Fly Fishing Provides Great Health Benefits

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I barely remember the long hike in, mostly, I remember the epic dry fly fishing. Photo Louis Cahill

I tell my clients, all the time, that I’m grateful for all the benefits fly fishing provides anglers.

It provides us with one of the funnest ways to exercise, and it has the ability to completely wash away the stress of everyday life, from its therapeutic entertainment. We really should be thankful that this passion of ours provides us with so much more than just the reward of catching fish. Each and everyday we fly fish, we should take a minute to sit back and reflect on this fact. What other exercise activity can you think of that allows you to burn tons of calories during the day, and not have the faintest clue your even working out? Most of us aren’t extreme athletes, and even if we were back in the day, many of us have gotten older and are no longer. The great thing about fly fishing is you can tailor it to your own abilities and needs. It’s a great activity for maintaining your long term balance, dexterity and muscle strength, and it does a very good job of keeping your brain sharp.

If more people were writing about all the great health benefits fly fishing provides, both mentally and physically, I think it could help grow the sport. I’d love to see Yahoo, or one of those other giant headline news websites (that most of us visit daily) post on its home page, a fly fishing picture with the headline, “Lose weight and have a blast doing it.” We need to start thinking outside the box to promote and attract newcomers to fly fishing, and I think this could be one area we’ve been overlooking. What if someone started marketing a Fly Fishing Boot Camp or a Fly Fishing R&R program that focused on managing stress and mental well being. I know the “Casting for Recovery & Wounded Warriors” programs have been very successful, but we shouldn’t stop there.

Still not convinced I have a legitimate argument here?

Read this excerpt taken from an article Tom Rosenbauer wrote a while back, on how fly fishing and exercise go hand and hand.

“The image most people have of fishing is sitting in a boat or on a dock waiting for a fish to swim by and take your bait. However, in fly fishing, you are almost always moving, particularly if you are wading. You’re hunting and stalking fish because a fly doesn’t cover much territory—you must find the fish and only then do you begin fishing. So whether you are wading a small mountain stream for trout, walking along saltwater grass beds for redfish, or chasing schools of striped bass down a long sandy beach, you can get your heart pumping.

When I hit my mid-50s both my lifestyle and metabolism slowed down with the inevitable thickening of my middle region. My wife, who is much more disciplined about fitness than I am, was using a heart monitor to measure how many calories she burned, and when I got serious about losing 15 pounds I figured I would try one. I dutifully wore the monitor through the winter, pounding away on an elliptical machine every day, watching the pounds ebb. Never a fan of gyms or indoor exercise of any kind, I decided to begin measuring the calories I burned while I was fishing.

I have a little mountain brook trout stream that I often fish on my lunch hour, so one day before I began fishing I strapped on the heart monitor. To my surprise and delight, I found that wading this little stream, climbing over rocks and wading in the current, I could burn as many calories in the same amount of time as I could on the elliptical. Using the heart monitor on a bonefish trip to Belize later that year, I found that a few hours kayaking and wading the bonefish flats allowed me to eat like a pig that night just to get enough calories into my body to prevent it from going into starvation mode.

So the next time you and your family head out for the gym to breathe the stale air and watch your local community sweat and grunt, think instead about spending a few hours walking a local lakeshore, wading a stream, or taking a canoe or kayak onto a local pond. Your body and your mind will be renewed.”(Click link for full article)

It’s probably smart to point out to all you lazy fly fisherman out there (no disrespect), that you can’t get the same amount of physical benefits floating down the river in a boat drinking beer, as you can wade fishing. I’ve got plenty of buddies out there that fall into this category, myself included. You have to be willing to move your feet and cover some ground fly fishing if you want to turn you’re fishing trip into a workout. On a positive note, no matter how lazy or chill an angler is on the water, they still can take full advantage of all the mental benefits fly fishing provides. Whatever type of fly angler we happen to be, it’s important to understand that by finding the time to pick up a fly rod and hit the water, we’re nurturing both our mind and body, and that’s a truly beautiful thing that needs to be shared with others. God, I love fly fishing.

Keep it Reel,

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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18 thoughts on “Fly Fishing Provides Great Health Benefits

  1. Fly fishing high mountain lakes… Not only are the fish good…

    Heck I use fishing as motivation to train in the offseason (aka winter)

  2. Fly fishing is my joy and not my living, like most I expect, and while the article sounds nice and all, I just as soon keep the benefits as secret as a fishing spot. Fly fishing products are expensive, the good ones at least, are we to believe that tripling the number who do it would bring any of those prices down? Of course not.
    I’m sorry but it’s a battle out there most time as it is so shhhhhhhhh be quite.

