There is nothing worse than sitting at a desk all day. And there is nothing better than being in or near water with a long stick attached to some kind of cord.
All fishing persons say these sorts of things. The remarkable thing is that they are entirely true. Why this is the case is difficult to say. Izaak Walton, an Anglo-Catholic shopkeeper who left London to escape Cromwell after the English Civil War, spent decades of his life revising The Compleat Angler in attempt to answer this question. The fact that this humble treatise (originally written to amuse Walton's clergymen friends) was once the most widely printed book in English apart from the Bible tells you something about the good sense of our predecessors.
If I had to venture a guess, I would say that fishing appeal's — apart from the scenery and the welcome chance to ignore whatever ignominies are being perpetrated somewhere far-off by politicians — has something to do with the way it allows us to be comfortable with uncertainty, the way it makes failure seem acceptable and success a kind of grace note. As Walton put it so beautifully, "No man can lose what he never had."
One thing that keeps many people from fishing is the simple fact that they have never done it. Indeed, I think it is probably the only reason, apart from vegetarianism. (If you do not eat meat or otherwise object to taking the lives of gill-bearing aquatic craniates, there is always catch-and-release.) Unlike libertarianism or comic books, fishing is one of those hobbies whose enthusiasts are eager to help newcomers. They are infinitely patient, and they take almost as much delight in evangelizing and catechizing as they do worshipping at the altars of their piscine gods. Ask a friend or coworker or acquaintance who loves to fish if you can tag along — you will be happily obliged. Nor should you assume that because you live in a major metropolitan area you will never have a chance of coming across one of these sanguine persons. Fishermen are everywhere, hanging on to the dream of a free Saturday on the water, even if it means a longish drive.
For my part, I think that the best fishing is trolling for whitefish in Lake Superior. There is something blissful about setting up your downriggers and going back and forth very slowly in a straight line while you drink a beer. But this is one man's opinion. The best thing about fishing is its infinite variety, from the intense labor of reeling in a salmon to the rhythmic delight of watching the red and white plastic bobber go up and down before you pull another bluegill out of your neighbor's pond to the sheer hilarity of putting on waders and standing with a bunch of intoxicated retired lumberjacks in the middle of a river dipping for smelt at one in the morning. Imagine football if it were also as leisurely as golf, as timeless as baseball, as tactical as tennis, or as heroic as basketball depending on your mood and those of your companions. Fishing can be like anything you need it to be.
I am happy to say that those of you who are stuck in an office for the rest of the week can still enjoy something of the magic of this hobby. A few years ago I discovered the joy of fishing programs when I turned an office television set away from ESPN and stumbled upon Fishing With Roland Martin (not the former CNN personality, but the champion angler who has recorded more than 25 appearances in the BassMaster Classic). I would not go so far as to suggest that televised fishing is actually more enjoyable than the real thing, unlike football and golf, both of which I find improved by digital alchemy. The only television sets I own are a pair of identical 10-inch Panasonics with built-in VCRs, so, working from home, I am unable to enjoy Roland on cable. Fortunately dozens of episodes of the program have been uploaded to YouTube. The next time you are having a terrible day, buy a tallboy and retreat to your cubicle or a park bench with a pair of headphones. For a few wonderfully serene minutes you will not be at work but in remotest Manitoba taking a few nice muskies out of the water.
Every American who has a chance to do so, even if only vicariously through the dubious miracle of the internet, should go fishing this summer.