My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Some favorite fishing quotes

I was surfing the web looking for a quote from Roderick Haig-Brown, the author or “A River Never Sleeps”, about wading rivers, and found many great fishing quotes, most I have read before, some I haven’t. I thought it would be a good idea to save them all here for future reference, and so that you may enjoy them as well. And, of course, I still haven’t found the Roderick Haig-Brown quote I was looking for, but I’ll keep looking. It was about wading, and the way it felt to wade a river, and how he would love fishing a great deal less if it wasn’t for that feeling. If you know the one I am talking about, please pass it on to me.

I am going to start this with one of my own quotes, “When you pause to reflect on fishing, you often find out that the pursuit of fish has no bearing on your pursuit of fishing, or your enjoyment of the experience”~ Me

So here are many of my other favorites, new and old. If you notice any mistakes, or have some of your own you’d like to see included, send me a comment.

“If people don’t occasionally walk away from you shaking their heads, you’re doing something wrong.” John Gierach

“Be patient and calm – for no one can catch fish in anger.” – Herbert Hoover

“I frankly don’t make much of a living, but I make a hell of a life” Jack Gartside

“Soon after I embraced the sport of angling I became convinced that I should never be able to enjoy it if I had to rely on the cooperation of the fish.” Sparse Grey Hackle

“Some go to church and think about fishing, others go fishing and think about God.” – Tony Blake

“The only reason I ever played golf in the first place was so that I could afford to hunt and fish.” Sam Snead

“Scholars have long known that fishing eventually turns men into philosophers. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to buy decent tackle on a philosopher’s salary” Patrick McManus

“The fish and I were both stunned and disbelieving to find ourselves connected by a line.” William Humphrey in “The Armchair Angler”

“I’ve gone fishing thousands of times in my life, and I have never once felt unlucky or poorly paid for those hours on the water.” William Tapply “A Fly-Fishing Life”

“I look into… my fly box, and think about all the elements I should consider in choosing the perfect fly: water temperature, what stage of development the bugs are in, what the fish are eating right now. Then I remember what a guide told me: ‘Ninety percent of what a trout eats is brown and fuzzy and about five-eighths of an inch long.” Allison Moir

“Angling is extremely time consuming. That’s sort of the whole point.” – Thomas McGuane

“In every species of fish I’ve angled for, it is the ones that have got away that thrill me the most, the ones that keep fresh in my memory. So I say it is good to lose fish. If we didn’t, much of the thrill of angling would be gone.” Ray Bergman

“The best fisherman I know try not to make the same mistakes over and over again; instead they strive to make new and interesting mistakes and to remember what they learned from them.” John Gierach “Fly Fishing the High Country”

“A trout is a moment of beauty known only to those who seek it.” –Arnold Gingrich

“It is impossible to grow weary of a sport that is never the same on any two days of the year.” Theodore Gordon

“There’s more B.S. in fly fishing than there is in a Kansas feedlot.” Lefty Kreh

“If I’m not going to catch anything, then I ‘d rather not catch anything on flies” Bob Lawless.

“The water you touch in a river is the last of that which has passed, and the first of that which is coming; thus it is with time.” Leonardo DaVinci

“There will be days when the fishing is better than one’s most optimistic forecast, others when it is far worse. Either is a gain over just staying home.” Roderick Haig-Brown

“To him, all good things—trout as well as eternal salvation—come by grace and grace comes by art and art does not come easy.” Norman Maclean – A River Runs Through It

“…buying a fly rod in the average city store, that is, joining it up and safely waggling it a bit, is much like seeing a woman’s arm protruding from a car window: all one can readily be sure of is that the window is open.” Anatomy of a Fisherman by Robert Traver

“Why does a salmon rise? Why does a small boy cross the street just to kick a tin can?” Lee Wulff, The Atlantic Salmon

“It is only the inexperienced and thoughtless who find pleasure in killing fish for the mere sake of killing them. No sportsman does this.” – W.C. Prime, 1888

“In these sad and ominous days of mad fortune chasing, every patriotic, thoughtful citizen, whether he fishes or not, should lament that we have not among our countrymen more fishermen.” Grover Cleveland

“Lots of people committed crimes during the year who would not have done so if they had been fishing. The increase of crime is among those deprived of the regenerations that impregnate the mind and character of the fisherman.” Herbert Hoover

“There’s a fine line between fishing and standing on the shore like an idiot.” Steven Wright

