You often hear folks talking about the art of fly fishing, but do you really think that the sport rises to that level of importance? An English angler once argued the negative position, saying to me, “It’s just poxy fishin’,” as we watched the opening ceremonies of the World Fly Fishing Championships in England. To get a better handle on this question, let’s see what one of the most famous fishermen in history has to say about it:
O, Sir, doubt not but that Angling is an art; is it not an art to deceive a Trout with an artificial Fly? a Trout! that is more sharp-sighted than any Hawk you have named, and more watchful and timorous than your high-mettled Merlin is bold? and yet, I doubt not to catch a brace or two to-morrow, for a friend’s breakfast: doubt not therefore, Sir, but that angling is an art, and an art worth your learning. The question is rather, whether you be capable of learning it? angling is somewhat like poetry, men are to be born so: I mean, with inclinations to it, though both may be heightened by discourse and practice: but he that hopes to be a good angler, must not only bring an inquiring, searching, observing wit, but he must bring a large measure of hope and patience, and a love and propensity to the art itself; but having once got and practiced it, then doubt not but angling will prove to be so pleasant, that it will prove to be, like virtue, a reward to itself.
—Izaak Walton, The Compleat Angler (1653)
Do you agree?