Fishing The True Cast Trout Talk

The True Cast - Earbud music and fly fishing… a righteous pairing, or disgusting party foul?

Areal view of river running through wooded mountains
Bristol Bay - Photo credit: Fly Out Media
Okay, I can’t help myself; sometimes I like to stir the pot and instigate debate, just because I can.

But this is one I actually wrestle with myself, because I’ve been on both sides of the argument many times.   

The question is:

Is it cool to fish with earbuds, listening to music as you make casts? 

The mere thought of which almost causes a gag reaction for me, because it’s hard to argue that there is any more beautiful music than the music of the river itself. Today, for example, I fished with my wife and niece on the Upper Colorado, and for 10 river miles we were serenaded by eagles and hawks, songbirds, hummingbirds, and yes, every now and then, the distinctive slurp or splash of a fish eating a bug off the surface. Mozart could not have written a better symphony. 

Horses grazing in a field and thinking about music with majestic mountains in the background
At times music can add to the experience, but don’t forget to take it all in.

Then again, I’m hypocritical, because I also remember wading a pristine bonefish flat on the west side of Long Island in the Bahamas, in complete blissful solitude, when I figured, “what the heck,” stuck in some earbuds and listened to the entire “Bona Drag” album. And before you knock it, you need to know that casting at beefy, tailing bonefish at sunrise over a Bahamian flat with Morrissey crooning in your ears can be a surprisingly pleasant and surreal experience.    

Of course, I imagine it really boils down to where you are, what you’re doing and, most importantly, why you’re there.  

Would I trade the chance to hear a bull elk bugle on a misty fall morning as I fish in the Railroad Ranch on the Henry’s Fork in Idaho? Of course not. 

Then again, when I’m chasing carp in the sloughs of the South Platte River in downtown Denver, do I really yearn to hear the back-up beeps of construction trucks, or would I rather have Robert Earl Keen help drown that out and take part of me to another place? 

Dozens of trout in a stream with a bear watching
This might not be the best place for earbuds

No matter where you land on all of this, there is something that most of us can probably agree on, and that is, we all create our own “fishing soundtracks” in our heads. Maybe it’s the stuff you listen to as you drive to the river or the boat ramp on the ocean. And maybe it’s just music that’s deeply ingrained in your conscience, that happens to bubble up when you find yourself in your happy place. 

Since being on water—any water—casting a fishing rod is, no doubt, a happy situation, it only makes sense that your brain hits the stereo button, and you start hearing music between your ears.   

My fishing-brain-stereo is so mixed, and so unpredictable. But oddly enough, it usually syncs right up to the fishing in front of me, without any effort or “dial adjusting” on my part. Some days it’s AC/DC, and others, it’s John Coltrane. Sometimes it’s John Denver (say what you want, but nobody has gotten the Rocky Mountain High in music like he did), and on other days, it’s John Mayer. Very often, it’s Mark Knopfler. I never choose; the music in my head just plays.   

John Denver shaking hands with a young man.
The author and John Denver

And I think that’s a wonderful aspect of fly fishing…fly fishing inherently invites the music that appeals to your soul, of any genre, from rock, to country, hip-hop, to jazz and so much more, to be a part of the overall experience. 

So, if you’re plugged in and listening to the music that stirs your soul as you engage in the sport, I say good for you. Play on.  

Nirvana (not necessarily the band, rather the state of being) is when you have arrived at that place where you’re making your own soundtracks and the songs are popping into your head as you fish. If there’s a better “state of mind” when it comes to productive, happy fishing, I’d like to know what that is.   

Two backhoes and a culvert
Drowning out some noises while fishing is desirable.