Why do people enjoy fishing? What is it about dragging a long, thin pole out into the wilderness that inspires camping trips, sleeping in tents, or long hikes in the wilderness?

An ancient pastime, fishing has long been a part of our heritage as human beings. The waters have brought forth fish which have fed and nourished us, provided income and support, and even led to well known sayings such as, “If you give a man a fish he will eat for a day, but teach a man to fish and he will feed his family for a lifetime.” What was once a job that was performed with pikes and heavy nets has since become a fond hobby for many. So why do people fish?

Before you can decide why fishing is appealing, it is important to understand what fishing is. Recreational fishing is also known as angling and is the successful or attempted capture of a fish with a hook, often attached to a line on a rod. The hook is usually baited to lure the fish into taking a bite. Standard angling is done with the intent to bring the fish home, but those who know that they will not eat the fish often find their calling in Fly Fishing. Fly fisherman use small hooks and special fishing techniques that allow them to catch and release the fish without causing too much harm or damage to the fish or the environment. Fishing is strictly regulated and has rules, licensing restrictions, and laws that dictate where and when fish may be caught, how big they must be, and what equipment can be used. Those anglers looking to fish outside of the appropriate season can often locate a “pay to fish” area which is stocked with fish out of season. Anglers will pay by length or weight for the fish caught, or they may be charged just for use of the facilities.

Perhaps the greatest appeal of fishing is the chance to commune with nature. While many may find the idea of heading out to kill a fish repugnant, there is much to be said for the hike to get to the water, the art of tracking fish, and the serenity one feels while standing in a rushing river or relaxing by a lakeside. This time, spent in the grasp of the wilderness, is perhaps one of the greatest reasons that fishing appeals to so many. It allows us to get back to our roots, to challenge ourselves and commit to hours standing and waiting, to do our best to outwit a creature familiar with the water and to trick them into nibbling on the line. The only greater reason behind fishing could possibly be the primal thrill of succeeding at the hunt. Even those who practice catch and release cannot deny the thrill of adrenaline as the line pulls taut, or the thrum of excitement as they fight to reel the fish in. Few anglers can deny the disappointment when the “big one” gets away or their line snaps under the tension of man and beast fighting for dominion.

Perhaps the joy of fishing can only be understood by those that undertake it. So take my advice and go out into the wilds. Find a stream, bring your rod, reel and tackle, and spend some time waiting for that thrill, that rush, as a fish carelessly catches itself on your hook. I promise, you’ll never forget it.