I wish everyone had a hobby or passion they could turn to for its healing powers. Something that allows them to disengage from the thorns and thickets of their earthly life and to catch a glimpse of the joy promised by God. Yes, I recognize that many do not believe in the God of the Bible, but many of those non-Christians acknowledge some spiritual connection to nature, the universe, or humanity in general. Knowing that they turn towards their spiritual beliefs gives me hope. One of my recurring prayers is that many of those who are “spiritual” will someday come to know and understand it was the God of all who placed that sense of spirituality within them. Unfortunately, even Christians like me can grow to idolize our hobbies to the extent that we worship the creation rather than the Creator who designed them for our pleasure. With that idolatry caution out of the way, today I wish to concentrate on the healing and meditative powers of fly fishing, a simple and obscure hobby.
Like most everyone else I know, my years on earth have accumulated a list of nicks, bruises, and wounds. I am an optimist, but sometimes I reflect to inventory life events that have knocked me around. My list begins with the death of my father when I was 3 years old, followed by being raised by a single mom (who did a formidable job but could never find a potentially adequate stepfather replacement), and my battle with childhood cancer at age 6. Those troubles were followed by the loss of our baby daughter in the first year of my marriage when I was age 24, the loss of my mother before she could meet our youngest daughter when I was 45, and at 48 I lost my eldest brother. I suffered the onset of peripheral artery disease in my early 40s, followed by a heart attack at age 59, and then bypass surgery for the arteries in my legs at age 65. And these are just the events I had no control over; it excludes the list of my personal and moral mistakes. I would think that most reading this blog post have their own list, probably more lengthy and painful than mine.
Why do I reflect on these difficult memories? Because scripture tells me to be thankful in all things, good and bad (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Why did Paul write this instruction in his letter to the Thessalonians? Pastor Rick Warren, author of many books including “The Purpose Driven Life,” says we should thank God in every circumstance because He is in control. He can bring good out of evil. He can turn around the worst mistakes I have ever made. No matter what happens, God does not stop loving me. I can always find something to be thankful for in any circumstance, even when the circumstance stinks. And when we come out the other side of our stinky circumstances, we can be equipped to help others who are mired in their own pain and suffering. Jesus himself commands us to be His light to others:
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.John 13:34–35
I subscribe to several fly fishing periodicals, my longest subscription being “Fly Fisherman” magazine. The June-July 2023 edition (Volume 54, Number 4) included two short articles on a soon-to-be-released movie titled “Mending The Line.” The phrase mending the line is a double entendre: to mend your fly line so that the fly drifts naturally in the current toward the trout vs. mending the hurts in your life so that you continue to thrive. Writer Stephen Camelio wrote the screenplay based on a compilation of real events and experiences, including his Vietnam veteran father who died from cancer, a disease suspected to have resulted from exposure to Agent Orange. Below is a list of charitable organizations that seek to heal different forms of brokenness that may have influenced both Camelio and the movie’s director, Joshua Caldwell:
Project Healing Waters – Provides a high-quality, full-spectrum fly fishing program to an ever-expanding number of disabled active military service personnel.
Warriors & Quiet Waters Foundation – Guides veterans and their loved ones to thrive and find peace, meaning, and purpose through fly fishing and other inspirational activities in nature.
Casting for Recovery – Enhances the lives of women with breast cancer by connecting them to each other and nature through the therapeutic sport of fly fishing.
Reeling in Serenity – Celebrates life free from drug and alcohol addiction by embracing nature and the spiritual connection that fly fishing has brought so many.
Reel Recovery – Conducts free fly fishing retreats for men living with all forms of cancer.
Mayfly Project – Supports children in foster care through fly fishing and introduces them to their local water ecosystems, with a hope that connecting them to a rewarding hobby will provide an opportunity for foster children to have fun, build confidence, and develop a meaningful connection with the outdoors.
The “Fly Fisherman” has always had a literary column that begins on the magazine’s last page. Although it has had several different writers over the decades, the column has always headlined as “Seasonable Angler.” No matter who was the author, I have always read it first. Steve Ramirez, the column’s current writer, is also the author of “Casting Forward” and its related series.
