The Church of Fishing

Bull Durham is one of my all time favorite movies. It opens with a classic church organ blaring some soulful gospel music, with the voice over of a woman explaining her love of baseball. The first line of the movie is, “I belong to the Church of Baseball.”

As a baseball junkie, there are plenty of great movies about the game, but what sets this movie off from the rest are the parallels it provides to life. The characters and story line are dripping with authenticity; they have “soul.” It provides a true journey of character growth, capped with the realization that change is inevitable; we aren’t able to continue to do what we love in the capacity we want…Father Time will eventually catch up.

Perhaps the best scene of the movie provides a pulpit for the main character, Crash Davis, to express his beliefs about the world, where he staunchly preaches his philosophy and stands by his convictions while walking away from a possible raucous night spent with an attractive, sexy woman, “Well I believe in the soul…” (If you haven’t seen it you should!)

The point is, things take time to become important to us. Crash Davis is an older player who lands on his values over the course of a long career in the minor leagues. Our convictions take time to become foundational.

So, why fishing?

The best way to describe it is spiritual. A lot of people put their faith in a religion. Every Sunday they attend a church and join a community to share their faith in what they perceive to be “God.” They dive into their faith with joy, empathy, and understanding of those in their community. And the return must be something personal, something special and deeply emotional. This is exactly what fly fishing brings to my life!

It is a spiritual thing for me and where I find myself beautifully lost in a world so grand and raw and authentic and immense. Their is no influencing or bending of perception; being in nature is real. Hiking a creek, watching water and listening to the sounds of its movement within its banks brings an oddly peaceful emotion that isn’t matched anywhere else in my life. Lost. Gone are the stresses, anxieties, pressures and grind of work, fatherhood, husbandhood, and anything else “life” related.

Some people lose themselves in religion; I lose myself in fishing. You might say I am a devoted member to the Church of Fishing!

Sometimes it is personal; I often take days for myself and the river is where I go. However, just like those who attend a church, there are often times where I want to share this experience with friends who, perhaps, have a similar view of fishing. There are times when I want a community to share the joy a day on the river brings.

I never understood those snobby, crotchety dudes you meet in many soulless fly shops across the country who don’t want to share info or rudely and cryptically answer your questions about the local waters. Until you buy something. That seems to help. But it doesn’t seem like they believe in the “community” piece at all. To them, it’s a business; they have influenced and bent “fishing” into their perception of what it should be.

As my perception of the fishing world differs, I’ll avoid those types of places. I’ll keep mine and continue to create and grow its place in my life.

Now, when the idea of an annual fishing trip came about, I didn’t know all of this “stuff” about fishing and the role it has played in my life. This has developed over time. But 25 years ago, fishing was something I loved to do and was a chance to get the hell away for a few days with “The Boys!”

Although I didn’t know it at the time, the whole “Guys Fishing Weekend” concept would become one of THE most important aspects of my life, and to regularly experience community and friendship would be the driving force.

Like Crash Davis, I too have allowed time to let fishing shape its influential role in my life. I too believe in the soul…the soul of GFW!

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