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How Fly Fishing Can Help Reduce Cortisol

How Fly Fishing Can Help Reduce Cortisol

Self-care looks different for everyone — some choose scented candles and warm bubble baths, while others take casual walks in nature. Then some prefer grabbing their rod and tackle box for an afternoon of fly fishing. Although it may not be your first option, fly fishing is an ideal remedy when you're under high stress.

In fact, one of the benefits of fly fishing is it can help reduce cortisol levels in the body. Of course, if you have little water experience, you might ask yourself, "What is fly fishing anyway?" Here's everything you need to know about this relaxing activity and how it can improve your health and well-being.

What Is Fly Fishing?

You've probably seen a fly rod in action before but didn't realize it at the time. People can fly fish in just about any body of water — lakes, streams, and even coastlines are acceptable for this activity. However, you will end up needing different types of fishing gear.

Fly rods differ from traditional rods — for instance, they are exceptionally long, thin, and more flexible than others. Additionally, you have plenty of options for fishing tackle.

Fly Rods 

Although you can buy fly rods in different sizes, they usually start at about 8 feet and reach lengths longer than 9 feet 6 inches. Each rod's weight has a designated number with a pound sign. A #5 rod is the most common for catching medium and large fish.

The higher the number, the heavier fish you can catch. Anglers looking to catch salmon or striped bass might use a #7 rod or even a #12. Meanwhile, you may only need a #3 to catch trout from a brook.


Fly fishing also uses a different type of lure, which is where it gets its name from. The lure is referred to as a fly because they resemble small insects that fish like to prey on. Like the rods, fly lures vary in size — some may be as small as an actual fly.

You'll want to use a fly that looks tasty to a fish. Otherwise, you may have difficulty catching something. Flies should always resemble the types of insects the fish like to feed on.

How Does Cortisol Affect the Body?

Many professional and recreational anglers fly fish to reduce cortisol — the stress hormone. Although the body naturally produces cortisol, an excessive amount can hinder proper bodily functions during a flight-or-fight situation. Studies have shown cortisol levels are nine times higher during tense or worrying situations.

For instance, cortisol can suppress the digestive system and send messages to cognitive regions that control moods and fears. Other outcomes of chronic cortisol buildup include:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Weight gain
  • Heart disease or risk of heart attack
  • Muscle tension or bodily pain

Stress can even damage your oral health by causing you to grind your teeth, clench your jaw and limit your body's ability to fight off infections in your mouth. Some people also tend to eat more sweets when they're highly emotional. Reducing your cortisol and seeking dental treatment early can prevent the onset of future dental problems.

Cortisol isn't always a bad thing, though. When your body produces adequate amounts, cortisol can help your body metabolize properly and limit its inflammatory response for improved immunity. 

5 Psychological Benefits of Fly Fishing

Considering how relaxing the outdoors are, one can only assume fly fishing has many psychological benefits. With the number of stressors in the world, learning how to fly fish may be worth exploring. Here are five reasons you may feel motivated to try fly fishing for optimal well-being.

1.   Enhance Moods

Imagine a warm summer day spent alongside an expansive lake — the sun shimmers on the water's surface like reflective glass as you listen to birds and frogs chirp nearby. You might take a deep breath and feel soothed by your surroundings. There's much to be grateful for in those moments.

As such, fly fishing can help you break free from depressive cycles — a direct result of excess cortisol — and boost your mood. The rhythmic motion of casting a line may also induce a greater sense of calmness. The next time you feel the weight of your world on your shoulders, a few hours of fly fishing may be the natural remedy you need.

2.   Encourages a Meditative Experience

Likewise, the relaxation you feel from fly fishing could encourage a meditative experience. Medical professionals and psychologists often recommend meditation to decrease racing thoughts in anxious individuals and enhance one's focus. For example, staring out toward a vast body of still water can create ideal conditions for mindful practices.

Studies suggest mindfulness interventions are highly effective for individuals at risk of stress, mental health disorders, diabetes, and inflammation. Moreover, quiet outdoor activities reduce worry and lower your blood pressure. Hypertension, in particular, can induce stroke by pressuring veins and arteries — a crucial reason you want to keep stress at a minimum.

3.   Promotes Meaningful Connections

An increasing number of adults believe they lack meaningful relationships. According to Cigna's 2020 Loneliness and the Workplace report, 58% of American adults report feeling lonely — up 4% from the year before. Even more alarming, two-thirds of men reported loneliness, up from 59% in 2018.

While some people may prefer to fly fish by themselves, the activity presents an opportunity to interact with others. For centuries, fishing has been a social activity for friends and family. If loneliness contributes to higher cortisol in your body, inviting someone to fly fish with you can help you socialize and fulfill the need for connection with others.

4.   Enables Self-Reflection

You might consider fly fishing as "me time" — a chance to ponder about your life and reconnect with your state of being. The act of reflection itself has many emotional health benefits. For one thing, it can help you overcome and divert stressful situations.

Reflection enables new perspectives and presents solutions to some of the more stressful situations you might be feeling. When you worry, your perceptions become clouded. However, you might see your troubles in a new light and develop coping strategies to manage life's demands better when you reflect.

5.   Boosts Confidence

As previously mentioned, learning how to fly fish requires practice. It may take a few tries before you begin catching fish like a pro — yet, the more you know, the better you'll become. You'll also gain confidence and reap the positive benefits of achievement.

It's important to remember any new skill takes courage and effort. Beginners may not have mastered their casting technique or learned how to release their catch efficiently. Of course, patience is vital, and you'll cast an even more impressive line with each try.

Reduce Your Cortisol With Fly Fishing to Improve Your Health

Stress reduction is critical for your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Fly fishing can help decrease cortisol levels in your body and protect you from developing serious illnesses and conditions later on. You'll never know if fly fishing will quickly become your new favorite relaxing pastime.

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