I mention Ramirez because the movie “Mending The Line” has two scenes where a librarian reads to the movie’s main character from his book:
I guess sometimes surviving is your punishment. So, you stand in the river, facing upstream with the water rushing down upon you as if it could somehow fill the hollow emptiness – and somehow, it always does. So, it was one morning. I stood there, without even casting and with no trout rising, and as the water rushed past me, I knew it was washing my burdens behind me, swirling them downstream like the autumn leaves.
There is a great deal about living that trout can teach us. They teach us to keep swimming even in a steady current. Trout know that if they stop swimming, they cease to be trout and begin to become debris, floating without purpose wherever the current may take them. Trout know that if they keep swimming, facing into the current, perhaps in the eddy of a rock, all that they need to truly survive will eventually come to them. I learn a great deal from trout.
Fly fishing connects you to the trout’s world and in doing so, your own.
And so I stand in the river casting back and forth, trying to lose that feeling of being alone. It is then that the rainbow rises and takes my offering. I raise my rod, and all at once, I am no longer alone. I am connected to his powerful runs, facing into the current.
I have come to see that there is nothing that ends our spirit except for our own failure to keep it alive. Life happens, like a river’s flow. Sometimes, the river flows softly, the sound of riffles and falls and birdsong bringing calm to the morning sunrise. Sometimes the river floods, ripping trees from their anchors and washing jeweled fish from pool to pool, it matters not, they make a new home wherever the river takes them.From “Casting Forward” by Steve Ramirez
Having a hobby that can wash away our pains and sufferings certainly is a blessing. I am thankful to have fly fishing as my worldly distraction. But for me, the only permanent remedy, my one true salve, is the resurrected Jesus. I pray you find hope in these verses, that they might “mend your line” in a way that can reset your course toward Jesus:
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.Isaiah 43:2
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.Romans 5:3-4
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.Galatians 6:2
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.2 Corinthians 1:3-4
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose.Romans 8:28
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Although I am not including fish photos in this post, the fishing was good. I landed about ten or so stocked trout over two hours of casting my Sweetgrass bamboo flyrod, with three or four escaping before they came to hand. There were four other anglers that eventually joined me. A particular angler caught my attention. When he arrived, he took his dog for a walk before he started fishing near the ditch inlet. He was wearing a light blue, drirelease(c) pullover hoodie, the type you would assume to be UV resistant. I am describing him because when we spoke, I neglected to ask for his name. If he reads this post my hope is that he will self-identify by posting a comment.
He was the only other angler having good success catching trout, and like me was practicing catch and release. Before I left for home, I walked over to him and we chatted. Although he was fishing with a small jig, he asked what fly I was using, which I showed him. Then he mentioned that he brought his fly rod but was still learning to cast and was slightly embarrassed about it. I told him it was a great pond to learn casting as there is lots of room to backcast and the stocked trout are forgiving. He walked to his SUV and swapped the casting rod for a six-foot, four weight fly rod (perfect for Cold Creek, but a little more difficult to learn how to cast because it is so short). The rod was rigged up with a nymph dropped off a large foam indicator. As he was casting that dropper setup, I decided to tell him about my stillwater theory that stripping in flies fished under water are usually more attractive to trout than a suspended nymph on a dropper or indicator. Then we discussed sink-tip verses full sink lines, and how to use a counting method to allow the lines to reach the desired depth before starting the fly retrieve. I left him with that last piece of advice and walked back to my truck.
After stowing away my gear, I decided to drive around the pond and use the 4×4 jeep trail to reach the Cold Creek Road. As I passed behind the angler and his SUV, he flagged me down. He was excited to tell me he removed the strike indicator and used the hand retrieve to move the nymph, and it worked. He caught his first trout on a sunken fly which he was stripping back in by hand. He was so excited that I became excited, and we fist pumped. I told him about my blog and to search its “Categories” to read about the many good places to fly fish in Nevada and Utah. It was then that he recognized me as FisherDad, telling me he had read many of my posts. Being able to share my knowledge about fly fishing with this angler who was able to apply it on the spot was quite a blessing. It felt as if he was the reason I was there on this lovely morning in May 2023.
Keep mending your line… you never know what you might hook into.