Fishing for Religion

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.

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11 thoughts on “Fishing for Religion

  1. Isaac Miller says:

    Dr Sam Snyder is one hell of a fisherman, and he’s got a thing for fly fishing history (actually a fly fishing historian). He blogs at
    While he may not remember who I am (would likely remember my aunt first), I would like to consider him a friend of mine.

  2. Miss M says:

    Reblogged this on A FRESH START and commented:
    Great Post by How Small A Trout

  3. SwittersB says:

    Ah You will come to see as the years pass by you lost soul 🙂

  4. SwittersB says:

    Of course, there are other forms of fish + religion combo’s that bring the whole thing into doubt, but there is not divining rod in hand:

  5. thosnut says:

    I think like a scientist, but if there was one thing my soul was wrapped around, it would be aquatic bugs, living water, the nature around a river, the smell of the wild, the sounds of moving water and wild life, and of course fooling a fish.
    When it’s time for me to soothe my soul, the enduring river is where peace washes over me. Maybe it’s not fly fishing that’s the religion, but all that encompasses the living water and its top predator.

    • I’m with you. And so is Snyder. He says second only to the fish (and sometimes not second), the water is the most important thing to the angler. I was just talking to a buddy about fishing lakes and we came to the conclusion that we don’t do it much because the water isn’t alive like it is on the river.

  6. g0ne fishin9 says:

    The Test was one hell of a story. thanks for sharing.
    You don’t need fishing to be a religion to be something good for your mind, or your soul if you will.
    And one often underestimate the curative powers of a well formed loop.

  7. Luther says:

    Hopefully you and Chadd are religiously pulling in a lot of trout because I keep checking for a new post but you disappeared!

  8. wraparound says:

    Fishing is Life….the rest is just details

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