One of the best moments of each fishing trip is the first step into the stream, the anticipation and excitement of the trip is stacked upon the initial visual engagement with the beauty of a trout stream. Similarly, the first step out of the car has charm of its own, as you change your perspective from focused attention and stress behind the wheel to walking into a world of your choosing with tremendous natural beauty. I often try to encapsulate these moments as the beginning of each blog to try and bring you along with me.

I went fishing today, before my son’s soccer game. The drive to go fishing is where I focus on strategy for the session, selecting a location, and I often listen to a fly fishing podcast to get my brain in tune. I also try to clear my brain of clutter and any emotional distress. Fishing, like drinking or exercising, will pull out the buried thoughts and strains inside me. While fly fishing these strains can manifest themselves in more tangles, missed fish, and less enjoyment. Buried stresses leak out of me as challenging moments arise or my mental filters are broken down.

One of the techniques I have found that helps me stay in the moment is opening my mind to notice as much as possible about my settings. Taking the first step in the stream on a fly fishing trip is becoming a ritual for me. I look up into the trees and overhead sky and look upstream and downstream. My eyes move from the horizon or as far as I can see. I observe any wildlife or movements of any kind, tree branches swaying, people jogging on a nearby trail, or a heron’s long undulating wings propelling itself down the stream valley. Noticing the vegetation is next. Can I identify the tree species? What shrubs and grasses line the banks and riparian area? It only takes a few seconds, but processing the setting helps me to appreciate where I am and what I am doing, while the water on my feet helps to wash away anything weighing my psyche down. I started this observation process with the intention to help my blogs, but it has proven to help my fishing overall and my mental acuity on the water. 

brown trout in net

How can I describe what I see? This question is integral to thoughts I have developed into topics or stories for blogs and for my book. As I examine the water and look for an area where fish are holding, I try to observe and catalog the flow depth, the flow speed, the water color, the exposure and influence of rocks and logs, and as many characteristics of the reaches as possible. This helps me read water and remember which water types hold fish throughout the day. It also brings me to the moment with a sharpened focus.

When I see or feel a fish take a fly, I try to stay connected to each action of the fight. How am I moving my arms and feet? How is the fish responding to the pressure? What is the angle of my rod and direction of the flow? Asking myself questions helps me gather information for future writing and to land more fish. To answer the questions is another challenge. 

One of the keys of learning for me is communication and being able to process information through conversation with my fly fishing friends during or after fishing. I need to be able to find the words that depict each scenario. The labels and vocabulary I develop around my fishing experiences allows me to answer the questions I ask myself and then share my thoughts and collaborate with others. Without observing details and being able to convey them to others, my experiences become ephemeral and come and go from my mind without conscious memorialization.

When moments of frustration arise, like when my erratic cast lodges flies into a tree branch behind me, I can focus on describing the tangle, the tree, or my motions leading to the tangle instead of giving into emotional disappointment and getting upset. Describing the what and the how of each situation changes my perspective to an observer and student from a thwarted or clumsy angler, lightening my mood and releasing a negative mindset. 

Writing has generated lots of fulfillment within me the last few years, influencing other areas of my life and causing me to see the world and myself differently. Improving my fishing is one of those changes. Observing life to describe it to others allows me to appreciate my setting and activities more than a mindset of pure ‘doing’. Putting words to our lives allows us to carry them forward. 

Keep Mending…

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