainly true when it comes to catching fish. Learning how to fish is anything but easy. Getting started involves handling sharp things with unfamiliar motor skills, there are plenty of confusing knots to memorize, and because the activity has an infinite skill ceiling, it can take a while before you’re any good at it.
But once you get the hang of it, fishing is more than just fun. Casting and retrieving eventually becomes muscle memory, letting you focus deeper on all the other factors that can be taken into consideration when catching a fish, and worrying less about keeping your line out of a tree.
Before long, fishing becomes meditative and struggling through the initial learning curve comes with valuable lessons.
If you’ve ever asked yourself why people like to fish or how people benefit from fishing, here’s our best attempt at answering those questions…
It feels good to improve
Being confronted with learning new skills and buying lots of gear can make it intimidating to start fishing. But it doesn’t take long to pick up the basics and that turns out to be half the fun. A limitless skill ceiling means you’re always getting better, and there are always new lures, techniques or locations to try. That keeps things interesting if nothing else.
Fishing cultivates patience
It can take a while before you develop the muscle memory to work your rod and reel, much less do anything meaningful with it. That requires patience itself as you learn to read the water, weather conditions and other variables. But you’ll always have times when you thought you had a bite, times when you actually did have a bite but the fish shook off, and a whole lot of times when you don’t get any bites at all.
Risk, reward, luck & loss
If you have a favorite lure, it’s probably sitting at the bottom of a lake. Your second favorite lure may only be a few yards away. Perhaps the trophy bass that snapped your line just swam by. And your boots are wet too. Damn. You shouldn’t have stepped there. More than just patience, fishing teaches about measuring risk, accepting loss, addressing failure, appreciating success, and dealing with unpredictable circumstances – for better or worse.
Making the most of things
Catching a fish can be hard enough in good conditions, but you often have to persist through challenging circumstances. Maybe the bail on your reel broke again, the lures you have aren’t ideal for the situation, or the weather isn’t as nice as you thought it was going to be. You aren’t always presented with ideal conditions, which encourages resourcefulness, adaptability and creativity to overcome the unexpected.
Thinking on a systems level
It doesn’t take long before you get the basics down and start thinking about water structure, lighting levels, lunar cycles, lure colors, presentation styles and lots more. You can get deep into the psychology and physiology different fish – what their vision is like, what feeding habits they have, how aggressive they are, whether they school or not, when they move to shallower or deeper water, and so on. Broad strategic thinking is developed by learning how to fish.
Better eating, more exercise
Fresh food has a vitality to it that you can’t buy at the grocery store and catching your own dinner enhances the connection you have with your food. It also doesn’t hurt to know that you can feed yourself in unfortunate times. Nor does it hurt that getting to your favorite fishing hole often involves hiking through rough terrain while carrying lots of gear. Seeing wildlife and breathing fresh air along the way is nice too.
And why is fishing fun?
Casting and retrieving with precision scratches a similar itch to playing catch or shooting targets. It’s satisfying to throw a lure exactly where you mean to, especially if tree limbs or other obstacles are in the way. And once you start, you can’t stop. It’s easy to keep saying “just one more cast” because you never know what will happen. That element of suspense and discovery may be the funnest part about fishing.