Fly Fishing Provides Great Health Benefits

19 comments / Posted on / by


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
Sign Up For Our Weekly Newsletter!

Follow Gink & Gasoline on Facebook:

19 thoughts on “Fly Fishing Provides Great Health Benefits

  1. completely agree. My wife would often ask after a long day on the river, either wading, hiking, paddling, busting brush or just working hard to maintain core body temperature~ why I can be wiped out after a series of days out ‘relaxing’ on the river. Then I took here for her first full day on the water, and she understood how standing in a river waving a stick can require more than skill, but also give the angler a beneficial work out. I hope you do see some major headline pick up the physical as well as mental benefits of angling with a fly.
    Tight Lines,

    • Brian,

      Right on man. It’s crazy how tired you feel at the end of the day. Once I climb up into the truck, it always hits me like a ton of bricks. Then I’ll look over at my buddy and say, “dang, I’m wore out”. I hope someone picks it up to. That’s the kind of positive feedback we need for the fly fishing industry. Thanks for commenting.


  2. Could not agree more! A day on my local stream ends with putting down a few miles on foot. I love getting away from the main areas and hoofing it back into spots that most people don’t get to. The further I go the clearer my mind becomes. My father always jokes he has to prepare to fish with me because he knows the hiking were going to do throughout the day.

    I always sleep better after a day out on the water!


    • Adam,

      And those days with Pops by your side on the river will be cherished and remembered for as long as you hold onto them. Nothing like fly fishing off the beatin path and with your Dad. I need to do that more often.


  3. Thunder stolen!

    I’ve been planning a piece on how many calories fly fishing burns. Been lazy about getting the necessary information together.

    Whatever the case: it is more than most people think. Hopefully I can get enough info together soon.

    And I’m fully agreed that more people should pay attention to the fact that fly fishing is not a lazy pursuit.

    • Chad,

      It’s all good man. Write the article and I look forward to reading it. If you provide me with a link to it when you post it, I will gladly add it to this post.

      I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in the process of writing a post, and before I can get it up, someone else does. Don’t let that deter you. Everyone has their own takes and unique writing. Just about all of it has already been talked about before. By us working together and providing links to other relevant posts we’re providing better customer service to all our readers.


  4. Call me selfish, but I’m not sure I want to see Yahoo advertise fly fishing on its front page.

    That said, great article as always.

    • Eric,

      You gave me a good laugh 🙂 I understand your point of you. Everyone wants their solitude, but it’s difficult to protect our resources and support our industry without increasing the number of fly fishers. Respect bro. Thanks for the comment.


  5. Kent,

    The therapeutic as well as physical benefits of fly fishing are well known to two organizations that use the sport for essential mental and physical benefits: Project Healing Waters (Wounded Vets) and Casting for Recovery (Breast Cancer Survivors). To hear a vet describe what the sport has done for him, see
    Breast cancer survivors and wounded vets have to overcome physical and mental challenges, and fly fishing is selected as a lifetime activity to help them do that. It happens to be a sport they can do well into old age. It stands to reason that it is an ideal activity to commune with nature and expend reasonable physical effort along the way.

  6. I agree 100%, although I like to keep the beauty and secret benefits of the sport to myself and just those close to me. Not being a guide and dependent on new blood for revenue, I prefer to keep the waters empty and enjoy the solitude. If everyone on a diet plan went out slinging worms in waters where I usually fish in peace I’d be a little annoyed that I let the cat out of the bag on how great fly fishing is. Maybe preach how steering a boat on a lake builds arm muscles, or tossing anchors will define your back muscles, but only on rivers that don’t hold trout…that would be OK with me.

    • Chris,

      I too used to think the way you do. I wanted the water free of most fisherman so I could maximize my solitude and trick myself into thinking I was the first person to drift a fly through the pool.

      Things changed a lot for me after I tried to get some regulations changed on one of the trout waters I fish to protect and improve the longterm fishing, and bring it back to the good old days.

      We didn’t have enough people to step up and show support for our voices to even be heard. It would have been a lot different with a thousand people united not fifty. There’s so many improvements we could be making in my area of trout streams alone if we had more fly fishers that were willing to volunteer their voice and time.

      Keep that in mind. I’m happy for you to enjoy your solitude, just remember with out the protection of our treasured waters in the long term, you may end up with your favorite fishing spots ending up like those NO Trout Waters you don’t care about. Thanks for the comment. I’m aloud to talk straight with you since I’ve known you for a couple decades now :). Hope we cross paths soon so I can call shotgun on some holes and cramp your solo fishing 🙂


      • lol, yeah don’t get time to comment lately but read every day. It’s a tricky line to walk between having too many interested people and too few. I understand the conservation efforts and the good that numbers do for the sport, but it’s off set to me by the fact that most people I run into on the water around here have 0 interest in knowledge of the sport or conservation of anything. On the Toccoa the last time I went 3 kids were slamming a hole of freshly put in stock fish, by the playground there. I was happy for them at first as they were really happy and obviously amateurs but turned to disgust as dead fish came floating down the river and the kept hammering the hole for a good hour with a smile on their faces as about half of what they caught died not 30 min after the truck dumped the fish off. So my attitude toward other fishermen in this area is sour to say the least. But I’ve been much more pleased in Montana and where I’m heading next week on the West Branch of the Penobscot in Maine. Which btw you need to come fish with me sometime, it is awesome. By a ticket to Bangor next week and I’ll pick you up! Love the site Kent keep up the good work.

        • Chris,

          It would be great to catch up and get some fishing in like the old days. Keep me posted when you’re traveling to fish. I just might take you up on that offer of picking me up. Hope all is well and you’re catching lots of fish. Thanks for being a regular visitor. It means a lot.


  7. I understand Chris’ sentiments (above), as I like some solitude on the water myself. But the way to preserve our fishing opportunities and heritage is to broaden our numbers and to introduce trout and fly fishing to succeeding generations. Few will care about and support such things as wildlife and fishing regs enforcement officers if the sport is exclusive and for a small part of the population. In Georgia, we are currently fighting the battle to keep certified DNR enforcement officers for fishing and hunting. Besides, sharing the joy of fishing with others brings far greater pleasure than solitary pursuit. Just my view, and I respect that of Chris above.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Captcha loading...