I’m sure we’ve all been asked numerous times by our friends, family and colleagues, what it is that drives us to such lengths, in a relentless and meticulous search for of nothing more than a mere fish. Indeed they often question more in bewilderment than with honest curiosity. Why on earth would we willingly suffer insomnia, fatigue, the early stages of hypothermia and every weather condition mother nature can throw our way, to spend hours, occasionally days on the bank in the hope that, just maybe, we’ll catch a fish?

snow fishing

No matter how enthusiastic and thorough our response seems, subconsciously pleading with them to show a glimmer of understanding, we’re often yet again met with a sense of utter perplexity. Undeniably, it is only those blessed with this borderline obsession that can truly comprehend the fascination with fishing.

For each of us, the symphony of individual aspects that compose this fascination may vary. However to those with the drive, respect and integrity of a true angler, it is this composition that ensures we are absolutely and perpetually captivated by our sport.

fishing obsession

I recently found a quote by Scottish author, historian and Governor – General of Canada, John Buchan, 1st Baron of Tweedsmuir, which categorically defined what the art of angling is to me. “The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable; a perpetual series of occasions for hope.”

This summarises the first aspect that, I’m sure, makes many of us tick as anglers. We rarely set out with a simplistic and insignificant objective. Instead, our ambitions are generally greater. We thrive on a challenge and are always in search of the next. The subjects of these challenges may seem elusive, however we know them to be attainable. They are rarely easy, but perseverance, determination, eternal hope and optimism will eventually pay off and sooner, perhaps later, we will have our hard won prize held proudly in our hands.

It is this hope and optimism that keeps us going, ensuring that our alarm clocks are set for 3am and that we are on the bank come wind, snow, rain or shine before there’s even a hint of light in the sky. As we approach the loch, river or shore in the stillness of twilight, we can’t help but allow ourselves to dream that today might just be the day.

More often than not, it’s not quite, and that day will need to wait. Nevertheless we continue, undeterred, already planning our next session, as we know as anglers, that enjoying the journey is imperative to keeping the passion burning.

pike fishing

The journey, I assume to most, is the second aspect of our fishing fascination. Taking each day and each cast as it comes, regularly taking a step back to admire and appreciate the stunning landscapes in which we often find ourselves, learning and taking the positives from even the fishless days are all steps towards achieving our next big success.

Each day and each session on our respective, perpetual journeys will without doubt provide their own challenges. It’s how we rise to and overcome these that define our characters and enable us to progress as anglers. Factors such as wind, temperature, time of year, tactical choices and an overwhelming plethora of other variables need to be identified and confronted. The success of each session will, more often than not, hinge on our ability to adapt; the success of future sessions, on our ability to learn.

fishing landscape

Although simply being immersed in the great outdoors and feeling at one with nature and their surroundings is a huge part of most angler’s journeys, I believe that this alone merits special recognition. We are blessed in Scotland, to have some of the most outstandingly beautiful scenery on the planet and as anglers we are in a better position than most to truly benefit from this. A huge percentage of Scots will often travel through some of the country’s most iconic landscapes with barely an upward glance. With Scotland being such a small country and these landscapes being what many of us are accustomed to, it is all too easy to become detached from our surroundings and mislay the appreciation they justify.

Fishing silhouette

However, the angler has a close and special relationship with their surroundings. We see our stunning country in all lights of day, in all weather conditions and at all times of the year and pay detailed attention to the many constant and occasionally subtle changes. Our wild places have the ability to captivate and enchant and we are fortunate that our sport allows us to see them at their best. This is why I believe that experiencing, appreciating and feeling at one with our surroundings, for almost all of us, comprise the third aspect of this increasingly complex fascination.

With all this being said, there is without doubt one aspect of fishing that predominantly drives us forward. It is an aspect that will have different meanings to each of us and one that can be sought on the smallest, through to the grandest scale. Success is what we all strive for and is generally why we throw such energy and enthusiasm into our pursuits; the pursuit of success.

We all go fishing with the end result generally being to catch fish. Some may say that catching a fish is purely a bonus and although this is a nice idea, I sincerely doubt there is an angler out there that, deep down, doesn’t strive for a fleeting meeting with a finned friend.


The challenges we set ourselves, be it a challenge for the day, the season, the year or even a fishing lifetime, are almost always based on putting a bend in our rod. A new personal best, a new species, a number of species or perhaps a fish to a new method are all challenges we often set ourselves, with a successful end result being entirely reliant on fish in the net. Even the most modest and unassuming angler will without doubt have at least one ‘trophy photo’ which they hold on to with pride; a visual reminder of their last big accomplishment.

However, it would be naïve and narrow minded to believe that that this is the only way in which success can be achieved. We all have days, more days than we dare admit, that have ended completely fishless, but nonetheless, highly successful. Assuming we continue to learn, evaluate, adapt, show ultimate appreciation and respect to our quarry and their environments and fish to our best possible standards, there should be no reason to look back and see the day as nothing less than a success.

shore fishing

Of course, there are numerous other reasons why we choose to spend so much time absorbed in what is, to many, a futile and monotonous pastime. Only we as anglers know, and to be truly honest, this is all that matters. Throughout this article I’ve referred to ‘us’, ‘we’ and ‘our’, as I truly believe that these four ‘aspects’ are fundamental in the makeup of all anglers. The truth is, of course, that I can only speak from a personal perspective. Whether or not you agree, it is certain that each of you will have your own particular aspects that define what fishing is to you, and it are these that will continue to ensure our fascination never fades.

Alex Allan – Angling Active Ambassador