Why Fishing Works as Meditation 

Shandra Martinez

| 3 min read

Father and son on a camping trip fishing by a lake
When people think of meditation, the image that might initially come to mind is someone with their legs crossed and their eyes closed, sitting quietly in a dimly-lit spot. They might be concentrating intently on the sound of their own breathing, with a candle flickering nearby. But what about if instead, your idea of quiet contemplation involved a fishing rod, a tackle box or maybe even a pair of waders? It turns out, fishing can be a great form of mediation, allowing stress to float away like ripples on the water.
The last year has seen a huge jump in the number of people trying this outdoor activity. More than 54 million people in the United States went fishing in 2020, according to the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation. Of those, the ones casting a line for the first time tallied 4.4 million – an increase of 42% compared to the previous year and likely indicative of the general rise in people wanting to find more fun outside during the pandemic. The biggest fishing jumps have been in categories that include youths, Hispanics and Blacks, the group’s survey showed.
A Blue Space for better mental health. With so many people taking up rods and reels, it’s clear everyone develops their own style of angling. While some like the hard-charging world of charters, powerboats and big-lake fishing, others prefer a quiet spot where they can be alone with their thoughts – and whatever fish is circling under their loaded hook. This is where the meditative aspect of fishing comes into play. Going fishing puts you into a “blue space,” a spot near a river, lake or other body of water that research has shown is good for your mental health. In these spaces, people are more likely to be able to relax.
Meditative and soothing. So many aspects of fishing are inherently meditative, allowing you to focus only on what you are doing in the moment:
  • Baiting a hook
  • Tying on a fly
  • The gentle arc of casting
  • Reeling or pulling in your line a little at a time to move the hook
The time spent waiting for a fish to bite is time spent focused on the water around you, the trees and the sky. You are alone with your thoughts in a relaxed setting.
According to our neighbors to the north, the Ontario Parks department in Canada, spending an hour or two fishing is a way to take your mind off any stress or problems that might be plaguing you – an activity very similar to engaging in meditation. This makes angling an activity that can not only reduce your anxiety level, but create a relaxed environment. It can offer some long-term perks for your mental health, too. Fishing is a way to lower your body’s level of cortisol, which is your body’s natural alarm system and also known as a stress hormone. This decrease in cortisol can last for weeks after time spent fishing. For this reason, it has been used as a stress-reliever for people who suffer from the effects of trauma or PTSD.
So the next time you have some free time, grab a fishing pole, a few supplies and head to the nearest lake or riverbank to tap into a few hours of angling zen.
Photo credit: Getty Images

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