“Angling may be said to be so like the mathematics that it can never be fully learned.” –Izaak Walton

“If one really loves nature, one can find beauty everywhere.” –Vincent Van Gogh

“There is certainly something in angling that tends to produce a gentleness of spirit and a pure sincerity of mind.” Washington Irving

“The solution to any problem — work, love, money, whatever — is to go fishing, and the worse the problem, the longer the trip should be.” –John Gierach

“The Essentials of a Good Fly-Hook: The temper of an angel and penetration of a prophet; fine enough to be invisible and strong enough to kill a bull in a ten-acre field.” G.S. Marryat

“The season is ended. There was not enough of it; there never is.” Nick Lyons

“Smoked carp tastes just as good as smoked salmon when you ain’t got no smoked salmon.” Patrick F. McManus

“I think I fish, in part, because it’s an anti-social, bohemian business that, when gone about properly, puts you forever outside the mainstream culture without actually landing you in an institution.” John Gierach

“Fly tackle has improved considerably since 1676, when Charles Cotton advised anglers to ‘fish fine and far off,’ but no one has ever improved on that statement.” John Gierach

“Creeps and idiots cannot conceal themselves for long on a fishing trip.” John Gierach

“They say you forget your troubles on a trout stream, but that’s not quite it. What happens is that you begin to see where your troubles fit into the grand scheme of things, and suddenly they’re just not such a big deal anymore.” John Gierach

“If fishing is interfering with your business, give up your business.” Sparse Grey Hackle

“Game fish are too valuable to only be caught once.” Lee Wulff

“The finest gift you can give to any fisherman is to put a good fish back, and who knows if the fish that you caught isn’t someone else’s gift to you?” Lee Wulff

“You can observe a lot just by watching.” Yogi Berra

“I used to like fishing because I thought it had some larger significance. Now I like fishing because it’s the one thing I can think of that probably doesn’t.” John Gierach

“Something to think about: If you fish the wrong fly long and hard enough, it will sooner or later become the right fly.” — John Gierach

“No life is so happy and so pleasant as the life of the well-govern’d angler.” – Izaak Walton

“Whether I caught fish or not, just the thrill of rolling out that line and watching my fly turn over has been good enough for me. That and the hundreds of treasured memories I have of this wonderful sport.” Curt Gowdy

“There will be days when the fishing is better than one’s most optimistic forecast, others when it is far worse. Either is a gain over just staying home.” Roderick Haig-Brown

“Often I have been exhausted on trout streams, uncomfortable, wet, cold, briar scarred, sunburned, mosquito bitten, but never, with a fly rod in my hand have I been less than in a place that was less than beautiful.” Charles Kuralt

“There is only one theory about angling in which I have perfect confidence, and this is that the two words, least appropriate to any statement, about it, are the words “always” and “never.” Lord Edward Grey

“He told us about Christ’s disciples being fisherman, and we were left to assume…that all great fishermen on the Sea of Galilee were fly fisherman and that John, the favorite, was a dry-fly fisherman.” Norman Maclean – A River Runs Through It

“The trout do not rise in the cemetery, so you better do your fishing while you are still able.” – Sparse Grey Hackle

“If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there’d be a shortage of fishing poles.” – Doug Larson

“The angler forgets most of the fish he catches, but he does not forget the streams and lakes in which they are caught.” – Charles K. Fox

“The great charm of fly-fishing is that we are always learning.” – Theodore Gordon

“I have fished through fishless days that I remember happily without regret.” – Roderick Haig-Brown

“There he stands, draped in more equipment than a telephone lineman, trying to outwit an organism with a brain no bigger than a breadcrumb, and getting licked in the process.” – Paul O’Neil

“Most fishermen swiftly learn that it’s a pretty good rule never to show a favorite spot to any fisherman you wouldn’t trust with your wife” John Voelker

“My biggest worry is that my wife (when I’m dead) will sell my fishing gear for what I said I paid for it.” Koos Brandt

“More than half the intense enjoyment of fly-fishing is derived from the beautiful surroundings, the satisfaction felt from being in the open air, the new lease of life secured thereby, and the many, many pleasant recollections of all one has seen, heard and done.” – Charles F. Orvis

“You do not cease to fish because you get old, You get old because you cease to fish!” unkown

“All the romance of trout fishing exists in the mind of the angler and is in no way shared by the fish.” Harold F. Blaisdell

