Fishing for Happiness
The Recreational Value of Fishing
Fishing is really a funny thing. In the world in general, it’s predominantly a male activity. In my home country and the country where I live now, I’ve never seen a woman fishing. This might not be the case in certain parts of the world…
Unless you’re surrounded by a fishing community or were brought up by a family passionate about fishing, I bet it’s not something you ever talk about with your friends. With due apologies to any fishing enthusiasts, it’s often considered a wholeheartedly dull activity. You get dressed up in various shades of green, gray, or camouflage, patiently wait for hours on the riverbank for a fish to bite, and while doing that, you contemplate life, the universe, and everything. That’s it. So, for many people, going fishing is about as appealing as watching paint dry.
It really takes a certain amount of patience, planning, and diligence to be a success at fishing. So I salute their dedication to rising before sunrise, waiting patiently for hours for the fish, and consistently trying again and again for improvement. It also got me thinking about how hobbies like fishing and pastimes contribute so much more to our happiness and well-being. It perhaps even makes us the people we are today.
We can use a simple model like Seligman’s PERMA to think about the value of hobbies and pastimes and the part they play in our happiness.
Why is it a Great Hobby?
- P – Positive Emotions
Being a leisure activity that an angler freely chooses, you might imagine that fishing is a non-stop whirl of positivity. This is clearly not the case. What’s interesting and so appealing, is the huge roller coaster of both positive and negative emotions displayed during every fishing session.
- E – Engagement
Fishing is a means of providing something to free the mind and body of the worries of the day. It has also been proven to help in mentoring troubled teens, replacing negative thoughts and activities with more positive traits and pursuits. Fishing is truly a wholesome sport.
- R – Relationships
Going out for fishing trips usually with children, as a family or with buddies, are considered rapport-building sessions indirectly. Fishing isn’t all about an individual activity. There will always be another angler (and often a small group) showing and introducing new landscapes, tackle, and species. With a catch well over 50 pounds, you will definitely need the combined muscle power of several people to land your catch.
- M – Meaning
You get the feeling that fishing provides a sense of meaning and purpose for fishing enthusiasts. It is evident that anglers feel a real connection with the wider world, the wonder of nature, and the beauty of the sea and sea-life.
- A – Achievement
You only have to witness the proud ‘Display of The Catch’ and the accompanying whooping and hollering at the end of each conquest to know that extreme fishing is very much about achieving the challenge. Not getting a bite or even losing a fish from the line is a frustration that sometimes bothers the experienced angler until the following morning, when a fresh opportunity presents itself.
You can easily see how a pastime like fishing can become much more than a way to relax and unwind at the end of a busy week. Sitting on the riverbank with a rod and box of bait for days at a time will eventually lead you to become fairly knowledgeable about fish and fishing, but it’s only by pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and into new realms that you’ll develop deep expertise.
You could, for example, use a fishing trip as an opportunity to learn and practice new techniques such as fly fishing or casting with your left hand as easily as you can with your right. You could try new bait and get comfortable with a new tackle. This would be a great example of what psychologist K. Anders Ericsson calls deliberate practice, in other words, not just repeating what you already know how to do quite well, but setting yourself new challenges which stretch you and enable you to improve. It’s this type of practice that is essential if you want to develop expertise in a subject.
“Perhaps fishing is only an excuse to be near water…”
applies to all of us who are drawn to rivers, lakes and ponds.
Probably the greatest attraction for anglers is not how many fish we catch, but the opportunity to be in a pleasant, peaceful outdoor location interacting with nature.
Just pause and admire the scenery.
Suck in a few deep breaths and be thankful for an opportunity to forget the daily grind and enjoy the pleasure of spending a relaxing day on the water.
This mindset is the only way to obtain the satisfaction that angling can truly provide and is the sport’s ultimate appeal. Because let’s face it, some days the fish just won’t bite and it takes a proper psychological approach to make those kind of days enjoyable…
It’s the psychology of the situation that makes fishing a remarkable pleasure…