The air is cold and crisp; the smell of wood stoves burning fills the air as I lace my boots. Walking towards the river, the leaves crunch under my feet. This time of year, I look in the trees as I walk through the woods, looking for tree stands to make sure I don’t surprise an early morning hunter. I also check the stream bed for redds, making sure I don’t disturb breeding fish or their nests. Looking from the streambank, I evaluate the stream flow and look for a good place to start.
I check for my sunglasses to cut the glare off the water. The glasses were not on top of my hat. I left them in the truck. Ugh. I decide to walk back and grab my sunglasses. My first few steps are made with annoyance, but as I look towards the sunrise over the trees, I am thankful for my time on the river. Grabbing my sunglasses and turning back to the river, I backtrack slowly taking notice of the colors in the sky, the smell in the air, and the sounds in the field. Fishing is slow on the cold, fall day, but my mind stays true to the season. I am thankful for my time on the river.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It took some deep thought for me to displace Christmas as my favorite holiday. I appreciate the reminder Thanksgiving provides to focus on gratitude by spending time with family and the great food! Gratefulness helps me stay connected to all the good things in my life and let go of the stresses and self-doubt that sometimes brings me down. The American author Melody Beattie said, “Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for the future.”
I am thankful for my wife, my family, my health, my friends, my job, and the abundance all those things grant my life. I can struggle when I ruminate on my perceived failings and disappointments, but I have so much to be thankful for. This year in a time when so many people have struggled in health, in employment, and in stress, Thanksgiving seems even more important.
Fly fishing also has given a great deal to me. I am thankful for my time on the river. The time to clear my thoughts, experience joy, have solitude and companionship, and experience the beauty of nature is precious to me. In the past year I have fished once or twice a week, sometimes for whole days and sometimes for just an hour. Each of those experiences has helped me learn, stay balanced, and enjoy my life.
Talking and writing about fly fishing has become such a connecting element in my life. I have built new relationships and strengthened existing relationships through learning about and participating in fly fishing. I have written previously about my great friends who have helped me improve my life. This week I was voted onto the board of the Maryland Chapter of Trout Unlimited. The group contributes to the community by helping to educate the public while protecting and conserving the resources vital to trout. I am thrilled to help the group and build relationships with the members.
Tying flies and learning about different fly types is also something I am grateful for. I’ve tied hundreds of flies, caught trout on flies I have tied, and given out dozens of flies to friends for them to use. Spending time at the vice is a creative outlet that has made me a better fly fisher. Understanding the different materials and the construction of the flies allows me to strategize about different rigs, experiment with various types of flies, and feel a sense of achievement when I figure out a new technique. I am grateful for my ability to tie flies.
Researching and reading about fly fishing has opened my life to great stories and taught me about the history of the sport, the techniques used, and the watersheds and streams of my region. The connection of fly fishing to the past of my family members and friends is something I cherish. I see how fly fishing is a sport I can participate in through my whole life and share with my friends and children as I grow older.
Thanksgiving is a time for gratitude and appreciation for the abundance in our lives. For those of us who fly fish, we often get more in return than we give to the rivers. I am going to dedicate time in 2021 to help give back more to rivers. The beauty of our world and the beauty in my life are things I am thankful for this Thanksgiving. When small things like forgetting your glasses interrupt your progress and frustrate you, please use that moment to find some gratitude. Happy Thanksgiving!