If I had to rank my favorite recreational pursuits, I’d probably settle on fishing and writing as my top two. The other day, while I was writing about fishing, I wondered how two such disparate activities could reside side by side at the top of my list. Hunting and fishing would be logical companions, but I don’t hunt. Reading and writing go well together, but as much as I enjoy reading fiction, I don’t remember ever getting upset because other obligations took me away from a morning of reading.
The more I thought about it, the more it occurred to me that fishing and writing have elements in common. First of all, both are quiet solitary activities. I enjoy fishing with other people and I sometimes co-write with colleagues and students, but both activities are best done alone. Secondly both activities bring me closer to nature, even though fishing does it on a physical level and the writing (i.e., nature writing) is more intellectual. Thirdly, both have clear outcomes, but actually achieving those outcomes are not important. Catching a fish or producing good prose are things to aim for, but like all worthy goals, are not always achieved. That is not to say that fishing isn’t enhanced when I catch fish or writing isn’t more satisfying when I come up with a good sentence, but neither accomplishment defines the value of the respective activity. I’m more likely to fish two or three days in a row when the fish are biting, more likely to write longer into the morning when the writing is going well, but the cliche about a bad day of fishing applies just as well to writing as it does fishing. A great summer day is a morning of writing (maybe coming up with a good paragraph), a workout, lunch with my wife and daughter, and time on the river with a pole in my hands until the sun sets.