Being both an avid fly angler, professional fly fishing instructor, as well as a yoga practitioner and teacher, I’ve found that my mindful meditation and intentional movement practice off of the water has greatly supported my experiences while on the water, too. Not only does my home and studio practice leave me equipped with a great set of tools to incorporate into my outdoor adventures, fly fishing also does a fantastic job of setting the tone and facilitating a seamless space for me to enjoy outdoor recreation that’s rich with opportunities to improve and tend to my health. Ranging from stress management and mental and emotional well-being to improvements in my cardiovascular health and even muscle tone, incorporating mindfulness into my outings on the water greatly increases the therapeutic benefits of fly fishing and even helps to amplify my success in catching fish. A few of my favorite ways to utilize a mindfulness approach while I’m fly fishing include…
1. Mindful Walking and Wading
One of the most essential components to integrate into walking, wading, and hiking is to simply slow down and pay greater attention to the terrain that you’re exploring. More often than not when I wind up taking an accidental stumble or spill it’s because I’ve either been moving too quickly or just not moving methodically. A few less falls always makes for a more enjoyable time on the river.
2. Meditative Fly Casting
As you begin to study and practice the fly cast (similar to studying and exploring yoga postures), an opportunity to use casting as a form of moving meditation can present itself. While different individuals will develop varying degrees of interest in terms of how far they dive into the many styles of casting, understanding the basic mechanics helps to lessen tangles and moments of frustration, and will instead allow for the cast to become an integrated mind-body experience.
3. Environmental Awareness
Fly fishing truly is a sport of attentiveness and observation. Whether you’re targeting cold water species such as trout or salmon, connecting with warm water fish like bass or bluegill, or chasing after saltwater species like bonefish or tarpon, closely paying attention to your surroundings will greatly impact your ability to catch more fish and have a more productive time while on the water. A few examples include studying entomology (the insect life that’s present), pausing to ‘read the water’ to better understand where fish are holding, as well as learning how to keenly observe while sight fishing.
4. Self-Regulating within High Pressure Situations
While fly fishing is frequently portrayed as being a quiet and peaceful style of fishing (and most certainly can be!) there are also some slightly more high pressure situations that can potentially present themselves. Whether you’re fighting a large fish and doing your best to remain cool and collected or you’re new to wading rivers and are in need of some basic techniques to keep calm and connected to your footing, basic mindfulness techniques can be a great asset in these types of scenarios. A couple of my favorite methods include slowing down my breathing (which subsequently helps to lower your heart rate) or even taking a big sigh, relaxing the features of my face to release unnecessary tension, and just generally staying in tune with my body and physical sensations.