Author Dr. Jody Martin is a marine biologist who works for the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. In addition to his career as a marine biologist, he is ordained elder in the Presbyterian Church USA, an avid fly fisherman, and a life member of Trout Unlimited. Jody teaches a class called The Spirituality of Fly Fishing as part of the Men’s Ministry program at Westminster Presbyterian Church, in Westlake Village, California. He also volunteers as a river helper for the southern California chapter of Casting for Recovery and for Project Healing Waters through the Sierra Pacific Fly Fishers club. Proceeds of his book benefit both CFR and PHWFF equally.
Pain seems to be an inevitable part of being human, and there are as many forms of it as there are people. As adults, I suppose we all know that. But as children we are immune, immortal, and thoughts of pain and suffering are not yet part of who we are, or who we will become. That makes it shocking and disturbing when reality intrudes, when pain enters our lives and insists that we act grown up. This is not a striking revelation, just an observation; we who are the fortunate, the ones who have made it to adulthood, have been shaped by the various forces we’ve encountered, and pain is one of the strongest of those forces.
A more positive thought is that, despite the various forms of pain that are out there, healing can also come in many shapes and sizes. I was, and still am, amazed at the many and diverse ways in which people seek relief from suffering. And for me, as well as for many other people, fly fishing is not only one of those forms of healing, it’s by far the best. I’m certainly not the first person to feel that way, as participants in Project Healing Waters programs already know.
In fact, in addition to the two best-known organizations that use fly fishing as a form of healing (PHWFF and the women’s breast cancer support group Casting for Recovery), there are some 20 other organizations in the U.S. (and probably many more that I am not aware of) that have recognized the same thing: fly fishing helps. It heals, somehow, and it restores. From every corner of human suffering – physical trauma, emotional distress, drug and alcohol addiction, depression, abuse, at-risk youths, and more – there are organizations that have embraced the fact that fly fishing helps.
Why is this? What is it about fly fishing that seems to relieve so many disparate types of suffering? I can’t say with certainty, and I suppose that no one can. But several of these organizations have alluded, directly or indirectly, to the spiritual nature of fly fishing: the quiet, the peace, and the pure “otherness” of the sport that so many of us experience. In the Preface to my book, Ed Nicholson, founder and president of PHWFF, refers to spirituality as “the element that connects all of us to the sport.”
How appropriate, then, that in the early summer of 2017, and then again in the late summer, there will be a new kind of fly fishing retreat, one that centers on the spirituality of fly fishing. The retreats will consist of a weekend dedicated to finding out why we fly fish, what we expect from it and want from it, how it heals and restores us, and how we might be able to, in turn, give something back. Based on my recent book, The Spirituality of Fly Fishing, the retreats will be a combination of “how to fly fish” for beginning and intermediate fly fishers, and an introduction to seeing fly fishing as a spiritual practice. The first of these retreats, hosted by the world-famous Delaware River Club in northeastern Pennsylvania, will be held in early June and the second retreat, scheduled for the last weekend in August, will be at beautiful Parchers Resort in California. At both retreats, we will explore the spiritual thread that seems to connect us all to this incredible sport. I’ll be at both retreats, and I’d love to see you there.
Author, The Spirituality of Fly Fishing: An Introduction (Morgan Creek Publications, 2016)