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The Art of Social Distancing

In light of recent world events, we are all practicing our social distancing skills to protect ourselves and others. As anglers, we seem to be uniquely equipped, as we regularly seek out places where complete isolation is guaranteed. While spending an increased amount of quiet time at home these past weeks, I have been contemplating why so many of us prefer these solitary days on the river. What is the allure?

Disconnection from society comes to mind first. Life can be hectic and fast paced. We are tethered to devices that allow us to connect to information instantly and while beneficial at times, they can also serve to weigh us down. The desire to be accepted and successful, sometimes at the price of one’s individuality, can be overwhelming. Removing yourself from the stressors of daily life and immersing fully in nature is a welcome reprieve. In a culture of disposability that has become increasingly superficial, more and more people are searching for an escape. Fly fishing offers that and with it, a special connection to the natural world.

Wading the river, is one of the most effective ways I have found to meditate and practice mindfulness. The clutter in your mind, that can so quickly add up, dissipates and you are able to be fully present in the moment. Your thoughts slow as you focus in on your cast, your fly and where the current is taking it. With each step, your anticipation soars for what new adventure might await next. And as the water rushes past, it somehow washes away every worry and care with it.

Quiet days on the river are valuable learning opportunities where you become a student of the natural world. When anglers walk up to the river, we rarely hop right in and start fishing. We take the time to carefully observe our surroundings. Are fish showing or feeding? Are there structures within the water where fish may hold? What insect life is present? Is there a hatch? In time, we organically learn much about fish biology, the environment and how everything within it is connected. 

As a multifaceted sport, fly fishing can be tailored to exactly what you need and want it to be. When seeking tranquility and solitude you may head into the woods in search of wild brook trout. Alternatively, for a sense of camaraderie and community, you may join in on rotation at a more popular pool. If you’re an adrenaline junkie craving that next rush, you will likely look to chase acrobatic Atlantic Salmon or Steelhead. There is no right or wrong as you personalize this passion to suit your mood and preference. 

While fishing is about so much more than simply catching a fish, I have to touch on the feeling of pure joy you will undoubtedly experience when you successfully connect with and release a wild fish. It’s nothing short of euphoric and it keeps you coming back for more. 

In times of uncertainty, confusion and fear there is much to be said for finding a healthy way to cope. Fly fishing is said to hold a unique healing and restorative power and I believe that is because it provides a special sense of security and grounding. Whatever the void, with rod in hand and fly in water, you will always find fulfillment and peace in places where only the wild things abound.

Photos from Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia by Deirdre Green

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