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Fishing Waters Make Excellent Fitness Clubs!

How learning to fish has strengthened my mind, body & soul.

I recently read an interesting blog post by Takemefishing.org. It spoke about the restorative health and wellness benefits of recreational boating and fishing. (See the blog post here)

I have long realized and appreciated the health benefits that fishing has brought to me. And I don’t mean in just in a physical way. Yes, the fresh air, hiking, and hauling heavy kayaks and gear make for a great workout. And then there is also the paddling, endless casts, and reeling in (hopefully heavy) fish. But, I have also learned that fishing offers BRAIN FITNESS. In fact, when I look back to when I first started fishing in earnest, it really was for mental health. You see, I always need a challenge. I NEED the mental stimulation of learning, and I am stubborn. Fishing was a perfect match for me right from the start!


Equally Important, the River Soothes My Soul.

When I started fishing freshwater ‘for real’, I had just gone through a divorce after 20 years of marriage. I was suddenly raising my two daughters on my own. Working hard to save my home from foreclosure, paying bills, and establishing my career as an artist (abrushwithlife.net) was definitely stressful! I began to find that I needed an escape just for one…little…moment…PLEASE!

I have always felt blessed that we live on a river. We had an old hand-me-down canoe that had sat in the backyard for about ten years in neglect. I only remember taking it out once as a family. When my girls were young, I was afraid to take them out in it by myself because I was not an experienced paddler.

The beautiful green Old Town canoe just sat there behind my art studio, waiting patiently for me. But, was I really going to forsake the motorcycles of my past for a canoe???

As I settled into my new life, the river began to call out to me in new ways. In turn, the Old Town beckoned, “ride with me…” “Okay, yes,” I thought, “let’s give this thing a spin!” I had my daughters, now teenagers, go with me to start. I remember trying to figure out how to paddle together, as a team. At first, we couldn’t stay on track for the life of us. Our laughter echoed off the water as we zig-zagged down the river towards a picnic spot on its banks.

Old Town Canoe Encounter Illustration

Old Town Encounter

I clearly remember the time we came upon a lily pad strewn inlet upriver and saw my neighbor in his fishing boat. We silently raised a hand in greeting towards each other. It was quiet, no houses, no other people around. I felt like an intruder on his activities, but “Oh.” I thought, “Now this is SOMETHING! THIS IS SOMETHING that really really intrigues me!”

I began to take the canoe out on my own as my daughters gained more independence and didn’t need me around as much. And, by then, I had figured out that if I sat in the back of the boat, I could steer it quite well by myself. I would paddle upstream after work and then start the float back home at dusk. The feeling was incredible.

Dusk was peace and suspense.

MoonFish

It was a decompression from the stress of the day. It was also an intrigue for “what happens on the riverbanks at night when no person is watching”. I would float in silence, my paddle barely making a sound as it dipped into the black water. I encountered a ‘quiet’ kind of loud, with the peepers shrilling their night shift songs and turkeys searching for their evening roosting spots. The leaves overhead rustled and the branches made startling cracking noises under their restless weight. Bats and fireflies sliced the air above and I would follow the path of the moon’s reflection home. I was completely captivated by the river at night.

As my confidence on the river grew, I began to bring along an old fishing rod that someone had left behind in my garage. It added a new complexity to the whole endeavor.

Using a worm and bobber to start, I started to catch fish! Little yellow perch, pumpkinseeds, red-breasted sunfish, pickerel. Those underwater tugs began to obsess me. During those excursions, I felt a sense of peace. The river gave me a sense of confidence that I had been missing. In turn, I started to feel that I was actually going to be okay, despite my chaotic life and its uncertainties. I had found a new challenge, a new skill that occupied my mind. One that was infinite. Not only in things to learn on a technical level, but also as a source of creativity. I had found a never-ending source of inspiration for my writings and paintings.

The rhythm of the current and my paddle breaking water, the constant casting, the dropping of a line. These were hypnotic mantras for inner introspection. They were Incantations for summoning ideas, words, poetry, images. The mystery of bringing an unknown catch up from the depths, up to the place Where Water Meets Air, is infinitely exciting to me. All of this is my Love, my Passion, my Obsession. Because of these things, the waters are my Fitness Club and I see no end to this for as long as I am here on earth.

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