Zen and the art of fly fishing

I’m in love. If you had told me that I could stand in an icy stream for hours and be totally attentive and happy, I would not have believed you – that is, until I was introduced to the beauty of fly fishing in northern New Mexico last week.

My teacher was my husband’s grandson, William, who is plans to major in marine biology when he graduates from high school.

Grandson William explains how the line works

William is a smart and passionate fly fisherman, and ties his own flies. These are his, made of fur and feathers and wonderful stuff, very artful assemblages that mimic nature: 

William was patient with me in teaching the techniques, but more importantly, he taught me how meditative this kind of fishing is – it’s really not about catching fish, since fly fishing is a catch-and-release partnership – it’s more like a dance.

It’s about the observation of the water and the creatures that inhabit it.  And it ‘s about the ritual, such as threading the fly rod with the tippet, the leader, and the line, each of which has its purpose in a successful cast.  The purpose of the leader and tippet is to complete the transfer of energy built up in the fly line through the casting stroke through the line and down to the fly so that your line rolls over and straightens itself out if a fairly straight line. Wow.

I also want to learn to tie my own flies – talk about an art. William told me that there are two kinds- wet and dry. This is a dry fly, one he made and floated in a glass to show me how it mimics a mayfly.

Lest I get too zen-like about all of this, it’s also about getting your line stuck in a tree across the stream. AAcckk!! But William saved me by patiently untangling the line.

Quite honestly, I’ve been totally entranced by this. You are alone with your thoughts, your rod and your serenity. You hear the rushing water and you stand and you wait. You cast and you wait. It’s peaceful. It’s rhythmic. For someone like me who can’t sit still for a minute, this is a revelation.

I’ll never be more than a rank beginner – there are people who devote their lives to this – but the gift of this discovery for me is a peaceful mind, a spiritual concentration, and an immersion in natural rhythms. Thanks, William, for showing me something wonderful! I came back from the trip with a new energy and a feeling of accomplishment. 

My teacher, William, practicing his art










10 thoughts on “Zen and the art of fly fishing

  1. I have only done it a couple of times
    It is such a neat art. Really a beautiful and graceful dance. So glad you are loving it. Your smiling face says it all. Enjoy!

  2. How lucky you are that someone is so interested in you that they are sharing this art form, fly fishing, with you. My Dad was an expert but never taught me how. He was passionate about it. Tied flies, etc. You will get great pleasure from experiencing this with family. I did enjoy drawing wildflowers while he caught trout in a stream, and then cooked them for breakfast.

  3. We discovered Colorado in 1975. My husband, who makes his bed while brushing his teeth, meaning he can’t stand still either, is ADDICTED. He leaves the house in the morning, and comes home after dark…a lot! I’m like your friend Terry, I hike and draw nearby, but I get it. Whatever we do in the mountains, is valuable and worthy and even more if it helps us learn more about life ! Fish ON! Laura

  4. Hi Lyn,
    As usual all of your posts strike home for me.
    The sound of the water, the repetition of casting, just being in the moment …really resonates! This sounds and feels like a Haiku poem. Thank you for being so present and SO real! Lots of good thoughts sent your way❣ Bosha

  5. I took a fly tying class many years ago ( which is an art in itself)! I used to fly fish in the Adirondacks, your post brings back memories!

  6. Lyn,

    What a wonderful way to spend time with your grandson! And learning to fly fish in New Mexico, WOW! What river did you fish in? I love all your photos and explanations.

    On another topic, I have been looking for the scotch permanent glue stick you recommended in another post and it is out of stock everywhere. Do you have a source or know what the deal is?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.