Eric Eisenkramer is the spiritual leader of Temple Shearith Israel in Ridgefield, Conn. He is also an avid fly fisher. The Rabbi identifies the sport as a spiritual experience and an opportunity to connect with both nature and religion. With Rev. Michael Attas, Eisenkramer co-authored the book Fly-Fishing: The Sacred Art, published by SkyLight Paths. Only A Game’s Gary Waleik took to the Farmington River in Riverton, Conn. to hear Eisenkramer’s thoughts on the sport.
Eric Eisenkramer – in his own words.
I find fly fishing to be a spiritual experience. The fly line not only connects us to trout, but it also connects us to ourselves, it connects us to other people, it connects us to nature, and ultimately, it connects us to the Divine Presence.
I see a deep connection between fly fishing and the Jewish Sabbath and the Christian Sabbath and the whole concept of the Sabbath in general. As human beings we need time for renewal so for me, when I come out to the water, that’s my time to recharge.I practice catch-and-release fly fishing. The reason I do that is that I want to make the experience of fly fishing the most moral and ethical that I can. So when I catch a fish, I dunk my hands in the water so that when I touch the fish it will not cause any extra harm. I bend down the barb on the hook to ensure that I can remove it quickly.
And I don’t take time to study the fish, I take time to admire it very briefly, and then I release it back into the stream and back to its home. That way I inflict the least amount of discomfort as possible.
Would it be better for the fish if I just went for a hike and didn’t spend all my time on the stream? Perhaps. But there’s something that’s absolutely beautiful about standing in that stream and communing with these creatures, these underwater creatures that you never see, that are hidden, and bringing them to the surface. It’s kind of like a metaphor for bringing out the inner parts of yourself. And when I have that opportunity to hold that fish, it’s almost miraculous.
Fly fishing brings us in harmony with nature. So often we are fighting against nature, fighting against ourselves, struggling with other people. And when we’re on the stream, we are in harmony with the ducks and the deer and even with the fish. At the end of the day of fishing, we take that harmony with us as we head home.