Why Fish for Zen? #1: Practicing Presence


©2022 Cari Ray, The Fisher of Zen

I firmly believe that fly fishing within a context of mindfulness practice is immeasurably beneficial for mind, body, & spirit. Sometimes by offering low-hanging fruit like fly casting and being in nature. Sometimes by offering situations that border on tedious or frustrating, presenting us with the choice to get bogged down or to rise above. Like most healthy choices, it gets easier with practice. In the “Why Fish for Zen?” series, I’ll highlight just a few of the opportunities offered by the pursuit of fly fishing that give you a chance at that sort of mindfulness “practice” and help you become more balanced and centered in your daily life. Mastery is never about your relationship to anyone or anything else, it’s always between you and you.

As I approach the river, my mind is filled with all of the usual noise. Annoyance about the bill I left unpaid on the counter before I headed out this morning. The three emails waiting in my inbox waiting for a response. The self-judgement about often being terrible at follow through. The big question about what I’m going to do with myself now that traveling the country playing songs is no longer the viable career it once was. Chuckling a bit at the idea that it was ever a truly viable career. 

Somewhere in the San Juans

About this time, I reach a spot that requires a crossing. It’s mid summer in the high country of Southwestern Colorado and, against better judgment, I’m wet-wading rather than enduring the bulk of waders for a hike into the backcountry. As I make the first step into flow, mind still an echoing cacophony, the icy stab of water as it soaks quickly through my wading socks demands my attention…all of it. In this moment, there is no more room for the noise, only the singular focus, the shock of cold on hike-heated toes.

This is just one snapshot of albums full of mental polaroids depicting moments where the pursuit of fly fishing has practically slammed me into the present. I say the path to inner peace is paved with presence. And getting grounded in the moment is a pretty good start. I believe one of the best ways to get grounded is to put your feet in a river. To connect with all that is around you. To notice the beauty, the ruin, and to allow yourself to feel a part of it. 

To listen to the whole series, check out our podcast: “A MOVING MEDITATION: Fly Fishing & Mental Health”

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