Monday, 1 June 2015

Golf versus Fly Fishing! Which is Best?

I have to admit that I am biased! It all started when I was employed as a seventeen-year-old student apprentice draughtsman and my boss was an elderly gent called Ian Flower who was captain of the Ministry of Public Building and Works golf team. I asked him if I should take up golf? His response was "Alan it's a good walk spoilt!" So based on that piece of professional advice I crossed golf off of my things to do list!
So how did I get interested in fly fishing? I got hooked on fishing when my elderly grandfather took me to fish on the River Thames at the age of around ten. I was a bit frightened of him but he set me up with a rod and reel instructing me to watch the float and if it went under to lift the rod to hook the fish. I watched the float like a hawk and when the float popped under I whipped the rod up vertically! The float and a little fish went sky high and the fish landed in my lap having come off the hook whilst airborne!   Grandfather was not impressed but I was as the exercise revealed that there were things swimming around in the depths of the river and you could catch them!  
So from then on I could never look at a river, lake, pond or puddle without wondering what denizens might be lurking there, and the only way to find out was to try and catch them. So my life-long love affair with water and fish began quite humbly, netting baby trout in among reeds with cousins, catching a jack pike and bringing it home in a Wellington boot filled with water, fishing the Thames at Hampton Court etc, etc. As I grew older I got interested in sea fishing but not living near the sea meant that I never got any good at it. All that changed when in my mid twenties I was posted to work in Gibraltar!  Gib is three miles long three quarters of a mile wide and is practically surrounded by sea, heaven on earth for me! But that is another story. 
Three years later when I came back from Gib I started sea fishing again in the UK and found it a waste of time because of inshore netting by trawlers, difficulties of getting bait and my distance from the sea.  Discussing this with Harry Shannon at college (I was doing a part time degree in HVAC engineering) we decided to have a go at trout fishing in a water that was stocked. We started at Weir Wood Reservoir and tried to teach ourselves to cast. I will always remember when Harry hooked his first fish as he had no idea what to do. He was fishing at the bottom of the boat ramp and landed the fish by backing up the ramp until he had pulled it out of the water!

Well that was how I started fly fishing, my big mistake was thinking I could teach myself to cast properly by just reading books. I could cast and catch but later when I wanted to qualify as a Salmon and Trout Association National Instructor I had to have lessons to unlearn all my bad casting habits. That was a humbling experience but mentors like Michael Evans helped. 

So back to the golf versus fly fishing question!  Let's deal with the similarities first. Both activities get you out in the fresh air. Either location can be beautiful but I would beg to suggest that fishing tends to find you in a naturally beautiful place whereas golf finds you in a man manicured environment!  Both sports require some skill and that comes from knowledge and practice. Both sports require equipment and the advertisers suggest the more you spend the more skilful you will be. This of course is nonsense!
Now golf is a competitive sport, you play against someone, so, too, is fly fishing if you go with friends. You may not feel it is competitive, until they are catching and you are not, then it becomes competitive!

Another similarity relates to the jargon in each sport. Banging balls into small holes in the ground is so unimaginative an activity that terms like "a birdie" or "an eagle" have been invented to make it sound interesting. With fly fishing we have terms like "tippet" and abbreviations like "ptn" (pheasant tailed nymph) and the whole nonsense of the number of different fly patterns.

So what are the differences between the sports. The main one I would suggest is that in golf the holes don't move (even if they see the golfer)! Whereas in fly fishing the target (the fish) do move (especially if they see the angler).  Another important difference is what happens when the golfer or fly fisher hits the target. In golf the ball lies quietly in the hole and the golfer pats himself on the back and the crowds cheer. In fly fishing the fish takes the fly, feels it's point and immediately all hell breaks out and the real excitement begins as the fish tests the fishers skill.  I have seen so many fish lost (by me and others) whilst being "played" usually because fishers are too impatient. 

After the golfing or fishing session both parties have a story to tell but I would imagine the golfer has to be more skilled at the telling in order to make it interesting than the fisher after all usually the fish has quite a lot to say.

Golf matches on TV are only watchable because there are so many cameras simultaneously filming a number of players that there is always some sort of action televised.  If a similar number of cameras were used to televise a fly fishing event I think it could be equally exciting if not more so!

I hope this stirs some of you into a response!


  1. June 2015 at 16:17

    You are bigging up fishing, without it seems any personal experience of playing golf!

    I on the other hand do BOTH, and can say without any degree of bias in either direction, that both sports have a great deal to commend them. Both have the potential to be hugely pleasing in terms of results produced, however they can also be extremely frustrating, when things don't go quite so well!

    We have all, well I certainly have, had days when you don't land a fish, sometimes not even a single tug to show for your efforts, like last week's visit to Draycote Water. This I personally find to be very depressing, and totally ruins the day, when you have invested so much time, effort and expense in it.

    On the golf course, one can have a very bad round, with lots of poor shots, penalty strokes and missed putts to finish well over your more normal score. But somewhere within that poor round, there is often a really good shot, or perhaps a par or even birdie (1 under par) on a hole that you can take home as a good memory.

    Another plus for golf over fishing, is that you get more exercise, typically walking over 3 miles, and have more opportunity for social intercourse with the other players, whereas fishing tends to be a fairly solitary exercise, even when doing it with a group, in my experience.

    So don't knock it if you haven't tried it! Whilst I accept that some people are more skilled at fishing than others, and will always catch more fish. there is also a huge degree of luck involved in fishing. Just happening to be in the only hot spot at the right time, when the rest of the lake is dead, can mean you bag up, whilst others blank! I have had personal experience of this in both +ve and - ve respects!

    Whilst luck can also play a part in golf, with a fortunate bounce of the ball, or ricochet off a tree back onto the fairway, this will not normally be enough to allow a less skilled player to succeed, compared to a player of higher ability.

    So golf is a far greater test of ones level of proficiency. I am the proud owner of a few golf trophies won in competition with my compatriots, which provide a pleasing reminder of some glory days when I did very well.

    In fishing, no trophies awarded, but the highlights are my 1st ever fish (Bewl Water with you, 1st time in a boat); Biggest fish (Chalk Springs, 8lb 2oz Rainbow, then @ Lechlade 9lb); 1st ever Brown & Heaviest Bag (Mannngford); Biggest Brown (Chalk Springs 6lbs); 1st ever dry fly & catch/release (Manningford); Most fish taken (John 'o' Gaunts 7; Manningford 6).

  2. I must say, I really enjoyed this read and the comment after. I fly fish and golf and have started to lean me more towards fly fishing personally due to the over all cost of the sport. Yes, the initial and ongoing cost of equipment in both sports can be and is pricey, but there aren't any green fees in fly fishing. Sure you can pay for guided trips, but those are extra excursions one can opt out of. Green fees, not so much. Walk or ride in golf, you're paying to play every round. Where as, in fishing, countless experiences can be had for free.