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How Fly Fishing Can Relax the Mind

The sport is especially popular with thinking anglers

John Huthmacher Staff Reporter
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A bait fisherman feeds the fish, while a fly fisherman fools the fish. My skill in trickery is really what is called into question: How good is my skill today, my memory of experiences, and ability to transport that into pulling fish? It’s a challenge every time I go out.
- Marcus Lopez, fly fishing instructor


Shared experiences with fathers often create memories that last a lifetime.

For longtime Los Angeles club scene rock fixture turned fine art painter David Swanson and West Coast construction contract business owner Marcus Lopez, it was fishing excursions with their fathers that left them hooked on the sport of fly fishing.

Lopez has been pulling trout from his favorite rivers and lakes in Oregon and across the country since the mid-1960s. A volunteer instructor with the national organization, “Project Healing Waters,” he brings together armed forces veterans dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for instructional outings that offer a peaceful outing of transformation to calm the waters of their troubled souls.

A Means to Relaxation

Though not a veteran himself, Lopez said it is through this peaceful commune with nature – oftentimes involving wading through cool and pristine waters – that he draws the strength to leave his worries behind, a place where stress-free encounters serve to soothe his very soul.

“Because I have gone out so many times with the intent to release any of my concerns and cares of the day, I have learned how not to worry,” he said. “I just don’t worry about anything. I live a very stress-free life, in part because of fly fishing.

“I get to essentially pit myself against the fish. A bait fisherman feeds the fish, while a fly fisherman fools the fish. My skill in trickery is really what is called into question: How good is my skill today, my memory of experiences, and ability to transport that into pulling fish? It’s a challenge every time I go out.”

While there are many components and moving parts involved in learning the sport, Lopez said there is always something meaningful for participants to take away from each fly fishing experience, regardless of his or her skill set. From enjoying fellowship with fellow participants from around the globe to catching the most fish on a given day, the offerings are limitless.

“I’ve talked to people all over the world in my own back yard essentially,” Lopez said. "I try to greet everybody that I meet on the river, people you would not meet any other place because they came specifically to fish there.

“I’ve learned to be generous with my knowledge and supplies and that has paid me back hugely over the years. It refreshes my spirit, soul, and body.”

Apps That Reel in the Experience

A fresh or saltwater sport, fly fishing is an angling method that utilizes a light-weight lure, or artificial fly, to catch fish. The fly is cast using a fly rod, reel, and specialized weighted line that requires casting techniques significantly different from other forms of casting. Favorite fish to catch include trout, bass, and salmon.

In fact, investing in the sport can make the experience all the more satisfying. Having the right gear and apps at the ready puts valuable resources at one’s fingertips, bringing objectives and strategies into a clearer focus with each fly cast upon the water.

Fly Fishing Simulator HD app offers those looking to try the sport a virtual peek at what the sport looks like from behind a pole. Footage from various rivers and lakes offers glimpses into what an angler can expect when casting in search of prize catches.

Fly Fishing Encyclopedia is an app that includes maps of top fly fishing locations from around the world, with frequent updates on conditions and how best to prepare for them.

The Stillwater Fly Fishing app brings together experts with more than 70 years of experience between them to share their tips and knowledge on what to do to get the most out of each fly fishing excursion.

I Think, Therefore, I Fly Fish

In his book on fly fishing, author Izaak Walton calls it “the contemplative man’s recreation." That is precisely why the sport holds a special interest for Swanson.

The thinking side of the sport appeals to his sensibilities as a musician, artist, and sailing enthusiast. A transplant to the Livingston, Montana area, the lure of catching colorful and clever fish is bait he cannot resist.

“I think it really absorbs the mind,” he said. “Like playing music, painting, or sailing, it largely occupies most of your attention. In that way, it’s a great diversion from the normal everyday grind of life.

“Winston Churchhill said, ‘A change is as good as a rest.’ That’s kind of what this sport does. It gives you a rest from the wear and tear of your normal mental activities.”

Yet, it’s not for everyone, Swanson said, but for those who prefer to think, live, and breathe in the moment, an outing becomes an experience that is both stimulating and pulse slowing.

“If you tend to be fussy like myself, it’s right up your alley,” he said. “The whole idea of fly fishing is kind of an indirect thing. It’s not just shooting fish in a barrel. It’s a whole other ritual with plenty of stuff to do.”


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How Fly Fishing Can Relax the Mind

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