The “Why do you Fly Fish? Reader's Interview” was a great success. I received many thoughtful and wonderful answers. Thank you to everyone who sent in an e-mail and participated!
All participants will receive a free Fly Fishing Rabbi refrigerator magnet or button. Three of you who wrote in were chosen at random and will receive a complimentary copy of the new book by John Gierach, Fool’s Paradise.
Below are the five interview questions with selected responses. I hope that you enjoy reading them as much as I did.
INTERVIEW QUESTIONS: FLY FISHING AND RELIGION
Note: While the questions specifically mention fly fishing, feel free to answer for any other type of fishing too.
1. How did you start fly fishing?
“Growing up, my family had a 38' Wood chris craft that required more cleaning than time to fish. We lived on a canal and had docks behind our house and I used to remember my dad having to spin the boat around so that I would be facing down the canal for the next trip. That is when the work started cleaning teak decks and scrubbing all surfaces. When I think back I have fond memories.” Brian
“I've always fished, from the time I was a farm kid growing up in southern Minnesota and we'd look forward to rainy nights so Dad would tell us, early the next morning, "It rained too much to work in the field. Let's go fishing." I never really did understand until years later that it really wasn't necessary for it to rain to go fishing, but that's my mental association.” Paul
“I started fly fishing when I was 12 years old on a little lake in Newaygo County, Michigan. I was out fishing with my spinning rod using green leaf-worms on a small lake. Just before the sun went down this older guy waded out into the lake and started fly fishing. He was fishing for bluegills with rubber spiders and small poppers. The bluegills he caught were twice as big as the fish I was catching. He started talking to me and he offered to let me try his fly rod. After the first bluegill grabbed the fly I was hooked on fly fishing. A couple days later I went out to buy fly fishing equipment. I couldn’t believe how expensive fly fishing equipment was and still is. Pretty soon I bought a cheap Wright & McGill fiberglass rod… then I bought more and more… lol!” Alan
2. Why do you fly fish?
“Many years ago, in my late thirties, I took up fly fishing again. Due to back problems, I had given up tennis and I needed something to do. When I fished, I found it was a great stress reliever and an escape from the ‘rat race’. I especially feel blessed to have been able to spend as much time in nature as I have. My spiritual health seems to be directly related to the amount of time I spend with Him in His world.” Kurt
“As a pastor / caregiver . . . I find that I am "on call" a great deal of the time. Usually once every two weeks, I need to get away for 1-3 hours, to unwind my mind and my soul. Fishing has always been one of the "battery chargers" in my life. Fishing is my sabbath . When I am fishing, I feel as if God has all my attention.” Reverand Rick
“I fly fish because it is magical. There is no better feeling than standing on a lake shore or in a river early in the morning and feeling the world come alive.” John
“I fish now as a means of relaxation and as a means to get to quiet beautiful places, for the continued challenges it presents in its many varied aspects, for the never-ending jolt when something wild and live gets on the end of my line.” Bob
3. Have your ever had a religious or spiritual moment while fly fishing?
“Too many to count.” Nathan
“Night fishing for sea-trout in South Wales, where you start fishing once the bats start flying, typically around 10:30pm at night. Standing in a river in the dead of the night with no illumination other than the stars, and fishing by sound rather than by sight, both heightens the senses of the immediate environment as well as making you realise how tiny and insignificant we are in God’s great universe. The night passes, broken only by the occasional splash of what must surely be a monster fish. Those long hours give plenty of time for the mind to wander, contemplating matters great and small, public and personal. It’s only afterwards that your realize how little time we allow in our normal daily lives for quiet contemplation, and how beneficial, relaxing and spiritual it can be.” Dominic
“Well I’ve got to admit something here—I’ve prayed for fish. Yep. It’s sort of silly I suppose but I don’t think I’ll be punished to severely for asking for that. I would say most of my spiritual moments come in times of reflection before or after a day of fishing—those tired reflective moments where you’re usually thankful for the blessings God has given you. Blessings like the money for fishing poles and gas to get to the river—don’t laugh not a lot of people in this world get to fish recreationally past childhood.” Brian
“I would say its a continuous spiritual activity - although I have been really awe inspired by watching a gorgeous sunset, or enjoying the last hr. of light when it seems like the earth stands still, and basically having all of my senses stimulated. I definitely have had more religious moments in the environs than sitting in Temple.” Paul
“I have never gone fly fishing in my life, BUT I have a lot of religious moments doing other things I love to do, like singing and playing the piano.” Mayra
4. Do you relate fishing to preserving the environment and conservation?
“If you love fishing how can you not want to preserve it? While fishing, I am part of nature and god and it is my personal job to preserve god’s world. I want to protect this would for my children and my children’s children.” Joel
“Fishing, and fly fishing in particular, cannot exist in an unhealthy environment. When we fish for trout we are truly dependent on trout having cold, unpolluted water. It's a precarious existence, being a trout. A drought, chemical spill, road project or any one of dozens of things can destroy a fishery in a moment or over several years.” Paul
“It might be out of pure selfishness but I love hiking/hunting/fishing and it’s a lot less fun doing those things when you’re worried about stepping foot on someone’s private land or snagging boots and tires in the bottom of a river. And I love to catch fish and I’ll admit a lot of those fish were planted there by the division of wildlife. So it’s a fairly inseparable relationship—saying that fishing and preserving the environment aren’t related is like saying you hate the president when you’ve never voted.” Brian
5. Do you take steps to protect the environment and to preserve the streams and rivers where you fish?
“I have started to pick up litter. This is something I would have never imagined myself doing. Now when I am even walking down the road and see trash I will pick it up and throw it away. You really grasp how delicate nature is when you are fishing, you see that all of your surroundings are alive and that by throwing your trash down will end up hurting it, even in the short term.” John
“Yes, I do volunteer work for the Colorado Division of Wildlife, I belong to conservation organizations and make financial contributions. I pick up trash left by others. I release most of the fish I catch.” Jim
“I do, in fact, belong to conservation organizations such as Trout Unlimited and give them my support. From a personal standpoint, I never fail to be disappointed by how many of my fellow anglers and recreationists are slobs. Some might say 'litterbugs,' but I call them slobs. When I go fishing I carry a litterbag with me to pick up litter on streambanks and also in the access areas. It's a never-ending challenge.” Paul
Here is one other response that I received:
“Dear Rabbi, I have a confession to make. I have never fished in my life. (77yrs) However, I enjoy your bulletin very much. That is why I am a subscriber. Best wishes, Joy”
Thank you everyone for your participation and responses!
The Fly Fishing Rabbi
Rabbi Eric Eisenkramer