Recently while following a thread regarding the importance of numbers of fish caught vs. size of fish caught a third point surfaced within the responses. Did it even matter? I have given this ample thought and found there is no one sentence answer to the question.
Why I fish?
In the beginning it was a fascination with water. As a boy as far back as I can remember water represented a way to have fun. The time in the bath tub must have been the start of it all, making waves and splashes, tub time was fun time. I preferred outdoor play much more than indoor games and a rainy day was no excuse for not enjoying what could be found outside to occupy my young mind. During and after a rainstorm I would watch with awe as the streams of run off would carve their way down the drainage ditch on their way to the river. In that drainage I could imagine every creek and river in the world. As it turned out the runoff had all of the features of a real river. There were swift runs, back eddies, pools, obstructions, point bars and cut banks, and even a small waterfall here and there. Beyond the hours of playing in a drainage culvert I knew that being next to a mountain stream would be the coolest thing in the world. Some time in the early to mid sixties I discovered Lee Wulff and Curt Goudy on The American Sportsman show, fly fishing for salmon on my Grandparents television. The sight of the men casting the lines was indelibly etched on my mind and as Caesar said when his Legions crossed The Rubicon River, the die was cast.
It took many years but one day I found myself there, listening to the murmur of the water washing over the sandstone and exposed bedrock of a wild trout stream as it like my runoff stream of years before made its way to the river. Catching the fish that were hidden in that stream became the number one focus of my existence and with time I became good at it. In my mind every one of the fish I caught were one of those mighty salmon from ‘The American Sportsman’ TV show featuring Mr. Wulff. It was only a matter of progression that led me (at the age of thirteen) to buy a fly rod and reel with line. I had no idea of how to use it and my father had passed away just that same year so I was really quite on my own. I hacked away with the vigor’s of youth and desire and like other things that I would set my mind to I learned how to cast flies.
For me to put forth an entire written history of my fly fishing life would require more effort than I am willing to spend and for me to think it interesting to strangers perhaps a bit presumptuous. Save to say, the years have passed but I have never lost that tendency to stop and stare at rain water as it cuts its own little channels on its way to the river. My outdoor interests related to fishing over time became as dendritic as the river systems themselves. I studied biology, zoology, entomology, ornithology, and botany. My desire to learn surpassed my desire to catch fish a long time ago. Of course tying flies has been inexorably woven into this whole scheme of events that have become my life. For many years the act of taking up my rod & reel, and donning waders has simply been the preparation for a trip to the classroom. The river is my teacher and everything about it composes the lesson. Sound a bit philosophical? Perhaps it is but acquiring a more philosophic view of things is one of the greatest rewards of education.
In answering the original premise of the question that lead me to write this rather lengthy response, numbers of fish caught and size of fish caught are in fact secondary and tertiary at best when compared to what I may learn while outdoors and on the water.
I used to fish to clear my head, figuring if I did it long enough I'd arrive at some grand cosmic state of grace. Instead I learned it's hard to catch fish when your mind's somewhere else.
Numbers or sizes don't really bother me, but I love puzzles, and I think that's why I fish. Figuring out what they're taking and how to present it is a lot of fun for me, as well as targeting fish sitting in a difficult-to-reach lie, or fish that snub most flies. You know, the kind of fish that 90% of anglers either pass by or give up on. That's where I get my most fun, and I remember most all of those hard-won fish.
My wife has been really bugging me to try new streams, lakes, and rivers
for the past few years. We have, but I told her there is still so much more to
learn and explore on the local waters. Two weeks ago, we finally fished what
we thought was a small (and maybe empty) stream that is feed my a nearby
lake. In one pool alone, we caught LMB, crappie, large green sunfish,
and a couple stocked trout that had fallen down the lake's spillway! We
started much further downstream yesterday, and found 10-12" bass still
willing to take Green Weenies and small foam beetles. Needless to say, my
wife didn't mention anything about making a road trip after that, and said we
need to explore the stream more .
