Calm in the Current – An Ancient Craft as a Modern Destresser

Calm in the Current – An Ancient Craft as a Modern Destresser

Calm in the Current – An Ancient Craft as a Modern Destresser

By Christopher R. Opfer

A flash of light catches your eye; the first glimpse of water you can see from your vehicle’s window. A riffle? A run? Should I stop? Yes. You find a place to park your vehicle out of the way, still eyeing the river through the brush along the bank. You open your door and the cool morning air floods your vehicle; it’s refreshing and exhilarating. You take a deep breath; the first you’ve had since you can remember, and it feels good.

You assemble your rod, ensuring that the guides are aligned – your reel aligned as well. You begin running through the standard questions. “What will the fish want this morning? What did they say at the fly shop? What’s hatching? What rig should I run? Dry? Dry dropper? Soft hackles? Skinny? Nymph? Streamer? How much weight? What color flies? What size?

You throw on your safety rig. You know, the rig you start with on almost every water because it’s served you so well in the past? After all, we’re creatures of habit. One foot, then the other into your waders. Boots laced. Sunglasses on. Fly pack. Net. Done.

You lock your vehicle and a sudden silence falls over you. The audible babbling of the river can be heard through the brush. You listen as though it’s going to tell you where to go. As though it’s an old friend calling you. One who knows your life’s struggles, frustrations, sadness, successes, and stresses. You push your way through the brush paying no mind to the scraping branches; something is waiting on the other side.

There you are at the bank. The first step into this running water is almost magical each and every time. The crunch of the gravel under your feet is something that every fly fisher can feel even when they’re not on the river.

Having trouble focusing on the present? Try fishing.

With that single step, you’ve moved to a different world. A world of calm and tranquility. As the current rushes by your waders, it almost seems to take your worries and stresses with it. Almost like it knows what you need.

As a fly fisher, you will spend the next several hours thinking like a fish. Focusing on an indicator or a dry fly riding high on the water’s film. Your attention shifts. No longer are you focusing on your family member who has fallen ill, the big project due next month, or the bills that you have to pay. The focus is immediately present, or in the “now” as Echarte Tolle would say. This is how you spend your day.

Interestingly, this ability to be present on the water doesn’t mean that we “forget” our problems or our stresses. Quite the opposite. It allows us to process them. You see, as we focus on the indicator in the current waiting for it to dip under the surface, our mind is free. In this mental freedom provided courtesy of the river, our mind begins to “put away” our problems and stresses by working through them. It’s almost akin to a dream state where you’re not quite asleep but not quite awake either. Our mind is free to wander, process, think, grieve, feel, let go, settle, and so much more.

When we’re on the water, we don’t count the minutes or seconds until the next task, break, meeting, delivery, and so on. Instead, we are simply present for each drift, set, roll cast, double haul, or strip of a streamer. Throughout the day, we will look up at the sky from time to time. We do this often to admire a bird or just simply feel the warmth of the sun on our faces. This is the river’s way of allowing us to process and let go of our every day worries.

Good stress, bad stress

Think of how our world has changed over the last 20 years. Cell phones used to just be for phone calls. If you wanted to reach someone, you often had to leave a message on a home answering machine for the entire family. Email was novel and only viewed during certain times or on specific days. There was no tagging, tweeting, friending, or instant messaging. We had to connect to the world if we wanted information.

Now, the world connects to us. We are bombarded with information. Whether it’s social, work, good, or bad, we get it almost 24/7. I was once told by an old and wise woman that our body doesn’t recognize stress as good or bad, just as stress. If you’ve been through a wedding or have kids, you know that “good stress” is still stress.

What does all this have to do with fly fishing?

Fly fishing, like few other activities in life, has a way of forcing you to disconnect and unplug. It forces you to be present because you don’t want to miss a strike, especially if it was your chance at the fish of a lifetime. I would argue that this is even different than other types of fishing, such as lake fishing (which I’ve done a lot of as well). With fly fishing, you can’t just cast and wait. Absolutely not! You have to mend, watch, mind your management loop, mend again, mind your rod tip location, mind your footing, strip line in, reverse mend, set, lift, and cast. That’s just one drift! There’s no time in there for anything else!

In the background, your mind will start “putting away” the problems and stresses of your very busy life. Note that I didn’t even mention setting, hooking, fighting, and landing a fish; doesn’t get much more present than that.

So, next time you’re on the water, take a deep breath, feel the water rushing around you, hear the sounds of the birds, and just be present. Enjoy this ancient craft (maybe even take a guided trip from Minturn) as a way of finding calm and destressing your modern life.

It’s time to nail down your 2024 fly fishing trip with Minturn Anglers.

About the Author

Tyler Banker

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