ANGLING IS A “CURIOUS BALM” (April 22/13)

Anglers are calmer, more meditative than regular folks, say a bunch of scientists who have been studying stress and brain fatigue.

Back up a bit.  They didn’t single out anglers in particular.  What the scientists actually said was the outdoors had a calming affect on the brain.  Hang around in the outdoors enough and the effects of cortisol, a stress hormone that makes you cranky, easily distracted and stressed, will be washed away.

In other words, say the scientists, tests show the outdoors has a calming affect.  The tests measured brain wave readouts, indicating something as simple as viewing photographs of outdoor scenery relieves stress.

Now, I ask you, who hangs around more in the outdoors than anglers?  And what activity is more contemplative and obviously immersed in the potentially calming effects of the outdoors than angling?

So, I repeat myself.  Since the outdoors has a soothing effect on the brain, we can deduce anglers normally might be calmer and less stressed out than most of us.  Or to put it another way, stress of all kinds, the stress associated with everyday living and everyday problems can be relieved simply by picking up the rod and reel and going fishing for a few hours.

Anyone who fishes is well aware of this, that angling soothes the nerves and is a balm for the soul.  This was recognised and expressed as far back as the time the first books on angling appeared.  There  are lines in Izaak Walton’s The Compleat Angler (published 1653) that refer to angling as a rest to the mind, a cheerer of spirits, a diverter of sadness and a calmer of unquiet thoughts.  In the American and Canadian Sportsman’s Encyclopedia, published in 1913, angling is referred to as a “curious balm, a balm for troubles of the mind.”  Ray Bergman, my favourite angling writer, refers to trout angling as a “surcease from life’s trials.” You’ll find similar references to the calming effect of angling whenever outdoor writers stop preaching and teaching for a moment and become contemplative.

But we don’t need scientists and their experiments to tell us angling is good medicine.  Most of us discovered the calming effect of  fishing the first time we dropped a baited hook into a brook and sat back to wait for a trout to bite.  Some of my angling friends enjoy fishing so much that catching a trout or two isn’t as important as being out on the water.  They come home, they say, with a smile and if the creel is light, so what.

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