My wife’s boss sent me an article titled, “New Streams of Religion: Fly Fishing as a Lived, Religion of Nature” by Samuel Snyder. I’ve edged my way through the essay reluctantly. I usually try to avoid anything like this because it turns fishing into something that I just can’t believe. I’ve said it here before, but fishing is, essentially, smartish beings tricking dumber beings, and that’s about it. But as Snyder waxed on about the rituals and the texts and the baptisms and the meditations, I may have let out a small, involuntary “hallelujah.”
As I prepared for class this week, I reread one of my favorite local authors, Scott Carrier talk about fishing in the essay “The Test*.” This is the only place I’ve heard him talk about fishing–and maybe it’s because, as he says, “talking about fishing is silly, like farting and tap dancing at the same time.” But he made me realize that perhaps fly fishing can be a religion–I’m just not sure it’s my religion. Toward the end Carrier says, “It was the fly rod, just holding the rod in [my] hand, that cured [me].”
Even now as I write this, I want to be skeptical. I want to be cynical and say that this is all a stupid way for heathens to justify injuring other living things. But, tonight, I can’t. Tonight my back is sore from casting. I fished a small, clear creek on private land with a Tenkara rod and an elk-hair caddisfly. The creek was seldom wider than I am tall and the water pushed past round rocks. I caught an old, cranky brown trout. His head was shaped like a doorstop, his back was boney and his adipose fin hung limp like wrinkles off an old woman’s arms. I’m sure he has never been caught before. I’m not sure how I know this fact, but I do.
*I recommend listening to the whole story, but if you want to skip ahead, start around minute 16. If you do skip ahead, the background information you should know is he’s sad. Very sad. Here. Listen.