“Fishing is not an escape from life, but often a deeper immersion into it…” Harry Middleton

“What are more delightful than one’s emotions when approaching a trout stream for the initial cast?” T. Nash Buckingham

“Never throw a long line when a short one will serve your purpose.” Richard Penn

“Fishing books should ooze from a riverbank, not rocket out of publisher’s offices in big cities.” Neil Patterson

“If I fished only to capture fish, my fishing trips would have ended long ago.” Zane Grey

“When you are on the river, ocean or in the woods, you are the closest to the truth you’ll ever get” Jack Leonard

“One evening I was awakened from a deep sleep by a weird noise coming from my husband, only to find out he was dreaming and he was a Dry Fly. I suspected then, and now realize, his dreams are not made up of wild crazy women, only episodes of his days of being in the stream.” Jan Thousan

“If our father had his say, nobody who did not know how to catch a fish would be allowed to disgrace a fish by catching him.” Norman Maclean

“Many of us probably would be better fishermen if we did not spend so much time watching and waiting for the world to become perfect.” Norman Maclean\

“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.” Norman Maclean

“By the time I had turned thirty, I’d realized two important things. One, I had to fish. Two, I had to work for a living.” Mallory Burton

“In the best stories about fly fishing … big fish are caught or lost; people say wild and spontaneous words; event becomes memory and sometimes, in the hands of a master, bleeds into art.” Nick Lyons

“Fish are, of course, indispensable to the angler. They give him an excuse for fishing and justify the fly rod without which he would be a mere vagrant.” Sparse Grey Hackle

“If all politicians fished instead of spoke publicly, we would be at peace with the world.” Will Rogers

“Beginners may ask why one fishes if he is to release his catch. They fail to see that the live trout, sucking in the fly and fighting the rod is the entire point to our sport. Dead trout are just so much lifeless meat.” Ernest G. Schwiebert, Jr

“Most fishermen use the double haul to throw their casting mistakes further.” Lefty Kreh

“I am firmly convinced that the ideal combination leading to a happy life is to have the time to both fish and read.” Brian Murphy

“I salute the gallantry and uncompromising standards of wild trout, and their tastes in landscapes” John Madson

“I go fishing not to find myself but to lose myself ” Joseph Monniger

“Poets talk about “spots of time”, but it is really the fishermen who experience eternity compressed into a moment. No one can tell what a spot of time is until suddenly the whole world is a fish and the fish is gone.” Norman Mclean

“Most of the world is covered by water. A fisherman’s job is simple: Pick out the best parts.” Charles Waterman

“Some men would rather be photographed with their fish than with their wives.” Gwen Cooper and Evelyn Haas

“Put backing on your line; even if you never use it. It helps you dream.” Jimmy D Moore

“Hatchery fish have the same colours, but they always seem muted like bad reproductions of great art.” Bill Barich -This Sporting Life

“Only when the last tree has been felled, the last river poisoned and the last fish caught, man will know, that he cannot eat money.” Cree Indian saying

“The angel cried with a loud voice, saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees.” Revelation 7:3

“All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.” Ecclesiastes 1:7

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” Heraclitus

“I fish better with a lit cigar; some people fish better with talent.” Nick Lyons

“The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.” John Buchan

“Opportunities are everywhere and so you must always let your hook be hanging. When you least expect it, a great fish will swim by.” Og Mandino

“Water is the driving force in nature” Leonardo da Vinci

“In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.” Aristotle

“The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant: “What good is it?” Aldo Leopold

“The angling fever is a very real disease and can only be cured by the application of cold water and fresh, untainted air. “Theodore Gordon

“That’s about as big as a fish that big gets” Anonymous

“I object to fishing tournaments less for what they do to fish than what they do to fishermen.” Ted Williams

“There is only one reason in the world to go fishing: to enjoy yourself. Anything that detracts from enjoying yourself is to be avoided.” Leigh Perkins

There are two types of fisherman – those who fish for sport and those who fish for fish. ~Author Unknown

Fishing is the sport of drowning worms. ~Author Unknown

This planet is covered with sordid men who demand that he who spends time fishing shall show returns in fish. ~Leonidas Hubbard, Jr.

