The art of the fishing story is one I enjoy; I even appreciate the embellishments of the size and spectacle of the catch that may be added to elevate the story. With humblebrags commonly splashed within the language of a fishing story, there is often a reference to an angler’s “time in the game” or “skills learned from the game” or lessons learned from the “fly fishing game”. Every time I hear fly fishing referred to as a game it gives me pause. It has a resonance of romanticism of past glories that feels out of place to me. Is fly fishing a game?

Game: A form of play or sport, especially a competitive one played according to rules and decided by skill, strength, or luck. (Merriam-Webster)

Competitive fly fishing checks the definition of a game box, but does a typical day on the water? Winning is a term I associate with games, but winning at fly fishing is not something I’ve felt. There are parts of me that are competitive, and getting skunked hurts, but I can’t say I think of fly fishing as a game. I connect to the artistic, meditative, and problem-solving aspects of fly fishing. When a fishing buddy hooks up with a big fish, I am excited for them and move toward them to help with the net or a picture. I don’t want to one up my friend by catching a bigger fish, although I always want to catch a big fish. 

Regulations and laws set general conditions for the rules of fly fishing. They change during the time of the year, from state to state, and stream to stream. The number of flies, hooks, time of year restrictions, and time of the day are dictated by fishing laws in each state. However, you can use any fly in nearly any manner desired to fly fish. Many modern anglers argue there are no rules in fly fishing as it pertains to fly selection and methods. Mop flies, squirmy worms, eggs, mice, and green weenies all catch fish and all my insult the traditional fly fisher. 

Skill to cast and manage a presentation improves an angler’s chances of fooling and landing a fish. Strength to wade, cast, and fight a fish also increases fishing success. Any inattentive angler surprised to find a fish on the end of the line knows that luck smiles on us from time to time. Catching fish is impacted by an angler’s skill, strength, and luck. Check, check, check. Maybe it fits within the definition?

Beyond the definition, how can it be argued that fishing is not a game when the species pursued are known as “game fish”. The sport fish monikers are reserved for larger fish, capable of eating prey large enough to hide a hook that can be mimicked by someone fishing for recreation. This can wade into the philosophical and moral comparison to hunting. Certainly, any activity that risks or specifically results in the death of an animal calls into question use of the word game. Judgment of morality is up to everyone who participates in recreational fishing, but that struggle occurs in my mind and is part of my hesitation to use the word game to describe fly fishing. 

The creative components of fly fishing draw me to think more of art than sport, pun intended. Integrating personal expression of imagination and creativity combines with therapeutic motions and intellectual concentration to build my most satisfying experiences on the river. I don’t want to feel competitive on the river as it changes my intention and decreases my ability to relax. Competitive angling has generated innovation and education for the angling community that I appreciate, but it’s not an activity I am likely to explore.

Amazing Fly Fishing Art at Manor Mill – Check it Out!

My reaction to the fly-fishing game labels say more about what I enjoy about angling than criticizing others for their word choices. Art and nature bring me joy in life. Competition in my work is energizing and generates a sense of achievement. In the activity I choose for my hobby and my outlet for stress relief, I don’t want to think of it as a game. It may make for difficulty in adding compelling language in my story telling, but at the risk of sounding snotty, I’m going with the art of fly fishing. 

Keep mending…

2 Replies to “Is Fly Fishing a Game? ”

  1. I see your point! The word game does make a difference and I like your use of the word art!
    In your past posts, you always stress the art (technique) of your fishing. So I can see why you made this distinction!
    However, you are a winner to me!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *