It might be a question you’ve heard many times before, or it might be a question that you’ve never thought about. Either way, there can be an infinite amount of responses, and the answer will be different from every angler. Regardless of the reason, even if we may not realize it this sport does more for every single person involved in it than they may realize.
Personally, for me at least, part of fly fishing is about really having the opportunity to be obsessed with something. It is one of the things that I have a plethora of knowledge and can dedicate myself completely to, because I really enjoy it that much. It has taught me many things, and it has allowed me to meet a number of new people that I have been able to connect with through the sport. I have had the opportunity to learn so many different things from everywhere around me about something I love. It has showed me so many new places that I would have never gone without it. Though in all honesty, answering the question of why I fly fish myself is complicated. I’m not sure I could explain every aspect of why I like the sport or every reason that it is significant to me.
The basic idea that fly fishing is just about catching a fish on a fly rod now seems absurd to me even with my (relatively) short roughly eight years experience, but that is after experiencing everything that I have been fortunate enough to over the last eight years. The life of a fly fisherman, especially one who has dedicated his life and work to the sport knows that it’s not just about the fish. The experiences, the knowledge, and the teachings far surpass anything else. (Though the fish can be pretty spectacular too.)
Last summer I had the opportunity to travel to the island of Roatan in Honduras for a week with my high school for a scuba diving trip. Yes, the diving was fantastic, but being me I couldn’t leave my fly rods at home. I spent my fifth day there out on the water with a fantastic guide looking for permit (which 28 good shots later still didn’t happen, by the way). He advised me there was a flat fairly close to where we were staying, and I could take a kayak out there and fish on my own. For the remainder of the week I rolled out of bed at 5:00am and paddled my way out to the flat, which was around a point to the right of the resort, about a mile away. Once I got out to the flat I tied my kayak up to a mangrove and began to walk up and down looking for bones, permit, boxfish, cowfish, whatever would eat a fly. In those two mornings I ran into many super spooky bones, a school of permit that would chase but not eat, and a number of boxfish that wouldn’t let a fly get near them. On my last morning I finally managed a low-20’s bonefish in ankle deep water, which is my favorite bonefish experience to date. Even after all that though, I didn’t see the most important aspect of that experience until after I was home. Looking back on it I realized that the most special thing about that time on the water was the fact that I got up at 5:00 in the morning, took a kayak a mile up the coast of the caribbean sea, alone, to a beautiful flat to do the thing that I love to do most. Being there in that moment I did not completely realize it, but I was in an absolutely amazing place. A place I would have never experienced without fly fishing.
I’ll end my first article with my personal favorite revelation, something that really hit me more than anything else has over my fishing career and something that stands strong with me to this day. It’s never solely about the fish, it’s about the places they take you. That is a statement that has stuck with me ever since those days in Honduras.
Think about it next time you’re out on the water yourself.