May the holes in your net be no larger than the fish in it. ~Irish Blessing

All the romance of trout fishing exists in the mind of the angler and is in no way shared by the fish. ~Harold F. Blaisdell, The Philosophical Fisherman, 1969

There is certainly something in angling that tends to produce a serenity of the mind. ~Washington Irving

Somebody just back of you while you are fishing is as bad as someone looking over your shoulder while you write a letter to your girl. ~Ernest Hemingway

The fishing was good; it was the catching that was bad. ~A.K. Best

The gods do not deduct from man’s allotted span the hours spent in fishing. ~Babylonian Proverb

It has always been my private conviction that any man who pits his intelligence against a fish and loses has it coming. ~John Steinbeck

Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day. ~Author Unknown

Bragging may not bring happiness, but no man having caught a large fish goes home through an alley. ~Author Unknown

Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after. ~Henry David Thoreau

All fishermen are liars; it’s an occupational disease with them like housemaid’s knee or editor’s ulcers. ~Beatrice Cook, Till Fish Do Us Part, 1949

An angler is a man who spends rainy days sitting around on the muddy banks of rivers doing nothing because his wife won’t let him do it at home. ~Author Unknown

If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there’d be a shortage of fishing poles. ~Doug Larson

Fishing is boring, unless you catch an actual fish, and then it is disgusting. ~Dave Barry

I love fishing. You put that line in the water and you don’t know what’s on the other end. Your imagination is under there. ~Robert Altman

Give a man a fish and he has food for a day; teach him how to fish and you can get rid of him for the entire weekend. ~Zenna Schaffer

The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope. ~John Buchan

“To go fishing is the chance to wash one’s soul with pure air, with the rush of the brook, or with the shimmer of sun on blue water. It brings meekness and inspiration from the decency of nature, charity toward tackle-makers, patience toward fish, a mockery of profits and egos, a quieting of hate, a rejoicing that you do not have to decide a darned thing until next week. And it is discipline in the equality of men – for all men are equal before fish.”- Herbert Hoover

Calling fishing a hobby is like calling brain surgery a job. ~Paul Schullery

I am not against golf, since I cannot but suspect it keeps armies of the unworthy from discovering trout… ~Paul O’Neil

Even if you’ve been fishing for three hours and haven’t gotten anything except poison ivy and sunburn, you’re still better off than the worm. ~Author Unknown

Three-fourths of the Earth’s surface is water, and one-fourth is land. It is quite clear that the good Lord intended us to spend triple the amount of time fishing as taking care of the lawn. ~Chuck Clark

There is no greater fan of fly fishing than the worm. ~Patrick F. McManus, Never Sniff a Gift Fish, 1979

Our tradition is that of the first man who sneaked away to the creek when the tribe did not really need fish. ~Roderick Haig-Brown, about modern fishing, A River Never Sleeps, 1946

Fishing is much more than fish. It is the great occasion when we may return to the fine simplicity of our forefathers. ~Herbert Hoover

You must lose a fly to catch a trout. ~George Herbert

Nothing makes a fish bigger than almost being caught. ~Author Unknown

Bass fishermen watch Monday night football, drink beer, drive pickup trucks and prefer noisy women with big breasts. Trout fishermen watch MacNeil-Lehrer, drink white wine, drive foreign cars with passenger-side air bags and hardly think about women at all. This last characteristic may have something to do with the fact that trout fishermen spend most of the time immersed up to the waist in ice-cold water. ~Author Unknown

Men and fish are alike. They both get into trouble when they open their mouths. ~Author Unknown

“Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains.” – Henry David Thorea – Walden

“Blessings upon all that hate contention, and love quietnesse, and vertue, and Angling.” – Izaak Walton

“The man who coined the phrase “Money can’t buy happiness”, never bought himself a good fly rod!”- Reg Baird

“Wherever the trout are, it’s beautiful.” – Thomas Masaryck

“The fish is not so much your quarry as your partner.” – Arnold Gingrich

“Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach him to fly fish and he’ll move to Montana.” – Anonymous

“Heaven seems a little closer in a house beside the water.” – Anonymous

“As the angler looks back, he thinks less of individual captures and days than of scenes in which he fished.” – Lord Grey of Fallondon

“For the supreme test of a fisherman is not how many fish he has caught, not even how he has caught them, but what he has caught when he has caught no fish.” – John H. Bradley

“Perhaps fishing is, for me, only an excuse to be near rivers.” – Roderick Haig-Brown

“I have never seen a river that I could not love. Moving water has a fascinating vitality. It has power and grace and associations. It has a thousand colors and a thousand shapes, yet it follows laws so definite that the tiniest streamlet is an exact replica of a great river”- Roderick Haig-Brown


31 responses

  1. Enjoyed reading your quotes, thank you for collecting them.


    November 16, 2013 at 3:24 am

    • Thanks Susan, I’m glad that you enjoyed them.


