I have never considered fishing to be a sport, at least not the way the word is used by most people. Perhaps the best way to put it, in my opinion, is how I once heard a comedian say it, “fishing is the only sport where the opponent doesn’t know he’s playing” (I believe this was said by Brian Regan, but can’t find the joke right now). But, at the same time I’m not sure there is another word that really encompasses what fishing is. It’s a leisure activity, it’s a hobby, it’s a way to experience and commune with nature, and yes, it can certainly feel like an outright sport sometimes. Even if the way I fish often involves climbing gnarly boulders or hiking for hours, I continue to hesitate on using the word “sport” to describe fishing. However, today I realized that an angler and an athlete have a lot more in common than I had thought. More specifically, I realized how the three pillars of an athlete’s life: sleep, diet and training, also affect an angler’s performance.
In my previous blog post I talked about how jetlag has been affecting me since I returned from Japan. It’s been 10 days since I came back, but sadly my sleep pattern is not yet 100% back to normal. As a result I have been going to sleep much later than usual while still needing to wake up early on most days. Today I had a relatively early start to my day as I had scheduled to go fishing with some friends. It was their first time tenkara fishing with me. I gave them some instruction and shortly after I started I missed my first fish. It would have been a nice brown trout. Then we started fishing, with each of us finding our own pool, convening on occasion to chat but mostly fishing on our own. And, boy, did I miss a lot of fish today. Sure, I landed a few fish, but I can certainly say my reflexes were shot and I was missing a lot more strikes than usual. Like myself, the fish seemed to be kind of sluggish, with very slow takes, but even that didn’t help me. I took comfort in the fact that catching fish is always a bonus and I just enjoyed being there after a week of no fishing. I can attest to the fact that sleep is as important for an angler as for an athlete who wants to perform well.
After a big breakfast, beef jerky and energy bars form the staple of a fisherman’s diet (at least most people I know). A big breakfast (with a nice cup of joe of course) allows us to start fishing and go for a while. The smarter angler will bring with him a sandwich or something more substantial to eat. Me? I often sustain myself on beef jerky or granola bars, and occasionally some nuts or dried fruits. These items are often in my wader pockets to be consumed throughout the day. Alas, today I had a tiny breakfast, and only one unsubstantial bar in my pocket. I have very high metabolism and after a couple of hours of fishing and with the bar already gone, I found myself getting hungry and moving very slowly. I was sluggish and really not moving as much upstream to checkout new pools, and also avoiding climbing large boulders if I could. Typically when a pool isn’t producing I’ll move and try the next one to find more fish. Not today. My reflexes also suffered a bit as a result. While my diet is normally good, and the pressure on me as an angler is not nearly as high as on an athlete, today I realized how important an appropriate diet is for good performance while fishing.
I’m not sure how important this part really is, but my experience today makes me think there is something to be said about training, which really just means fishing regularly. It has been about 10 days since I last fished. Prior to that I had several days of fishing in a row, and I felt like I was doing well. Every day of fishing seemed to build upon the last. I perceived micro-currents differently, I noticed my fly and line quickly, and I reacted appropriately, almost instinctually. Now, I realize I have been fishing very intently for many years and I have learned and practiced things so many times that I won’t forget. Yet, I felt just a little rusty when I started fishing today. Whatever resulted from a lack of “training” came back to me after a few minutes of being in the water, so no big deal. But, it does make me realize the best way to get better and feel sharp and in tune with what’s going on while fishing is simply to fish more often. You notice things that usually go unnoticed when you’re fishing often.
So, what do you think? Is fishing a sport? Do you have these experiences as well?