Photography and Fishing - a comparative essay

Photography really is like fishing. Isn't it?

There are too many similarities for it to be just coincidence.

Fishing and me

I used to fish. Coarse fishing (ie non-game freshwater fishing - for fish like roach, carp, tench rather than trout, salmon, bass or cod). I used to love it but now haven't fished for years. I didn't consciously stop but suddenly found myself stopped. I always did worry about the possible cruelty of fishing and although playing a strong hooked fish was fantastic, what I really liked most (because I did most of it) was sitting by water, enjoying nature, in anticipation of catching a fish. Only recently have I realised how much akin this is to photography - landscape photography in particular (clearly paparazzi-style photography is not like sitting by a lake tench fishing, but perhaps marlin fishing is quite similar .?)

So, I contend that as there are tiddlers, specimens, different techniques applicable depending on the quarry, a lot of waiting and, of course, ones that get away, fishing is a very similar activity to photography!

This space reserved for a picture of someone fishing!

River Exe near Cove, Exe Valley, Devon

River Exe near Cove, Exe Valley, Devon

Let's look at a few of the areas of overlap:

Tiddlers and Specimens

Fish can be tiddlers or specimens, so can photographs - not so much in terms of size, but from the point of view of the quality of the image; different terminology might be used typically perhaps snapshot and portfolio image.

Equipment and Techniques

Each activity has an array of special equipment and techniques matched to different conditions and situations.

Waiting and Stillness

Fundamental to both activities.

Arrow reflection, Upper Lake, Glendalough, Ireland

Arrow reflection, Upper Lake, Glendalough, Ireland

Ones That Get Away

Just as anglers have stories about the monsters that got away, so too photographers can tell of missed opportunities and can often show pictures that would have been that much better 'if only'.

Art and Science

Both fishing and photography are, in my opinion, blends of science and art (or craft, skill, dexterity as you wish). Both can be approached from a purely technical, scientific approach, but I feel there is little doubt that the chance of success in either is greatly enhanced by non-scientific attributes; and practise will always improve one's performance in both activities.


In general, both photographers and anglers like to display their prize 'catches' or specimens.


Clearly wildlife photographers often stalk their quarry in the same way as anglers sometimes do; this is in the nature of 'hunting' wild animals. However, photographers often stalk other types of image also - landscape

Bait and Lures

Most often apparent outside of fishing as attempts to lure photographers rather than photographs!


Essential for angling and often an important aspect of good landscape photographs - either visible water or evidence that water has been significant in shaping landforms.

Rocks & water, Glennmacnass River, Laragh, Ireland

Rocks & water, Glennmacnass River, Laragh, Ireland

The Swim

In both activities, keen exponents travel the world visiting the 'best' locations, and the best 'swims' within those locations.

Weather and the Light

Vitally important to both activities and often blamed for failures in both areas.

Times of Day

Generally early morning and evening are regarded as prime times for both activities with midday bright sunshine generally considered much less good. There are specialists in both areas that do a lot of their fishing or photography at night also.

Storm approaching over the River Culm, Devon

Storm approaching over the River Culm, Devon

Specialists - Specimen Hunters

Just as some anglers set out with a specific (usually large) quarry in mind and often come home successful, so too, certain photographers set out to capture great images and succeed.

Record-Keeping and Planning

Good fishermen and good photographers both tend to keep detailed records of what they have done, where and how, where and when they might return, and to plan their next outing with great care.

My Conclusion

I rest my case - photography is like fishing. I have not been able to come up with any examples of aspects of either activity that do not have reasonable analogues in the other - can you ...

Your Conclusion?

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Dusk approaches, River Culm, Devon

Dusk approaches, River Culm, Devon


Article last updated: 23 September 2005