The day I quit flyfishing

The day I quit, it was late summer.  We were fishing a beautiful stretch of Gold Medal water full of feisty rainbow and beautiful brown trout.  The sky was the brilliant blue you see only in the high country of Colorado and a light breeze cooled my bare sun-warmed shoulders.

The fast water was running low and clear.  It pounded noisily against the rocks forming pockets where those elusive fish were hiding.  Pocket water is a ton of fun to fish and I was completely engaged.  

The sound of rushing river water feeds my spirit like no other sound.

When I began this sport, I vowed to never keep a single fish I caught. I was catch-and-release only, taking care to preserve the fish from injury and return it to the water quickly.

I had one on the line! 

 It was a beautiful rainbow, and good-sized. I knew I was in for a fight. 

With patience, I managed to bring it close.  I reached for the net hanging from the back of my fishing vest. The net is critical to contain and steady the struggling fish while I remove the hook. My hands are too small to wrap around for full control.

But as I was swinging the net forward, it slipped out of my hand and shot downriver.  YIKES!  I waved furiously and called to my companion to grab it as it floated by.

But he couldn’t hear me.

The noisy river drowned my cries. Later he told me he could see that my line was tight and thought I was excited to show him that I had a big one on.

Needless to say, the net was lost.  

The poor fish had been hooked for minutes while I had wasted time trying to get his attention.  Without the net, I finally maneuvered it between my knees and managed to get the hook out, cooing and talking gently the whole time. 

It seemed to take forever.

The poor creature was so shocked I had to hold it steady while the current revived it. I made sure it was alive and had it’s strength back before letting it go.

In that moment, I knew I would never fish again. 

You could say the reason I stopped fly fishing was because I felt sorry for the fish. That’s true. I felt terrible about what I had just put that beautiful creature through. 

That’s the easiest explanation. The deeper truth is more nuanced.

I had been fly fishing for years by that time. Many times I had scrambled up or down steep rocky banks in clumsy wading boots, or teetered in the water on moss covered rocks (just like snotty bowling balls). I had dangerously waded in water far too deep for my center of gravity.  I was never afraid.

But in that moment, I felt alone and vulnerable.

My voice wasn’t powerful enough to overcome all the noise.  Even though there was someone there to support me, I was yelling into a noise pit and couldn’t be heard.  Gestures were misinterpreted while words were drowned.  

The “me” that needed help was invisible.

That’s when I realized that to feel real, I must be heard. Not “listened to,” heard. I need to know that when I speak up, my voice matters, that my stories and truths are relevant and that my opinion counts. 

It’s bigger than me being brave enough to raise my hand or to speak up. 


When I speak, I want to be recognized for the individual that I am.  My thoughts matter and must be expressed in a place where they can be respected without having to yell over all the noise – without having to fight for legitimacy.

I want that for you too.  

This is how we know we are are fully human.

It is a very noisy world right now. Often, social structures close minds before our words can be uttered.

Our social media feeds are filled with loud opinions, and our adding to the noise doesn’t mean we are heard. Even though we may have people around us that we can count on, sometimes they are so taken by their own perspective that our words slide into the mist. 

That’s why the The Fireside Circle is so important for our time.  

Right now.

It’s a quiet space. You don’t have to yell to get people to listen. Your stories and your truth are heard. What I know for sure is that everyone needs a place to be heard, and this is your chance to experience it first hand.

I hope you’ll join me there.  And invite your friends. 

4 Replies to "The day I quit flyfishing"

  • Michael
    January 27, 2021 (4:40 pm)

    Beautiful piece Debra. I remember well sharing the Big Thompson River with you one day, way back when.

    Your story reminded me of the day I quit hunting. I had hunted small game around my home in Ohio from age 15 until the day I quit at age 19. I was hunting Groundhog (Woodchuck) and had one lined up in the scope of my .22 rifle. It was a fairly long shot, but I was an excellent marksman.

    Just before squeezing the trigger, I asked myself – why?

    I went ahead and made a clean kill, gave thanks to the animal and took it home to eat. I only hunted for animals I could bring home to the table. But, after that I spent the rest of the day walking the area where my hunting companion was still actively hunting. As I dd, I realized that I loved being out in nature, I even enjoyed marksmanship, but I didn’t need to kill anything.

    We are all part of a biological world where many species dine upon other species, but that day I decided that my participation in that circle of life would look different.

    • Debra
      January 27, 2021 (7:25 pm)

      Exactly Mike! I love this story because it demonstrates so clearly that you are a man of integrity. Your value of honoring the life force in every creature resonates throughout your work: Wellness for humans, wellness for our environment – it’s all the same circle. We are all connected.

      As I recall from our time in RMP, you’re a catch-and-release guy as well. That was a fun day. Tight lines, my friend!

  • Lizz
    January 27, 2021 (5:31 pm)

    What a vivid and beautiful story Deb. Thank you!

    • Debra
      January 27, 2021 (7:12 pm)

      Thank you Liza! I’m so glad it resonated for you.

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