The Perfect Marriage Of Fishing And Hiking
Our resources of time and money are finite. Many of us well-rounded outdoor fanatics enjoy a variety of activities so we have to pick and choose. If we were able to combine what we love, capture their benefits, and still have time for the rest of lives, many of us would be willing to give it a try.
I’ve found a way myself to combine hiking and fly fishing and how I got there is discovering my local creeks. I live near the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers so there are numerous tributaries that run through the St. Charles County area. While the driver pursuing these creeks was the potential to catch a wider variety of fish species, I found myself in my favorite spots logging 2, sometimes 4 or more hours on foot. One afternoon last spring, I logged 18,619 steps in one fly fishing trip. I also caught a variety of panfish, bass, and caught less targeted species (and my preference) like carp and drum on these hikes The best of both worlds. Here’s why it works for me:
Walking miles in waders is a core and lower body challenge in itself as well. My lower back especially is more than sore after a fishing trip.
You’re not just fishing
Fishing is a hobby much more than a sport. As much as I love it, I can concede it’s not the most physically challenging endeavor. But there is a variety of ways to fish and while many are plain sedentary, fly fishing is much more engaging. Catfishing with bait is an example where you will sit and wait, sometimes for hours with no change in your heart rate (with the exception of catching the fish itself of course!)
So how do you make fishing more like exercise? The first step is to move to fly fishing. Fly fishing in general provides more health benefits for the following reasons but add in some off the beaten path locales and you’ve got a hike. Here’s why:
- You will use more upper body muscles casting and will burn more calories actively casting and reeling because it requires continuous effort
- Fly fishing often involves wading and particularly wading in moving water which is a challenge to your balance and engages your lower body and core to hold your stance.
- Walking miles in waders is a core and lower body challenge in itself as well. My lower back especially is more than sore after a fishing trip.
- You can choose to chart new paths. There are plenty of creeks where few anglers will make an effort to fish. There aren’t worn paths and you have to make your own way through patches of thick trees and tall weeds. It requires effort no doubt.
Beyond the physical challenge, creeks and streams are where it’s at for a completely engaging sensory experience as well. I encounter deer, the most random insects, flowers and more just hitting one hole to the next. It’s a therapy like no other!
You’re not just hiking
The challenge of hiking is many faceted. A hike is a solid step up from just plain waking. In the foothills and mountains of the west, acclimating to the changes in elevation is an intense physical challenge in itself. Throwing fishing in the mix might sound like a break from the activity but that’s definitely not the case.
● You have to transition mindsets. When I’m hiking I’m fully enjoying nature, taking it all in but not intently focused on much. As soon as I arrive at my fishing hole that frame of mind has to change.
● Many times fly fishing is more akin to hunting. What that means is in clear or placid waters, it’s imperative you not spook your potential catch before you get there. That means stalking your quarry. Crouching down in waist-high weeds or behind trees is not out of the ordinary. Sometimes a belly crawl to get close to your catch is in order. If you’ve never heard of dapping, some anglers place their fly on the surface of the water dangling it from the end of their rod to entice a take. Sometimes this approach is done laying on the ground on one side with the rod extended over weeds or cover with the fly lightly making contact on the water’s surface. It’s focused and sometimes intense, adding another challenging element to the experience.
● More intelligent and wary freshwater species like carp, are pursued and not caught by randomly casting. It usually requires sight fishing by identifying then approaching, and presenting to them your fly with a precise cast. You will have to pause, maybe take a deep breath to make the transition.
Some basics to make the most of your experience
● Get adequate hydration and watch your layers. I found myself with heat exhaustion one August afternoon when I got carried away covering new water. My insulated waders caused me to sweat excessively and time got away from me. I was able to walk back to my car but the hour trek with 5 breaks was not something I’d ever repeat.
● Bug spray and reapplying sunblock is more essential than usual I would say. I cross a lot of untrecked territory, shoulder high weeds, and of course 4 straight hours in the summer sun will definitely get you burned fast without protection. You will find ticks in the strangest crooks of your body later so get a shower and thorough inspection for ticks afterwards.
● Make provisions so that if you get somewhere without a signal, do you have a basic first aid kit or other means to obtain care. How are you going to get out of there if you needed to? Some things to think through to keep your outing enjoyable and safe.
The winters are too long and that aching to get out in it will be upon us soon. So if you love both fishing and hiking, combine them by:
1) Trying fly fishing. It’s completely addictive and has changed how I enjoy time in nature. There’s a challenge both intellectual as well as physical, and an even higher respect for fish and their ecosystem usually results. It’s a humbling challenge to keep you pushing for more skills improvement.
2) Hit the creeks and streams. The variety of fish species potential is there, you’re often going to escape the crowds, and you’ll log more steps and to get a low-impact outdoor experience you won’t forget!