At first glance, the differences are obvious. Look closer and you’ll see why bowhunters and fly fishermen might have been separated at birth!
Since chasing deer with a bow overtook my life some years ago, time for fly fishing became scarce. I needed a palate cleanser after a long, exhausting whitetail season. Heading to the stream with a fly rod was the perfect reset.
Being back on the water made me think about how I moved so naturally from fly fishing to bowhunting, and how much crossover exists between the two disciplines. Here’s why:
The method is beautiful.
I can shoot my bow at a foam block or cast a bit of dyed wool in a grassy field all afternoon. Either way, I’m satisfied coming home without any game.
The methods of archery and fly fishing are important in themselves. Bowhunters and fly fishermen care as much about how they take their game as whether they take game at all.
You might find a fly fisherman watch the line as it floats and unfurls in the air, just like the bowhunter is fascinated by the streaking fury of their fletchings and knock tracing an arc to the target. Both methods are full of magic, because their practitioners focus on mastering the craft.
The margins are small.
Fly fishermen analyze water currents and seams then mend line to ensure the fly is presented as naturally as possible and without any evidence of drag. Likewise, bowhunters are freakish about human scent swirling about in the breeze. This attention to movement and flow is a mental construct, which lends itself to understanding the other pursuit.
Rolling an Adams just behind a boulder or lacing an arrow through a narrow shooting lane – do either of these wrong and the game is over. The attention to precision is another common bond between the two.
The gear is limiting.
If I had my bait casting rig, I could run a Husky Jerk down deep near that root wad and have a good chance at the beast of a brown brooding there. If I had my .270, the doe at 130 yards could be on my gambrel later this evening.
The bowhunter and fly fisherman knowingly choose tools that require a little more effort. When the pieces finally come together, the reward is so much sweeter.
The equipment is critical.
The same instinct impelling the bowhunter to orient his broadheads on each arrow the same way is also the one that makes the fly fisherman wrap thread symmetrically around the sow bug he’s tying.
Both pay attention to the finest of details in their equipment. Both are known to be uncompromising with their gear and prescriptive in how it’s set up.
I left the river from the aforementioned fishing trip having raised some fish, but never connecting. Like so many hours I’d spent with bow in hand looking for deer; I was again empty handed.
At first glance, bowhunters and fly fisherman may seem like an odd couple, but they have more in common than you might have imagined. If you are one and not the other, allow me to suggest stepping over to the other side.
Images via Tim Kjellesvik