Stand in the river. Knee deep. Balance your hips over your feet, and feel the push of the current against your calves. Lean into it and find full-body balance.
Breathe in and breathe out.
Notice everything about this moment. Engage your senses. Observe the trout's environment deeply. Feel the sun's energy through your clothing. Hear the sounds around you from the loudest to the softest and furthest away. Smell the water, trees, and stones. Know in your heart that you are right where you should be, breathing in and breathing out. Letting everything else in life slip by like the river at your feet.
Maybe now, you might want rig up your rod.
Fly fishing is definitely like yoga.
In yoga practice, you arrive at a state of mind in which you are aware of your breath; you are listening to your body and using your intuition. You are fully engaged in what you are doing at the moment. The postures in yoga are called asana, and they are individual opportunities to learn something about yourself. For many of us, yoga is an opportunity to try something we're not sure we can do in a safe, forgiving environment. Yoga teaches us that challenging ourselves is at the very core of self-discovery.
Fly fishing is so similar. You commit to a lifelong learning process and practice the individual steps so that when you step into the water with your rod, you are as ready as you can be for the journey. You become aware of the trout in its environment. You feel where the trout are holding. You know what fly to reach for and where to cast it, but still, there are no guarantees of a take. You learn how to deal with the unknown. You learn how you respond to rejection and loss. Often though, you learn how you react to your success. With success – more discovery – Is a small fish brought to hand a success? Is only a tail dragger acceptable? Is getting skunked a lousy day? All opportunities for looking inward for answers to more important questions.
The emergence of women fly anglers has grown exponentially and gives me pause to wonder why. Perhaps we need the support of a group. Maybe we connect better with a nonjudgmental environment that supports us as we grow. As a new angler, I have watched my school of fly fishing ladies grow from a small roundtable of women to a national organization with enthusiastic, supportive leadership. This movement makes it possible for women in different regions to connect, share information, and nurture each other. The amount of information we absorb from each other, our guides, and mentors is immense and given freely. Every time I tell myself I can't do something, ten others say I can. I happily welcome failure as an opportunity to learn. I appreciate the successes as progress and encouragement that I am on the right path. Both make me a better person and better at this practice, which is, in turn, fulfilling and empowering.
Both yoga and fly fishing encourage you to commit to a practice that is good for the body, brain, and undeniably the soul. They allow you to immerse yourself in nature, in an activity with peers who support you and inspire you, which is grounding and safe. Safe to make mistakes. Safe to question yourself and your reactions. Safe to wonder why. Why a beautiful gold and pink West Slope cutthroat trout decided to take your hand-tied October caddis, let you net it, and release it. Safe to ask deep questions about what matters in life; like being right here, right now, standing in a river watching time go by at your feet, learning more about yourself than anything else.
Breathing in and breathing out.