      November 16, 2013 at 9:27 am

  2. These are all wonderful quotes, especially the ones from A River Runs Through It, which I read 30+ years ago. Here’s my own fishing quote, from when I was interviewed about photographing meteors back in 2002: “Some people go ice fishing. Me? I go star fishing.”


    October 13, 2013 at 7:18 pm

  3. If golfing is a nice walk through the park spoiled, then fishing is a challenging swim gone terribly wrong!


    August 27, 2013 at 9:00 am

  4. Pingback: “Some favorite fishing quotes” | The Fenn Diagrams

  5. A great bunch of quotes……..I’m going to have to find out who John Gierach is….what a wise person.
    And imagine my thrill when I saw one of my photos (the character with the backwards Nazi helmet) along side these quotes……….thanks for the honor.
    I’m still not finished reading the quotes.


    August 16, 2013 at 3:49 pm

    • Thanks! John Gierach is not only wise, but he’s very humorous as well. He’s written a number of books on fly fishing.


      August 16, 2013 at 10:49 pm

  6. These are great….Thanks for doing all of the hard “search” work and finding these so that we could enjoy!


    June 25, 2013 at 12:40 am

    • Thanks, it was really rather easy to do on a computer that allows one to copy and paste.


      June 25, 2013 at 2:33 am

  7. These are great! My dad was a passionate fisherman, which made me his little sidekick on the boat, and still just the idea of fishing brings the fresh smells (and not so fresh ones), the sound of lapping water and line casting out, etc. all flooding back to me. By the way, thank you for following.


    June 19, 2013 at 10:54 am

    • Thanks, all I did was search the web and put the ones I liked in one place. You’re lucky to have had a dad to take you fishing, so many kids these days aren’t so lucky.


      June 19, 2013 at 3:17 pm

  8. Thank you so much for this splendid collections of quotes! What a great thing to share. I love quotes.
    Have a lovely day!
    Greetings from the Rhine Valley


    June 6, 2013 at 4:26 am

    • Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on them!


      June 6, 2013 at 9:34 am

  9. Todd West

    The romance in building a perfect rod, a good bait or tying a beautiful fly is simple…… Someone has to test it. – Todd West

    Live life like a mighty river, think like a calming stream. – Todd West


    June 1, 2013 at 9:37 am

    • Thanks Todd, both for taking the time to read my blog, and for your thoughtful comment.


      June 1, 2013 at 10:10 am

  10. Enjoyable read. Thanks visit my blog.


    April 28, 2013 at 8:15 am

  11. Reblogged this on Kevs' Blog and commented:
    I didn’t want this Post to come to an end.


    April 27, 2013 at 6:16 am

  12. I enjoyed reading these quotes IMMENSELY. :).

    Thank You, MUCH Appreciated. 🙂


    April 27, 2013 at 6:05 am

  13. George Hardwick

    Nice list! I didnt realize people waxed so poetically about fishing. Lots more to life in casting a fishing hook than meets the eye. Great post!


    April 21, 2013 at 10:11 pm

    • Thanks, I think that getting so philosophical about fishing has something to do with age.


      April 21, 2013 at 10:19 pm

  14. Love them. “I love fishing because my husband gives me a mini-vacation several days. How much I love those fish!!!!”


    April 15, 2013 at 2:39 pm

  15. These are great!! (and so true)


    January 20, 2013 at 4:51 am

  16. My husband and I are both fishermen–he’s a fanatic though. I love this quote by Will Rogers: “If all politicians fished instead of spoke publicly, we would be at peace with the world.” Very timely.


    December 6, 2011 at 4:18 pm

  17. This is a great collection. I didn’t realize about Herbert Hoover, and it’s fun to him him among Steven Wright and Dave Barry. Now I’ve got to find some more John Gierach to read.


    December 3, 2011 at 9:58 pm

    • Thanks for the comment. I’ve got a couple of John Gierach’s books, some of the best lines from them never appear in any list of quotes. I think I’ll keep a highlighter with me next time I read them, then do a page of nothing but quotes from his books.


      December 3, 2011 at 10:19 pm

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