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A water-based religion: how fishing liberates the mind (www.newstatesman.com)
42 points by Vigier a year ago | hide | past | web | 35 comments | favorite

In my early years, my dad used to take myself and my brother fishing. What I found to be the best is that it's an excuse be busy doing nothing. Sure, you're waiting on a sign that a fish has taken the bait, but most of the time you're just in a relaxed state, surrounded by nature. The fishing line gives you something simple to focus on, and by doing so it frees up your mind to appreciate your surroundings.

I didn't understand the connection between fishing and meditation when I was younger, all I knew is that it was both relaxing and interesting, and a way to bond with my family, but even though I don't go fishing much now I still feel like I "get it" because of those early experiences.

You put, rather succinctly, into words the idea that the article's author seemed to struggle with. Or rather, he seemed too in love with the sound of his own head-voice reading back his words to choose his words carefully.

As a son of a dad who loved taking me fishing, I find it all very beautiful and meditative right until the part when an animal gets caught on your meat hook and you have to break its neck and flay it.

When I went river fishing, we used to keep the fish alive in a keep net, and put them back in the river to swim off as we were leaving. You wouldn't want to eat the fish from the river closest to where I grew up.

On the other hand, we did use to keep and eat the fish we caught in the sea, and seeing the fish die wasn't very pleasant. I just want to emphasise that it's optional.

What wasn't beautiful about that?

I don't have a particular theory about it.

Your question seems... not exactly ungrammatical, but somehow strange.

What kind of beauty do you find in that?

Might be an odd question but do any of you have hobbies that are similar to fishing but without, well, fish. Specifically something that doesn't harm any fish/animals.

I realized some time ago that my hobby - solar imaging - is actually a lot like fishing. You hang out on the forums, buy all the mysterious gear, then on a sunny day (with good "astronomical seeing") you set up in the field and record raw material for up to a few hours (for later processing), hoping for something to happen (a surge, flare, spectacular prominence). Needless to say, the Sun sometimes doesn't cooperate and you go back empty-handed. But when some "big" transient occurs (timescales here can be <1 hour) - so satisfying!

White water kayaking. You don't have to do anything that puts you in danger, just an interesting class 2-3. "Reading" the water and picking your line turns off your brain. You can't think about social media or bills or stress at work. You can pick up used kayaks for a couple hundred bucks and if you hate it, they don't really lose value from used and you can get most of your money back. Sometimes you can even get a vest and paddle and skirt as a package from someone getting out.

target shooting (either pistol, or long distance rifle with bolt action (like .308, 6.5 Swiss, or other 6.5 calibers).

This requires a lot of preparation

(like re-loading cases with right powder and bullets, calculating ballistic performance of your reloads, projecting weather on the day ahead and optimizing your setup for that weather, etc).

Also very slow an deliberate.


Another one, is bird photography. Also requires preparation, thinking about technology and physical/nature stuff.

Also slow and requires patience.

You can extend bird photography, if you use film -- into subsequent print development, including printing on non-traditional media/canvases.

This works well for folks, like me, who do not have painting skills but would like to express their view of the worlds/ideas through pictures...

That makes into art, producing very unique non-repeatable artifacts (that's probably not possible to achieve with digital).


In both of the above, at the end you have something to show for it (either paper targets, or pictures).

So that creates memories, enables story telling, etc.

Second target shooting but suggest Archery instead of guns. Less noise, more walking to retrieve your arrows after each end (round) and you can choose from a range of draw weights to find something that you comfortably sustain.

Like all hobbies you can start affordably then take it to extremes in a variety of ways.

When I lived in Japan, I took up pottery for awhile and it had a similar effect on my mind.

Golf. In particular, the pursuit of better golf. So the driving range is my "fishing".

The range is solitude for me. Just me, my little area, outdoors among beautiful scenery and working on swing/shots/short game/etc vs that little darn white ball. It is 1-2 hours (or longer if wanted. I used to do 3-4 hours) of concentration and learning as well as being physically active.

I actually go to the range more than I play. I would like to play more but it requires more time, money, socializing. The range is on my terms as I can stay as long or short as I like and getting better is stimulating. To me, nothing beats the sound of perfect compression of the golf ball and headed towards your target on nice trajectory.

But on the other hand, Golf can be very frustrating. Also like fishing, it takes patience, money and good understanding of the equipment to be good at it.

Golf is not for everyone, but there is nothing quite like planning a shot in your mind and then executing it.