  3. Right on point, Kent. Yesterday, I hiked and fished a small mountain stream with my buddy. All tolled, we covered 9.5 miles according to my Fitbit, and it involved some elevation change and of course climbing over rocks and obstacles in the stream. Plus we got up close and personal with some wild trout. The fishing was better and totally free of competition because hiked in to a remote spot on a weekday. We are both pushing 70. To say this type of fishing is good for us is a major understatement.

    The only caveat: make sure you work your way up to exercise levels required for this and any other vigorous exercise. Weekend warriors, astream or on a tennis court, risk more harm than good. As you say above: “The great thing about fly fishing is you can tailor it to your own abilities and needs.” Know your limits and then expand them on the way to better health.

  4. “It provides us with one of the funnest ways to exercise…”
    Really man? You write for a living and are still making grammatical mistakes like this? Let me know if you need an editor…

  5. Personally I don’t want more people fly fishing. The streams are crowded enough as it is, and personally I believe what attracted me to the sport was the prospect of going some place beautiful and getting away from the all the riff raff

  6. My buddies and are always on the lookout for fun activities that help us exercise and improve our health. We have always loved spending time outside and playing sports. I didn’t realize that fly fishing provided exercise opportunities because you have to hunt down fish with a small line by wading through water. That seems like it would be really fun and beneficial to all of us.

  7. You wrote that fly fishing is not only a great way to get exercise, but it can also serve as a therapeutic entertainment. I have been looking for something I could do with my friends, and I was wondering if fly fishing would be a good option. Since it’s nice and relaxing, it could help us get our mind off our lives and just enjoy nature for a while. Thanks for the read.

  8. That’s awesome that you burned the same amount of calories as you did on your elliptical. The added benefit seems like you were out in nature and you were able to catch some food! I’ll have to look more into fly fishing!

  9. “Boost the growth of the fly fishing industry” You have to be kidding me! Industry and fly fishing do not belong in the same sentence. There are way too many people now on our trout streams and there are no roadblocks stopping anyone who really wants to get out there and start fishing. All this talk, and there are articles published constantly in the same vein, are prompted by those who would profit in some way by an influx of new people in the streams.

  10. As a partial response to your observation:

    “I know the “Casting for Recovery & Wounded Warriors” programs have been very successful, but we shouldn’t stop there” —

    You might be interested in an article in the upcoming issue of TROUT magazine titled “It Also Heals.” The article includes a list of more than 20 other organizations that employ fly fishing as a form of therapy, or healing, or mentoring. There are also retreats offered each year on “The Spirituality of Fly Fishing” at the Delaware River Club that address the mind / spirit / well being angle that fly fishing offers, based on the book by the same title. The next one is the weekend of September 20 — and we’d love to see any of you there!

  11. There are way too many flyfishers now and the rivers & high lakes have been overcrowded for years. Flyfishing has become a fad here in Colo. where I”m approached by folks all the time to teach them only to say they “do it”. You can tell. The marketing machine is like an overactive thyroid and you want to draw more newbies by promoting exercise as a benefit? Seriously? One used to blame it on that damn movie. Now it’s just blatant marketing, constantly tugging at our souls (and wallets).

  12. I spend most days hearing about the worst things on earth – sexual abuse to kids. Horrible stuff and not to abstract children. Since they live for a time on our campus in protective custody, they are in my office and hanging out with me. I know them personally. That part is good, but hearing her story, working with legal teams to prosecute abusers. After a while that sticks. Fly fishing the few times a year I can do it is like a mental and emotional bath. Watching a fish on the flats or the mesmerizing cast, mend repeat of nymphing are the only things I do that completely takes me away from this. A permit requires 100% focus or blown fish – even my poor casting at 100% focus is therapeutic. Cast and try for that perfect mend requires 100% focus. At least at my skill level. Physical exercise aside, the mental aspect is awesome.

  13. You made a good point when you mentioned that fly fishing is a great activity to maintain your balance and muscle strength while keeping your brain sharp. My brothers and I are planning to do something fun during the summer as we are taking some days off from work to relax while doing an enjoyable activity together. I think it would be great if I bring them for a fly fishing trip where we can improve our muscle strength and maintain our balance.

  14. It’s cool that you mention that fly fishing is a great way to exercise`. I’ve been searching for a new way to get some exercise, so I’m thinking about hiring a guide to take me fly fishing. I’m going to look for a good fly fishing guide in my area to hire.

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