What is your Fly Fishing Stress Level?

Stress is defined as “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.” We all experience stress, whether it be from work, relationships, or the everyday grind. We often turn to extracurricular activities and exercise to combat and relieve stress, things to take our mind off what’s bothering us. 


Fly Fishing is a lot of people’s stress reducer. Being surrounded by the sounds and sights of nature can ease the mind and reduce our symptoms of stress. Sadly, some incidents occur during our fly fishing outing that can raise our stress levels, possibly to dangerous levels that could require medical attention. Below we will look at some of the common (and hopefully not so common) stress inducers of fly fishing. Add up the total number of points you get to see where you stand on the fly fishing stress scale, based on your most recent outing.

Losing a fish at the net due to your buddies incompetence 20 Pts

You have finally hooked into that elusive trophy brown that has been selectively rising for the past few hours to microscopic midges. A subtle slurp of your tiny dry starts the long battle of slowly bringing your fish in on 7x tippet. You call your friend over, repeatedly telling him he needs to net this fish and net it right. The fish starts to tire, and you slowly swing it around to your partner. His inexperience with the net drives him to lunge at the fish with such emotion and aggression, that it hits the brittle tippet, snapping it. The fish jumps for joy with your fly still in its mouth, as you’re body says “Quick release, how about that.”

Falling In The River 15 Pts

Everyone has fallen in at one time or another. It could be for a variety of reasons. A loose rock, chasing a fish down, or just plain no paying attention. This becomes especially stressful if it’s cold out, your waders fill up or you lose things out of your pocket. 

Fish Flops Before Picture Is Taken 10 Pts

You have been fishing all day, barely touching a fish. You hook into a tank and it fights you every which way up and down the river. You eventually land it. Its a beauty, a near personal best. As you hand off your camera to your fishing partner and lift the fish out for a quick shot, the fish has one last burst of energy and flops back into the river. You frantically ask your friend if he got the shot, but a silent distraught shake of the head confirms your suspicions. 

Dropping your expensive sunglasses 5 Pts

You just bought a brand new pair of Costas, Oakleys, or Smiths. You are astonished by how well you can see through the water and feel like you have some sort of x-ray vision. But you forgot one thing, your Chums. You feel something tickle your arm and you look down to see a mosquito making of a meal of you. Your quick reaction to demolish the skeeter somehow knocks your unsecured sunglasses off your face and down into the deep nymphing run. 

Your buddy forgets the booze. 5 Pts

Jimmy had one job during the planning of this trip. Your setting up camp in the remote area of the wilderness, you request the whiskey to fill up the flask. Jimmy pulls the old, “I thought you were bringing that,” spiel, insisting it’s not his fault and friendship is more important. Your wrong Jimmy.

The spin guy next to you is catching more fish. 5 Pts

Nothing is wrong with spin fisherman, but we all have had the experience of fishing a nice stretch of water to ourselves, and a guy in hip waders and a bucket hat comes stomping out of the woods and starts throwing the 3 pronged trout death spinner right next to you. You might be having a slow day, but he immediately hooks up and exclaims, “Hey, the fish sure are biting today!”

Lose fly to a tree. 2 Pts

In some cases, this is pretty easy to do, especially on smaller rivers. Most of the time we acknowledge this happens because of our disregard for our surroundings, especially when targeting an active fish. Nevertheless, nobody is ever happy to donate their flies to the trees.

Lose fly to rock 1 PT

This is a common occurrence, especially for nymph fisherman. Although it does happen, it can be rather stressful, especially if you are paying a fly shop premium for your flies. If you manage to lose a dry fly on a rock, add 10 points. 

Freshly tied knot pulling free. 1 PT

This especially applies to any of you slow knot tiers out there. You spend countless minutes perfecting your double bowline hitch blood knot, and when you pull it tight, it slips right out. 

Missing a strike. 1PT

Pretty self-explanatory. You cast at a rising fish for what feels like an eternity, and when that one moment comes where the fish sips down your fly you pull it right out. Not too stressful, but enough to make the list. A few choice words and a couple of beers later, your back at it. 

Scoring Guide:

0-10 Points – Average fisherman, Average day on the water

10-40 Points – Something’s been going wrong quite frequently, you are stressed but still try to relax

40-60 Points-  You have escalated past the point of normal fly fishing stress. Your blood pressure is at an unsafe level and you are probably on the verge of freaking out and spending the night in the hospital or jail.

Article by Nick Boehme a.k.a. @trout_row is a fly angler and guide in Upstate New York, specializing in salmon, lake run brown trout and steelhead! Be sure to hit that follow button on his page!

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