Fish are an obsession and the lunatic asylum

Fish are an obsession and the lunatic asylum

Paul Arden | Monday, 13 January 2020

Reading Andy’s excellent FP yesterday on his thoughts on fly fishing being a “craft”, reminded me of an interview I had some eight years ago when I was asked why I fly fished and I simply said “I don’t know!!” Quite frankly, while I know this may come as disturbing information to any non-flyfisher, I hadn’t realised that I needed a reason!

The truth is that I do know why I go fly fishing; it’s to learn everything that I possibly can about it and become the finest fly fisherman I can be. As you’ll have read last week, in order to do this I’ve even gone so far as to divide my life up into 3000 day flyfishing chunks, each devoted to learning specific locations, species and methods.

So that should come as great relief to everyone. The problem is, that while this is my reason for going fly fishing, I have no idea why I should wish to learn everything I can about fly fishing or even try to excel in it. In fact the more I think about it, the more futile this whole argument looks - not that it bothers me!

While it is one of the truly great aspects to fly fishing, that we never peak in our ability and instead always become better with experience - unlike, well, just about everything else I care to think about (which undoubtedly supports Andy’s case that fly fishing is a craft and not a sport), I don’t think that this “continual improvement” aspect justifies its pursuit as a reason in itself. It’s equally plausible, for example, that we always get better at flower arranging, but I have absolutely zero interest in that!

So what is it then? Well for one thing it’s “the challenge”. Catching fish on flies is undoubtedly a challenge. While there are times and species where it is the most effective method for catching, there are plenty of times when it’s not! But we don’t suddenly put on spinners or bait or throw out a net - well I don’t anyway! And this challenge is very important to me; it’s one reason why I move fishery after 3000 days and it’s also why I love fly fishing in the Malaysian Jungle (this is the greatest fly fishing challenge I know of so far).

However there is also something else; it completely immerses me in nature. Not only as an observer, but as an active participant. I may have pushed the boundaries with this particular aspect, because I’ve spent most of my adult life living outdoors; sleeping under the stars, having campfires, waking up to a clean breath of fresh air every morning. I’ve never been a city person, I’m not even a countryside person; I live outdoors and in wilderness areas as much as I can. Give me any weather and I want to be outside experiencing it. I have never in my life been, or would want to be, an indoor person. My home is outdoors!

At this point it really becomes a way of life. Living outdoors, fishing every day, always learning. I wouldn’t change my life for anything. I sincerely hope that you feel the same way about yours too. 

Whatever else we do, we all share this common path of fashioning a bare hook into a fly, and casting weird flyfishing tackle to form loops of line, that deliver the fly to a fish that - best of all - we can see feeding. It’s tactile, it’s visual, it’s cunning. For me, catching a fish on a fly, observing that moment when the fish decides to eat the fly... well that is my pinnacle moment of existence. Those moments when the fish makes a mistake and decides to eat are the moments that run through my life and define me.

And the greater the challenge involved to make this happen, the greater the reward and the more intense the moment. When I close my eyes, whenever I stop to think, when I fall asleep at night, I always see these moments.

There is one final thing in this fly fishing world - one that Andy clearly points out in his Front Page - the lunatic asylum! Yes there are a lot of lunatic fly fishermen out there, and particularly here on Sexyloops, and I’m proud to call these my best friends. If, as Charles Darwin once wrote, that “a man’s friendships are one of the best measures of his worth” then I have most certainly led a lucky, crazy and very fulfilled life!

But it’s difficult to explain all this in one sentence, and so when someone asks me why I fly fish, I simply say “I don’t know”...


Lots of good stuff on the Board this week:

Hauling Adustments...

Stroke Length and Style...

Too wide a Casting Arc...

Barbs and Barbless...


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PS Today's POD; the Battleship now has a roof!