Your childhood sounds a lot like mine and your post brought back great memories. For instance, when I was a boy I used to play around a construction site that flooded regularly during heavy rains. A virtual lake (to a small boy) would form and I would grab an empty palete from the stack and pole around the "lake" on my new raft for hours. Great fun.
On one hand, I'm very much like TB3. I love the puzzles and the challenges of fly fishing. But that really doesn't get to the heart of the matter. It explains why size and numbers are irrelevant. But why I fish is deeper. It is more in line with Hardy's remarks. I've always had a love affair with rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds. Waterfalls and rapids in particular stir my soul. I've fished as long as I can remember, actually. I don't even recall the first time I went fishing. I took up duck hunting to have a reason to spend more time on the water during the winter. But I don't want to just go walk along the river, or be a passive observer of the ocean coastline. I love the direct interaction of taking part in the life cycles in the way that hunting and fishing allow me to. At the most fundamental level of my being it reminds me who and what I really am. It centers me. It humbles me. But at the same time it refortifies my confidence.
Growing up I spent countless hours playing in and on the various creeks and marshes around the neighborhood. Always something to see and learn; never realized I was learning at the time...Ard mentioned The American Sportsman and that was one of the few times when I would sit in front of the TV and watch. I have fished from a very young age; with no one I knew being a flyfisher, we fished for perch to supplement our food budget. Somewhere along the line I began to dream of fishing for trout; had never seen a trout, but wanted to fish for them never the less.
I read Field and Stream and Outdoor Life religously and my desire grew. I got my first flyrod when I was 12 and taught myself how to cast. Fished the creeks some and never did much good, a tremendous day if I caught a bluegill. We did go Up North during vacations so I had some exposure to real trout streams; I don't remember if I ever caught a trout.
When I went away to college I knew I wanted to work in an outdoor related job, so of course I went for a natural resources type degree. When I got to school I began exploring my new neighborhood. Less then a mile away I had access to a beautiful feeder stream that flowed into the South Branch of the AuSable River. It was there that I received my education in trout fishing. Trout fishing there was not usually done with my fly rod; too thick in where I fished for the rod I had. Fishing wasn't recreation for me then; when trout season opened my food money was just about all gone, so trout gave me the protein I craved.
Even though I fished to eat, I would only take one or two; that conservation idea was there in the back of my mind. As I grew older after college, flyfishing began to really take hold as I fondly remembered time on the streams. I still kept some fish, but began to release more and more. A friend from work came to trout fishing late in life, a mutual friend was a trout fisher who always fished worms with his spinning gear. Of course it was only a good day if he took his limit, and that is what he taught my friend.
My friend began reading about flyfishing and made the plunge, he was hooked for life. He began to flyfish almost exclusively and began to really enjoy C&R which he found truly satisfying.
We began to fish together more often because our other friend didn't get the C&R idea. Bass in southern Michigan, trout when we could go North. Hex fishing at night in June, then Steelhead in the spring and fall. Once in a great while a fish will come home, a man has to eat after all...
The original question; numbers or size? I think the answer was the journey...
I was trying to explain to my girlfriend why I LOVE fly fishing so much. And I came to this simple conclusion: Because I DON'T catch fish (at will). She very nicely makes fun of me when I proudly claim 3 fish in 8 hours. I am pretty much convinced that if I ever were able to catch fish at will, I would hang up the rod and never go back.
Now, could I PLEEEASE catch just a few more, please?
Location: Lake of the Woods/Rainy River Minnesota Canada border
Re: Why I Fish, numbers vs. size?
For me fly fishing is many things to me at different times. Some days it is because I want to catch big fish, somedays it is just to be outside and enjoy the water. Some days it is because it is one of the few things I can do that take my mind off life's attempt to kick my butt. It got me through a bad divorce, and helped me deal with the death of my 8 1/2 year old Golden Retriever on the the 3rd of November. It helped, but it will be some time before I am over it. There are times I think that fly fishing is the single most important factor in keeping me sane.