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photo by Jen Ripplephoto by Jen Ripple

Forget the gym, the spin classes, and the yoga studio. There’s a new practice in town, and it’s called fly fishing. Formerly thought of as an old, white, rich man’s sport, the fly-fishing generation of today is as diverse as the species they target. The sport that at one time was considered male-dominated is now taking the world by storm as it quickly becomes the new yoga. Here are some reasons I think it should be just that.

photo courtesy of - Jen Ripple

Jess with a pretty bow out of the Chattahoochee in Helen, Georgia.

It’s inclusive.

Like yoga, fly fishing is a sport that is available to everyone. Gone are the days when only the elite fish private beats on the river to fish for trout. Today, it’s cool to fish for anything that swims — bass, carp, musky, bluegill, and of course trout; if it swims, and it’s legal to fish for, then go for it. This means that fly fishing in your backyard is where it’s at – from high mountain streams to urban ditches. And since people of all backgrounds are entering the sport in droves, the manufacturers have taken notice. Today, there is great gear available at a variety of affordable price points, so it’s easy to get into the sport without having to sacrifice your firstborn child. This includes gear made specifically for women and children, so throw away granddad’s old, leaky waders because today you have options.

photo by - Jen Ripple

The Music City Fly Girls kayak fishing the Elk River in Tennessee.

It’s incidental exercise. 

If you know anything about me, you know I’m not one to exercise voluntarily. One of the things I love about yoga is that I can exercise without realizing I’m exercising. Fly fishing embodies this as well. Hiking to the river, casting a rod all day, standing in the river with the current of the water against you, even fighting that big fish — all great ways to exercise without realizing you’re getting your daily allotment of steps. And, if that Fitbit says you’ve done 10,000 steps because you’ve been fishing for Musky all day long — it still counts.

photo by - Jen Ripple

A beautiful bridge over one of the mountain streams in the Smoky Mountains.

It’s a stress reliever.

Today’s society is fast-paced and lives under a big, heavy cloud of stress. To crawl out from under that cloud, many have turned to yoga to learn to breathe. Yoga teaches us to be fully present, and so does fly fishing. All it takes is a few deep breaths standing on the riverbank with the wind whispering through the trees, the bugs skittering by, and the fish slurping off the surface to re-center what is off-kilter for the day. When I first learned to fly fish, I was working for a very difficult man. I swear the only thing that kept me sane in those days was my ability to put on my waders after work and walk into the river and fish. To this day, I find every time I step in the river the worries of the day flow downstream, and I leave refreshed, relaxed, and ready to face another day.

photo by - Jen Ripple

Fishing tiny mountain pools with dense cover can be personally challenging.

It’s personal.

Whether I’m in a yoga class with 40 of my newest friends or on a beach solo makes no difference; it’s me competing against myself. I can fish alone or with friends, but regardless at the end of the day, it’s about me and the fish at the end of my tippet. It takes self-discipline and practice to create that tighter loop so I can get the fly where it needs to be at the second that fish rises. Catching grass, trees, and that random branch under the water is a lesson in patience. And if you’ve ever stood in the river and worked through one of life’s problems with a fly rod, then you understand just how similar these two sports can be.

photo by - Jen Ripple

Heather Hodson of United Women on the Fly teaching the next generation.

It’s good karma.

I challenge you to find a sport that has a bigger heart and a truer desire to give back to the universe more than fly fishing. You can minister to women with breast cancer through Casting for Recovery, help vets work through PTSD with Project Healing Waters, and help foster children get outside with The Mayfly Project, to name a few. And, if saving the planet is more your style, you can Kick Plastic, fight the Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, practice catch and release, warn against invasive species, and participate in river cleanups any day of the week. When I first picked up a fly rod, I had no concept of the devastation in today’s natural world. Fly fishing has opened my eyes to the important causes facing our planet today in the same way yoga opened my eyes to my own personal enlightenment.

I could give you 100 more reasons why I think that fly fishing is the new yoga, but I think it's better if I admonish you to pick up your own fly rod, head to the river along your own path, and discover the similarities for yourself. I promise you’ll be more enlightened once you do.