The Golden Rule of Fishing

“When, I wonder, are folks going to learn that it is a dangerous thing to attempt to lay down hard and fast rules about fishing?”

—John Alden Knight


I was recently reading through many quotes from very influential and powerful men about the subject of fishing. I read about how some of the most well-known ancient philosophers, rulers, and inventors approached the pastime of fishing.

Here are just a few that I came across:

“If you wish to be happy for eight days, kill your pig and eat it. If you wish to be happy for a lifetime, learn to fish.” —Chinese Proverb

“After all these years, I still feel like I’m a boy when I’m on a stream or lake.” —Jimmy Carter

“Fishing seems to be the favorite form of loafing.” —Ed Howe

“‘Tis not all of fishing to fish.” —Izaak Walton

“If a man fishes hard, what is he going to do easy?” —Roy Blount, Jr.

“Adapt the pace of nature; her secret is patience.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson


There is a big difference in fishing as a pastime and fishing as a sport. Fishing as a means of providing food for one’s family or for fun is vastly different than a highly competitive fishing tournament.

I’ve always loved fishing and have been wetting a line from the time I was old enough to hold a rod by myself. I grew up wondering why my grandfather, who was an avid angler, never joined in on the many fishing tournaments that took place on our favorite lakes. In my eyes, he was one of the best anglers in the world and knew where all the great spots were, but I never knew him to participate in a fishing tournament.

One day, I asked him why he didn’t. We were in his boat on Wedowee, a lake that we often ventured to.

“I don’t like for anyone to tell me when I can start, or stop fishing,” he replied, as he continued to cast toward the bank.

I thought his answer was a bit silly, but as I grow older, I feel the exact same way about competitive fishing. It just isn’t something I’m interested in and probably will never be. I enjoy reading and watching other anglers compete in tournaments, but I simply don’t feel inclined to join in on the action.

For me, fishing is rewarding to those who embrace an adventurous spirit. Fishing draws me to feel closer to nature in a spiritual sense and each trip I take, however short or long, is a winning experience. I don’t want to relate my own sense of happiness or accomplishment to another angler’s day on the water.

I think John Alden Knight was on to something when he made the statement at the beginning of this blog post. Competitive fishing creates an undesirable sense of urgency and pressure that many anglers, like myself, are seeking to escape from when we are on the water.

“Jack” Knight (1890-1966) was a banker, but was famous for being an avid angler who helped develop the solunar tables and many fly-fishing lures that are still popular to this day. He was an early proponent of catch and release fishing.

“One nice thing about fishing—you can always put ‘em back,” he said.

Call me old-fashioned, but speeding around the lake in a high-powered bass boat and casting like my life depended on it during the allotted time period to fish simply doesn’t appeal to me. Not to discourage those who wish to compete in fishing tournaments and competitions, of course.

Maybe one day I’ll get into the craze of fishing tournaments, but I’m having plenty of fun playing by my own rules (within the legal parameters), which is the really great thing about fishing.

Maybe the Golden Rule of fishing is that there doesn’t have to be any rules at all.


Published by

Donny Karr

Donny is a writer from Carrollton, Georgia. His work has been published in magazines, newspapers, and many websites. As an avid outdoorsman, Donny enjoys writing about his adventures afield and on the water. He is a contributing writer for Georgia Outdoor News, and is co-founder of Man Can Outdoors. Donny is also a columnist for 1788 Sports, and co-founder of College Nation Tailgate Time where he covers college football.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s