Gone fishin’

Fishing the DeschutesIn Your God is Too Safe, author Mark Buchanan makes the analogy that prayer is a lot like fishing. You cast your line and then you wait…and wait. Sometimes, you get a response – a bite or even better, you land a fish – but most of the time you spend waiting.

Last week when in California, I met up with a cousin of mine I haven’t seen in decades. It was wonderful to hear family stories and to reconnect. One of the stories she told me was how when my dad was a little boy my grandmother – Granny – would go with the whole family down to one of the many canals around the farm where they lived. They’d line up, sitting along the canal’s side and drop their fishing lines in…and wait. Apparently Granny (whom I never knew for she died before I was born) delighted in the joy of simply being together as a family: “You know,” she would say, “sometimes the best part of fishing is when the fish don’t bite.”

Fishing thus means different things to different people. For me, it has for most of my life, been an unexamined joy. I don’t take it as seriously as many of my friends. I don’t think about it all that much except when I’m doing it. And if you asked me why I enjoy it, I would tell you the answer I’ve always told myself:

“I fish as an excuse to be out in a beautiful location.”

Which sounds like a fine answer. Except that  such a response could apply to hiking, golf, kayaking or a dozen other activities. I think there’s more to it than that.

I think the main reason I like fishing is that it’s a lot like travel.

“Huh?” you may be thinking. Travel is about movement. Fishing, as the above anecdotes illustrate, involves a good amount of waiting. Or, as the t-shirt I once gave a client says, “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he’ll sit in a boat and drink beer all day.” True. But there’s more to fishing than tossing out a line and hoping for the best.

Fishing is – or can be – an adventure. You head out with high hopes but uncertain outcomes. You have to know where you’re going even if you don’t know what you’ll find there. You have to pay attention and be alert even as you stay relaxed since fishing is usually more marathon than sprint.

Fishing embodies many elements of discovery as well: the hunt, the wondering what will happen next, the anticipation and the excitement when something does happen.

Now I realize that many of you may feel that catching fish is about as enticing as finding one in your bed. But stick with me over the next several entries because I think you’ll discover that fishing can teach all of us a few important lessons about travel and life.

Thus, if you ask me now why I like fishing, I might expand my previous answer and tell you that “Fishing is a good excuse to hang out in a beautiful place…with a purpose.” That purpose is, as we shall see, more than reeling in a fish. Though as anyone who loves fishing will tell you; that alone is enough.


If you haven’t already, you might want to check out other entries in this series on lessons on learning through fly fishing: Hardware vs. SoftwareKnowing and Doing, Eliminate Your Variables and Learning in Small Bites

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