I love walking towards my ball, with my clubs clinking together softly and the breeze rustling through the trees. I can shut out the world and just focus on the next shot. It's glorious.

On the other hand, golf is so easily ruined by misogynistic snobs in power carts having temper tantrums about bad shots. I suspect that is most people's experience of golf (that and boredom), which is a shame because it can be such a wonderful experience.

When I was young, I would go fishing and not put bait on the line. So one did fishing without the hassle (mostly) of being disturbed by the fish. Though I did , on occasion, hook a fish externally as it was passing by.

However, fishing was usually meant for catching a feed.

Just go outside, away from civilization, and into nature. Walk around, sit, doodle, hike, run, swim, wade, bird watch, observe.

And don't stare at your phone while you're there. Better yet, leave your phone behind. Actually be there and be present. That's basically what you're doing when you're fishing, it's quite similar to basic meditation.

Kayaking works similarly for me. Nothing serious or intense, just a cheap rental in a slow river or bay.

Distance running. Particularly on trails. I like learning about the plants and animals in my area and seeing how many different species and varieties I can see.

I don't know about that but I do know I can't walk past a river or stream without peering in to see what aquatic life is in the water.

Sailing, and scuba/snorkel taking vids of fish.


I fish and hunt for food, but I find catch and release to be the human equivalent of a cat playing with its prey. I don't think putting holes in animals for fun is an ethical use of one's free time, regardless of whatever weird navel-gazing metaphysical ecstasy you might get from it. Hell, even from the perspective of a "sport", fishing is lame: a trot line left for two days has the same effect as sitting on the lake for five hours.

We all have our own opinions on that. As a trout fisherman, I do catch and release using barbless hooks. I occasionally will keep a fish for breakfast or dinner when out camping. Careful handling of the fish while reeling it in and while removing the hook then then gently rocking the fish back and forth under water to allow it time to regain its orientation before swimming off seems to be quite successful. Does it survive with holes in its mount? Everything I've read says it will do just fine, again, with gentle treatment.

You mean in the same way a human will survive a stab wound as long as you stab them gently and provide good aftercare?

The fish surviving doesn't quite make the whole exercise a net positive on the ethics-scale in my opinion.

Do you immediately dispatch the fish you catch? Or do you let them suffocate in your boat?

You want to snap their necks or bleed them out immediately, if you want them to be fit to eat.

Killing them on the boat makes them less fresh, and a slow death can impart a negative flavor to the meat. The best thing to do is to keep the fish alive on a stringer in the water. You can transport them in a bucket of water to land. When you're ready to clean them, push a thin metal rod into their brain. You can then bleed them without affecting the flavor (bleeding them isn't necessary, it just makes whiter looking meat).

>Killing them on the boat makes them less fresh, and a slow death can impart a negative flavor to the meat. The best thing to do is to keep the fish alive on a stringer in the water.

At the risk of sounding contrarian or argumentative, which I assure you isn't the intended case here : Do you consider there to be a dichotomy between your desire for fresher taste, and your moral considerations about 'catch-and-release' behavior?

As a layperson outside the realm of fishermen, and having spent little time thinking about my moral position on fishing -- or researching the impact of catch-and-release, there seems to be a contrast between the two opinions.

basically, if you care enough about fish morally to oppose catch-and-release, does your moral positioning on lengthening their period of suffering stem directly from the positive benefit of fresher taste?

I'm really trying not to impose a moral judgment through my questioning, If you perceive such (as I said before) it truly wasn't the intention. I am genuinely interested.

No, my interest in how to achieve better flavor doesn't relate to my moral judgement on catch-and-release. Once I decided to kill it I stopped worrying about it suffering.

For example, I find lethal injection to be absurd. So the state decides to kill someone. Instead of taking them out back and blowing their brains out (or, if you want to get less gruesome, using that thing that punches a cow's brain out), we make them wait 20 years for death, and then swab their arm with alcohol before giving them an injection which might actually cause them to writhe in agony for an hour. People want something dead, but they aren't willing to face what that means.

Anyway, for what it's worth, keeping the fish alive in a stringer or bucket doesn't freak them out. Putting them in a dark bucket keeps them pretty calm. And poking their brain out is the swiftest most painless death they're gonna get.

I'm reminded of A River Runs Through It, whose opening line is:

> In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing.

And just as meaningful, the very last line is

> I am haunted by waters.

Great story about fishing and about life.

That’s life... I am back into fishing my local river and this is the most relaxing experience I can think of

Spearfishing is even better!

My kindred spirit

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