The “Y” in Fly Fishing

 This isn’t a How to fly fish article, this is a WHY to fly fish article.

     I’m a fisherman. I have been fishing for as long as I can remember. I didn’t start out fly fishing, but I have always been fascinated by it. It always looked so peaceful and so serene. Just you, the stream, beautiful scenery, and maybe even a fish. What’s not to like about that? What I didn’t know until recently was just how long people have been fly fishing and for the same reasons I do. I’m proud to be part of a lineage going back thousands of years. I’m proud to be a Christian and Fisherman.


    The earliest known written mentions of fly fishing in the west come from Macedonia around the 2nd  century CCE. In a letter Roman Claudius Aelianus wrote about how to tie a fly using red wool and rooster feathers tied onto a hook. This was one of the earliest recreational mentions of fishing we have. That means they weren’t doing this just for food, they just enjoyed fishing and might even get a meal while they did it.

     Just like I do. Kind of.

   Then we jump ahead a few centuries to Europe. An Austrian priest named Leonardus Haslinger wrote The Haslinger Breviary. It is a collection of prayers, hymns, psalms and notes used in the Roman Catholic Church for their services. It also contains some personal notes and other things he thought of as important. Among them were fly recipes.

   The “recipes” as he called them were patterns to use when tying flies. Which colors to use: Which feathers to use: What color string. He even gave tips on which ones to use at which time of the year. “For May use black feathers and black to light brown string.”

  Obviously, these books are not when fly fishing started. These are when people thought enough about it to write it down. At the time Hasslinger wrote his down, fishermen never shared their recipes for flies. If you did, it was spoken to keep too many people from getting your prized recipe.

    Not much has changed with fishermen since. Most won’t share their favorite little honey hole with anyone. 

   It’s also quite amazing how long there has been a connection between fishermen and the church. We all know that Jesus chose a few fishermen to become apostles, but I’m amazed, and excited, by how long the tradition has remained. I’m an avid fisherman and also Christian, so I feel a certain connection to the early Christian fishermen. Our tradition continues. Fishing for relaxation and to better understand our faith.

    You have a lot of time fishing to think deeply about things. Unless you are catching. So, I usually have a lot of time to think.


    The tackle those early fishermen were using was nothing like today's gear. The Greeks and the early Europeans had fishing lines that were mostly just thin rope or sinew tied to a long pole. The hooks were similar. They were made by blacksmiths and made from iron, or bronze and looked like they had been hammered into shape. They had been, but they worked.

   The modern fly-fishing reel wasn’t developed until 1874. Charles F. Orvis started a tackle manufacturing business in 1857. It was mostly a fishing rod business in Vermont until he invented the fly reel. 

 The first reels were nothing like the ones available today. They were heavily made from steel and needed a lot of maintenance to maintain. Nowadays, reels are lightweight, made from all kinds of alloys, and are pretty maintenance free. Maybe a rinse and it’s good.

Basic Theory

   If you have never fly-fished before, fly fishing isn't high-speed, get him in and get another one real quick type of fishing. Fly fishing is a much more laid-back style of fishing. Yes, it can be exciting when you hook one and land it, but there’s a lot of time in between those moments. This is a good time to catch up on, or practice, some other things you need to do.

   Fly fishing is peaceful. It’s relaxing. It could be a type of meditation, where you aren’t trying to force things to happen but just let them happen.

     No overthinking in fly fishing. 

    You're not supposed to overthink while doing any type of fishing really. It's (usually) not a contest.

   Some fish have not been told this yet though. 

 It's a quiet time to reflect, or talk to God, while you cast and see if a fish might perhaps want to bite your lure. Let  the rhythm of casting take away your stress and anxiety and bring you to a place where you are calm and focused. Then you can spend time talking with God and listening to him. It can be like a moving prayer time. 

    It also teaches us how to let go of the situation and let things happen. In our modern, smart, everything world we forget how little control over our world we have and who’s really in charge. This is what leads to most people's stress and anxiety. But instead of seeking a way to get back to a life and living the way God wants us they turn to other things they think will offer a solution or more control.

    They go to doctors and get “medicine” when what they really need is to get back to something simple and peaceful. Instead of trying to direct life in the way they want it to go, they need to learn to let life happen the way it should happen. Fly fishing is a much cheaper and healthier way to get life back to the way it’s supposed to be lived.

   Nobody could be stressed in a place as beautiful and peaceful as the places where you can fly fish. God made it like that for a reason. Personally, I think he likes to visit and fish when we aren’t around, but that’s me. I am convinced though that he modeled them after places in Heaven. Pavements and concrete are not pictures of Heaven, natural flowing streams and lakes, and rivers, and oceans, and mountains, and valleys, and plains, and sunsets and sunrises, and gentle breezes, and warm air and cool water are. The fish are just easier to catch in Heaven, or maybe we all become better fishermen when we get there. Either way, they fly fish in Heaven, and probably other types of fishing too. This might just be me too. I’ll find out for sure when I go.

    If you already are a Christian, then this would be a great opportunity for you to grow in your relationship with God. Once you get calmed down and cast a few times your thoughts slow down and you can make it into an extended prayer time. It’s a great way to learn and listen to his instruction.

 If you aren’t a Christian, there is a spot right next to us for you to join and cast too. We’re pretty friendly people.  We would love to teach you how to cast, how to hook, and how to land a fish. We’ll even show you how to un-wind and un-stress while doing it. We have a lot of laughs and enjoy ourselves. How can you not enjoy yourself if you're fishing? It’s not just about catching fish anyway.

There's a reason it's called fishing instead of catching.

    We won’t mention faith if it makes you uncomfortable. We will tell you about it if you want to know. If we can’t answer it, we’ll point you to someone who can. The only arguments allowed are how late we can stay. Just one more cast can keep going for quite a while. I promise it’s an argument you will win. Nobody wants to leave there either.

    Mostly I hope people get back outdoors and explore this wonderful world God created. People have been enjoying fly fishing for hundreds of years just for recreation and relaxation and we need to bring more people back to it. Even if you don’t catch the first fish, you spent the day in a wonderful place, being part of the scenery, and relaxing. Once all the stress melts away, you can have a talk with God, if you need or want to, about what is stressing you, if anything is. He’s always ready to listen

   I would love it if it brought some people to Christ, but I’m happy to start with the fishing. One day we might be able to tell people how God was the fisherman. We were just the tackle he used to bring them to him. How he uses fishing to bring people back to a life worth living.  For me a good life starts and ends with God and has a lot of fishing in between, shared with others, building each other up, and trying to make the world a little better. It's OK if you just want to learn to fish too.

   Being a Christian might not help you become the best fisherman in the whole world, but it will help you be OK with it, and it will open some new doors you might not have thought of. Fly fishing might be the first step towards opening those doors. It will definitely be a step in the right direction for a better, healthier, happier life. You also get to be part of a history that goes back thousands of years. People who loved fishing and the outdoors. We won’t bring up faith unless you ask, but the door is always open when you are ready.




Enjoy the outdoors. Life is out Here!

written by Benjamin Evans