Why Fish for Zen? #5: Fly Rod as “Mood-o-meter”


©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.

I’ve long said that a fly rod, and more specifically a fly cast, is the best barometer for my state of mind I’ve ever found. I’m a casting instructor, for heaven’s sake, and some days I swear I couldn’t land a fly in a kiddie pool at 10 paces. Among other things, a fly cast is so much about proper timing. When I’m tense, by rhythm goes to pot. My loops get ugly, my flies land ugly. I may even (for shame) throw a “wind knot.” Isn’t it cute how we like to blame our casting mistakes on the wind. Hard to tie knots without opposing thumbs, I say. And in those instances, if I’m not careful, my mood gets pretty ugly, too…which makes my performance even more dismal.

Casting back in the skinny water

But here’s one of the great things about a fly rod. In addition to being a good measure for your level of tension, if you’ll let it, it’s also a good tool for releasing tension. And that effect is compounded when you put a slower-action rod in your hand—especially one made of fiberglass—that commands you to take your time. To wait. To relax. When the fishing scenario allows for it, that’s what I’ll choose every time.

Job number one in this situation is raising your awareness enough to realize that you, not the fly rod, are both the problem and the solution. Then you have the opportunity to choose. You can stay tense and stressed, be victimized by your equipment, or you can choose to use the tools at your disposal to help you find your way to a balanced state of mind.

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

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