Zen and Fly Fishing

We’ve all experienced it.

That one fleeting moment of near perfection that disappears the second you realize its existence.

If I’m aware enough, I get to see it once or twice a year. That cast that’s just outside of my range, with THE fly landing near THE fish, a strike as I’m gathering the slack line and strip setting the hook.

It has also manifested as the 20 or 30 seconds the sun is nearly set. The horizon lights up, drowning the sky in the deepest purples, oranges, and reds. By the time you process it, it’s gone, leaving you to wonder if it even happened. The only evidence left is a lingering feeling that you saw something special.

Zen and Mindfulness are not concepts well known in our modern lifestyle.

We get so wrapped up in the past and worrying about the future that we neglect the present moment.

Mindfulness, put simply, is present-time awareness. This is the experience of knowing what is happening as it happens. It is non-judgemental, investigative, kind, and responsive awareness. A staple practice for Buddhists, it’s benefits are inumerable.

Although I practice mindfulness many times a day, my favorite is with a fly rod in hand. Fly fishing and mindfulness can be so entertwined, they become extensions of each other as you advance your practice.

Too many of us string our rods up and tie on a fly as soon as we get to our fishing spot. Give yourself pause. Just observe. What is the weather like? Sunny or cloudy? What do you see on and in the water? See or feel everything, recognize distracting thoughts as they come up. Acknowledge and release them. Draw yourself back to the present moment.

Zen can also be found in your cast.

Be mindful of your pick up, rear cast, forward cast, and follow through.

When you land a fish, look deeply at its coloration, size and shape, and overall health.

If you are fishing for food, keep in mind the Buddhist principle of non-violence and kill it quickly and humanely. For us catch and release folks, use barbless hooks and keep your grip and grin short, and near the water. Show compassion and gratitude for the experience.

The feeling of landing a trophy of any size disappears just as quickly as it slips back into the depths. It’s nothing personal, you think. It is what it is.

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