Environmentalism and fishing: Strange bedfellows

By John Yunker on

John Yunker

Playwright, author of the environmental novel The Tourist Trail and co-founder of Ashland Creek Press.

I’m struck by the number of books that equate fishing (particularly fly fishing) with “being one with the environment.”

Personally, I find this idea to be a total crock.

Yes, I’ve fished.  And fishing was a great excuse to get out into nature.

But I vividly remember as a child when I caught a rock bass and was then expected to cut it up for dinner. I wanted to put that fish back in the water. But that wasn’t how it worked.

You fish. You catch the fish. You eat the fish.

And because I so hated killing that rock bass, that became the last time I did fish.

I understand the whole “man vs. fish” dynamic. It is exciting on some level.

But it’s not exactly a fair fight. And it’s not environmental.

If you needed fish to survive, then it makes sense.

But if you use fishing as your excuse to leave home to go out into the great outdoors, perhaps you should pack some food instead. Go for a hike. Go birdwatching. Or just stand at the shore and identify the fish that swim past.

Why do human activities so often get benchmarked against what we take from nature?

Is nature a theme park? Or is nature something else? Something better?

If you’re a writer and you want to write about fishing, perhaps you can consider some of these issues? As a press, we want to see writing that pushes the envelope on what environmental should be and can be. That’s a major reason why we founded The Siskiyou Prize for New Environmental Literature.

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