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Fly Fishing Jazz: On Golf and Fly Fishing

by Kirk Deeter
photos by Kirk Deeter

I’m going to diverge from the music analogy for this column to talk about the synergies between golf and fly fishing.

Truth is, I dedicated last weekend to watching the Ryder Cup.  Didn’t fish.  Didn’t watch football or baseball.  I cleared my work and social calendars so I could do nothing more than sit on by butt and watch golf all weekend.  Granted, watching golf on television is sometimes less exciting than watching paint dry, or grass grow.  But watching multi-millionaires get giddy about the team colors, national pride, and grudge-match golf gets me all fired up.  I’ll take the Ryder Cup over the Olympics, or the Super Bowl, or the Final Four.

Why?  Because golf and fly fishing are essentially the same sport—one played dry, the other played wet. They both share some of the same geographic and historic origins (Scotland, centuries ago).  And they’re both pursuits for the masochist, type-A personality who embraces frustration as part of the appeal.

Whether I see this…

Golf and Fly Fishing

or this…

Golf and Fly Fishing

… my wheels are spinning in exactly the same way.

How am I going to approach this challenge?  What’s the best tool to use?  How should I factor in the elements?

Swinging the club is but a small fraction of the total equation in golf, and so too is casting the fly in the total equation of fly fishing.  What really matters happens between the ears, before it ever gets to the arms and hands.

It’s no coincidence that some of the greatest golf pros in the world also happen to be serious fly anglers:  Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller, Nick Faldo, Nick Price, Mark O’Meara, Davis Love III, Paul Azinger, Ben Curtis… even Tiger Woods.

If you want to be a better fly fisher, play golf.  If you want to be a better golfer, fish with flies.  It’s just that simple.  Because the “course management” thinking that goes into either sport will pay dividends when playing the other.

There are indeed international fly fishing competitions that pit nations against each other.  I’m not expecting them to show up on ESPN or NBC any time soon.  And I’m not so sure that the “Euro-nymph” guidelines that govern those competitions are completely fair, nor a true test of angling prowess on a global scale.

Call me a homer, but I’d say if we had an international dry fly competition, no matter where it was held, if I were captain, you could give me a squad of eight guys from American fly shops (Montana, Michigan, Colorado, and elsewhere), and we’d kick the world’s butts.  Granted, a pure casting competition might be a different story.  I’d be very wary of a team from Argentina, the Bahamas, the United Kingdom, or New Zealand.  But I think we’d win that also.

Doesn’t matter.  We probably won’t see competitive fly fishing covered by network television any time soon.  But that’s okay.  The Ryder Cup is good enough.

MidCurrent Fly Fishing
Kirk Deeter is the editor of TROUT, the national publication of Trout Unlimited, and a frequent contributor to MidCurrent.
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  • Captain Robert Szychowski

    I have often thought of the similarities between golf and flyfishing as well. They are both basically individual endeavors, best done alone or with a good friend.They both require physical skills that are never fully realized. Both are practiced in lovely places for the most part.I could go on. If you could play golf in solitude, or with a friend, with no carts, no foursome coming behind, at your own leisurely pace and at the cost of a day of fishing, I might take up the sport. Until then I will just fish.

  • Josh

    You have got to be kidding? A bunch of rich white hairs chasing a little ball around a polluted water sucking field of green grass is the same as fly fishing? Using your logic, you could compare anything to fly fishing. Building a table. Writting an email. Pulling a trailer. Playing pool. This is the most random, far fetched and ridiculously generous comparison you have written yet.

  • Stu

    Josh is off the mark – I have been comparing the two for years. Hate golf though…

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  • Josh

    I dont think I am off the mark. However, after rereading my post…I did come across like a tremndous a-hole. My appologies to the author.

  • spence

    I think the similarities end when you take into account that one is practiced in a groomed park and the other in the wild, or the closest thing to it an angler can get to. If they were the same, largemouth from subdivision ponds would be the height of fly fishing.

  • Flyfisher

    While the Scots certainly could be given credit for making fly fishing what it is today, Scotland is not the “origin” of fly fishing, nor even the place of first examples, which are probably found in northern Italy or possibly Japan. Golf played in the highlands of Scotland make a better comparison to fly fishing than Golf on US courses.

  • Rocket J Squirrel

    Yes. Golf is good. (said in my most hypnotically suggestive voice)
    Go to the golf course – spend all day.
    Leave the trout stream alone.
    You don’t want to go fishing. (these are not the droids you are looking for).

    Really, golf does serve the useful purpose of keeping people off the river. 😉

  • Gary

    Great article. I often describe fly fishing to my non fishing friends as golf with a fishing rod. Many, many similarities in my opinion. Thankfully fishing doesn’t piss me off the way golf can.