Zen and the Art of Angling

Introduction | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5

Caarton of Alistair

I always wanted to write a book but heck it's so laborious so I decided on a themed set of articles. It's a collection of stories, experiences, and helpful information for beginners and old lags alike. I would appreciate your comments, suggestions or help with factual information. Feel free to contact me anytime you have something to contribute.

I have spent many long and enjoyable hours beside, in and on the rivers and lochs of Scotland and savoured each moment as the swish of rod and splash of water lulled me into a meditative state. Some times the sense of relaxation and oneness with the surroundings that I seek when fishing takes a little time to achieve, it all depends on how much baggage I'm carrying in my life at any given time. Sometimes and in some places the meditative state comes quickly and that condition is what I seek from my fishing, a near blank mind free of worldly thoughts unconsciously focused on fishing.

With the exception of those few occasions when a fish takes almost immediately I find that I must reach a clear state of mind before I start to catch fish. You cannot force this condition of mind, it happens of its own accord.

Was it really 18 years ago, Alistair with his first salmon

Some times I find myself humming in my head one of my fishing songs, an eclectic mix ranging from 'Puppet on a String' to excerpts from Hyden's 'Creation'. Again I cannot force this it must happen of it's own accord. When the music comes unconsciously I start to catch fish, crazy init?

When the music fades to the background and thoughts start to drift to negative issues like gnawing old bones from work, relations with the neighbours or about finances the bubble bursts and I couldn't catch a highly infectious disease!

It is the medicine of the flowing stream, the smell of wild flowers and blossom, pine needles and damp soil after rain, the sounds of the natural world that clears the mind of worldly cares. Then and only then the mind is focused on the art of fishing, when you intuitively know the fly is fishing well, where, how deep, how fast and how right it is.

At these times I am at one with my fishing rod. With senses honed I feel the river through my rod and line, sense the fish, sense the take, even, on occasion, anticipate the take. This is the state I describe as angling Zen. Everything I am, everything I feel and do by the river or loch contributes to this state of mind. There is no single road to this angling heaven, no single trigger, I just need to open my being to what nature offers and bask in its soothing warmth.

This series of articles is not intended as a scholarly dissertation nor is it meant to fill you with brilliant angling theories and techniques. I am just an ordinary angler who has been blessed enough to find himself by the waterside, on occasion lucky, sometimes skilful, often patient. All I aim to achieve here is to pass on to you some of my experiences that have combined to bring me to my Zen place when I am fishing and hope that this might help you to find your sense of place in turn.

Lesson one 'grasshopper', learn that you cannot force your way to this Zen condition, it will find you.