The value of mistakes on the river and in life.

I remember when I was new to fly fishing. My husband had set me up with my own fly rod and reel (read here about my birthday gift that year), boots, waders, even a vest (back when that was the thing). He had been taking me out to local rivers and then on trips to big, epic rivers like the Green River (you can't convince me that it is anywhere near as amazing now as it was back then). That's when we would fish near each other, but not side by side any longer. He had taught me how to tie on a new fly myself and unhook the fish - though I would have a really hard time (emotionally) with that part, so I would call him over with the fish in the net so he could take a picture - and get the hook out. 

I tried to make him proud by doing so much of it myself - but I found that I was painfully slow at tying on a new fly - and probably lost flies because I wasn't very good at it either. So there I was, fly finally tied on in the amount of time that he had caught many fish. The fish at the green river back then, were so abundant and HUGE that it felt like I was standing in the middle of an aquarium! Patiently I would cast my fly, doing my best to keep the loops tight and let the line roll out all the way behind me. But I would become so worried about having to try to get the line back out again, that I would sometimes opt not to check my fly to see if it was covered in moss or missing from the end of my line all together. When I would fail to watch for my back cast to roll out - like the novice I was - I would unknowingly be flinging a pretty little nest of line, and wondering why the fish weren't taking. All of these were unproductive decisions and definitely not going to convince the fish that my fly was their next best meal.

Another novice decision was continuing to cast a fly that wasn't working for me. It took so much time to tie a fly on, that I shied away from doing it - so I opted to try an experiment to see if I could "shadow cast" (like on a certain movie that we all love), and convince the fish that a hatch had just begun. The only time this worked was one time when I was sight casting to a fish with a hopper pattern on. I cast the fly many times over, letting it drift over a huge and beautiful fine spotted cutthroat trout that was teasing me in the clear waters ahead. Determined, I locked in my concentration on both the fish and the fly. I watched the fish slightly jerk to the side as the fly floated by, but not taking my offering. I let the fly float by a few more times, and then finally saw the fish open it's mouth to gulp it in... then I set the hook one second too soon for him to eat it. With a prayer, I cast the fly again and timed my set on one of my favorite fish I've ever caught! Cutthroat trout will always have a place in my heart because of that beautiful moment that made my day. 

So there's something to be said about having the patience to present the fly enough to give the fish a chance to take it - on some waters, the fish need the perfect presentation to take the fly - and if you are a novice, as I was, that might take a few casts to get right. But the honest truth I'll admit to - is having patience with yourself as you master the skills (like taking the time to tie on flies) is more important than the time we think we might be missing out on the fun. Because that time is just an illusion. If we don't prepare or pivot when we need to, we actually miss a lot more in the long run. How many fish could I have caught that day if I'd actually stopped to change what wasn't working, or made sure I was doing things correctly? 

"Don't hold on to a mistake, just because you spent a long time making it"

Like the nest in the line I was casting, we can go through life not paying attention to the consequences of our actions. Looking forward isn't always the best way to do things. Sometimes we need to look back so we can adjust our "cast" to ensure we aren't getting caught up or making a mess. 

The rules in casting can be related to life:

1- Keep your wrist straight and cast at the elbow, but between 10 & 12 - We can't expect that we can get lazy and everything will just work out anyway. We also need to try and make sure we don't get too crazy going back and forth in life. Consistency is a good thing.

2- Your back cast is just as important - if not more important than your front cast. So don't forget to appreciate what's behind you - there's a lot to learn from it. If we don't fix what happened in the past, then the future won't play out the way we'd like it to. Likewise, make sure to pay attention to where you're going!

3- Timing is important - We need to not overlook the rhythm/timing in our life and sometimes we need to have the patience to let things roll out.

4- If we don't get things right the first time, we can "mend" the cast to get the right presentation.

5- Don't forget to check your line and flies - mistakes can sometimes go unnoticed, but cause a major problem with the fluidity of our lives or even hold us back from success and happiness. 

Now, I'm going to speak to something we all deal with, but hopefully less as we become more skilled in fly fishing. The unexpected hook set. I'm talking about the tree or bush on the banks or the log or rock in the river. We've all done it - and we never enjoy it. 

We all have our techniques to handle this one and often they come from desperation. The worst thing to have happen is find yourself in the middle of the best hatch ever, fish licking their chops waiting for your cast, only to lose your last fly that matches their menu. Every fly counts. Some anglers might yank and tug at the fly like it's the biggest catch of their life. Some might just "break the line and walk away, counting their loss. Option one might have an unfortunate consequence, such as breaking your rod to brighten your day. While the other option might also cost you the experience of a lifetime. Each situation in fishing, as in life, is unique and requires some practice at calming down for a minute before taking action.

Life lesson? Sometimes life can throw a wrench into an otherwise good time. For some, that wrench feels more like catching the tree in every cast. Anyone who has ever fished a small creek, surrounded by trees probably knows the kicking water, cussing and tearing down trees frustration that can be. The life version of this analogy can really cause some inner turmoil and even a deep sorrowful questioning of self-worth. When we lose something we wanted, needed or loved - it can be difficult to see the beauty in what may lie ahead of that moment. What if your next cast would lead you to the best catch you've ever had full of good photo's, big smiles, and memories to keep? Would the fly in the tree matter a little bit less in hindsight? The lesson I take from the Charlie Brown tree's of life, is to not let the small things become big things. 

"However late you think you are, however many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made or talents you think you don't have, or however far from home and family and God you feel you have traveled, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ's Atonement shines." - Jeffrey R Holland

Now as far as that fly in the tree - I have a good tidbit of advice to leave with you. First, try not to set the hook on that one. Second, REACH AS HIGH AS YOU CAN to see if you can free it by hand. If not, then  do the following: very carefully get yourself aligned where the rod is pointing at the fly - if possible. carefully take the slack out of the line, then give it a good strong pull on the line (with your hand, not the rod). More often than not, my fly pops free without damage to the rod or the fly!

Now if you ever find the literal or metaphorical fly can't be recovered, sometimes the best thing to do is cut yourself free and move on.

Growth and greatness do not occur simply by being placed upon the mountain top. They are earned by climbing and struggling through the climb to get there. Remember, there is a past version of yourself that is so proud of how far you have come!

These are just a few of the many lessons I've learned on the river. Please drop into the comments and share your life lessons you've gained from fly fishing! I just LOVE this stuff!

Man holding a rod and woman holding a cut throat trout fish, fly fishing in a river

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