Photo by Some Dude

Yoga in the Water

Yoga is fine, but I believe that, long before any given guru found his mountain, the soothing energy and meditative focus associated with fishing led more than a few early anglers on their paths to nirvana. So here is my alternative to yoga: go fishing for greater mental, physical and spiritual enlightenment.

Were I to write that fly fishing is a perfect substitute for cardio exercise and strength training, I’d be lying … an act common for any decent angler. You, too, can use my system to gently prevaricate, telling your significant other/doctor/member of the clergy that you’ve been adhering to a “rigorous physical regimen” – and you can also lie to them about the size and number of fish you catch.  (In fact, it’s generally expected you will.)

Any good holistic approach to health should address the practitioner’s totality – mind, body and spirit. Fishing for your health should be no exception.

This is one of the areas in which fly fishing differs from what most consider “fishing:” the mind is the most important tool in your tackle box, the very organ which has ensured your place at the top of the food chain. While bait or spin fishermen may easily chuck a jumble of worms balled on a hook out into the river and proceed to turn their brains OFF, the fly angler must think constantly about her quarry. Most fly fishers spend at least a little time brushing up on their ichthyology (the study of fish), and many find themselves also immersed in entomology (insects). These are applied sciences for the angler, though, and the river itself is often the best professor. A good angler is looking at his or her river as a problem to solve: where are the fish? What kind of fish are likely here? What would they likely try to eat, based upon the time of day or year or weather? Given the clarity of the water and the current, what is the best way to imitate, with the fly, the behavior of that food source? (Can I wade the river when it’s this high? Was that snake poisonous? Is that a real beaver?)

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Okay, so while you’re probably going to be in slightly better shape if you are a marathon runner, fishing is more exercise than you would guess, but most of the workout doesn’t come from the actual fishing. The real exercise is generally in getting to where the fish are. That level of activity is highly customizable but, as any angler knows, the farther you hike, the less likely you are to encounter other folk flogging water.

There are other physical benefits as well; while wading, you will utilize a whole host of foot and ankle muscles you didn’t know you had. Yoga is about maintaining balance while carefully positioned, but I’d like to see the yogis retain their camel poses as an entire river system conspires to submerge them.

[divider style=”thin” title=”Spirit” text_align=””] An essential truism of fishing will become all the more evident as you try to justify your expenditure of time and money to a loved one, but it requires you to behave as if something completely unimportant is more important than almost anything else. We don’t need to catch fish for sustenance any longer; they sell Scottish lake trout at Lucky’s. So why do we wake up, fight through a hangover that would have easily defeated gym plans and shove ourselves into waders at river’s edge in pursuit of an animal we don’t really need?

The sand swirling away from your boots provides immediate evidence of a river no longer where it was only a moment ago. To pursue an animal you’ve little realistic use for and, if lucky, to bother it for a few minutes before waving it goodbye, and to consider that series of events evidence of “success” speaks to a very accessible sort of Zen discipleship. To discover sun (sometimes) and water and breeze and an environ far removed from the exhaust-choked atmosphere and jangled vagaries of the Twittercycle and happy-hour drivel – to mine instead the recondite library of the river or stream, seeking gratification from her and validation of your own damn self, leads to the construction of a stronger framework for the heart.

A Sunday morning silent with your river can help you to square off against Monday, and all the Mondays you’re going to face.

Unless you take off Monday to go fishing … which is another healthy idea. •