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Essay on A Theology of Fly Fishing

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A Theology of Fly Fishing


I have been fishing as long as I can remember. It has been a pursuit, an adventure, a call, a metaphor, a meditation, and a coping mechanism. Being a young boy in the 1960s and 70s, reading Thor Heyerdahl adventures and watching Jacques Cousteau, National Geographic, and astronauts orbiting the earth and walking on the moon on television, the spirit of adventure and the wonder of the natural world were the air I breathed. Moreover, my family was of a religious bent where my sisters and I were more likely to be told to be quiet and pay attention on a nature walk than in church. As opposed to the somehow self-evident holiness of the sanctuary, my parents took on the nurturing challenge of opening our eyes to the apparent and not-so-apparent dimensions of the divine around us in the woods, at the seashore, in the fauna and flora before our eyes and at our fingertips.

My experience of life, the successes and failures, the joys and sorrows, the ever expanding fabric of the my life, has enriched my love of and passion for fly fishing, particularly for trout. But I have also been given pause for thought and doubt. To be frank, I have been downright troubled at times. Questions of ethics and morality have forced their way into my sporting consciousness. I have read voraciously in fly fishing literature. I have lived and fished throughout large parts of the Northeast, Rocky Mountain, and Northern Pacific United States, as well as Scandinavia. I have met people who share my interest but have very different techniques, opinions, and ethics from my own.

I can distinctly remember my boyhood unease and anguish at impaling a worm or a minnow on a hook for bait. This probably sparked my shift from bait to flie...


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...e there, you must do something about it. Otherwise someone else will remove them or change them for their own purposes. I believe the preserver has the more theologically sound claim and has been commanded by God to act.



Works Cited:

Barry 1999 Barry, William A., S.J. Discernment in Prayer. Paying Attention to God. Notre Dame, Indiana: Ave Maria Press, 1999.

Pine-Coffin 1961 Saint Augustine. Confessions. Translated with an Introduction by R. S. Pine-Coffin.

McGrath 2001 The Christian Theology Reader. Edited by Alister E. McGrath, 2nd edition. Oxford: Blackwell, 2001.

Tillich 1951 Tillich, Paul. Systematic Theology. vol. 1. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1951.

Underhill 1914 Underhill, Evelyn. Practical Mysticism. Columbus, OH: Ariel Press, 1914.


1 All Biblical citations and references are taken from the New Standard Revised Version.


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