The Geek in Me

The Geek in Me

After 65 fishing days in the first year of fly fishing, I decided to try some higher performance equipment. Not to catch more fish, but to take myself to another level of skill. Or maybe because I am a gear nerd. A total gear nerd. Fly fishing, cave diving, mountain biking…a total geek about gear. I love activities that use specialized gear.

I’ve been thinking about the upgrade for a while. I haven’t traveled anywhere in almost three years, except to visit my daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter, so my travel budget has been invested in a pastime I enjoy weekly, instead of once a year….or once every three years. (Yes, I realize I am justifying the investment).

After many weeks of pondering and asking advice and reading, I headed over to my favorite fly fishing shop in Townsend, Tennessee, and tried out several rods. It seemed the high-performance rods accentuated, magnified, highlighted all my bad casting habits. It was a bit embarrassing. But Dave, one of my favorite mentors at the store, worked with me and really helped me develop better muscle memory of the right skills. It felt like starting over.

As we stood in the bright sun in a grassy area behind the shop, I cast horribly. Dave gently offered correction. It reminded me how in life we learn unhelpful habits and have to revisit the basics of effective living to mend those habits, so our lives move on a better trajectory. 

Each time the line unfurled behind me in a straight line, I saw how subtle and correct movements of my body made that happen. As we refine our behaviors and thoughts, our lives can move into greater alignment with our Path of Heart. The adjustments we make may be small, but they can have major, positive change in effective living.

I took the new setup to an area not far from the shop, in the national park. An open area…easy to wade. Casting new gear where I usually fish–small, tight creeks lined with rhododendron–felt like inevitable disaster, thus the reason for choosing the open area. I needed more space.

I saw how my old habits are going to be difficult to break, yet the coaching had taken root and I began to implement Dave’s suggestions with some pretty sweet success. But only in terms of casting, not catching fish. Small trout played with the dry flies and one cast had four little rainbows chasing the fly as I retrieved the line. As I stood in the water, some nice-sized trout came toward me and found safety near my wading boots. I’m happy they feel so cuddly towards me, but it doesn’t say much for the dry flies I was casting. 

By giving myself space, I was able to correct old, ineffective habits and begin to build skills that will better serve me. I can’t think of a better metaphor for life.

After an hour and fifteen minutes, I decided to switch to a nymph, or underwater fly. Just as I got the fly tied on, but before I clipped the tag end of tippet, thunder boomed. The heavy, dark clouds I’d been watching, started to create safety concerns.

I reluctantly retreated to the car and after stowing all the gear, the rain began to move through in sheets. I will fish all day in the rain, but lightning is my cue to find shelter. Plus, the major highway across the gap in the national park often closes when bad weather moves through. I didn’t want to have to do a long drive-around should that happen. 

Several years ago, I was at a yoga retreat in Ireland. I walked many miles, over the time I was there, in the rain, wind, and cold. The retreat leader commented that I was so prepared and had figured out the gear I needed for any condition. If you have the right gear, it supports the outdoor experience–hiking, cycling, fishing, paddling. Maybe my being a gear nerd simply reflects the ability to support myself in what I want out of life….growing into a clearer expression of love and kindness.

I don’t see fly fishing and my personal growth and development as separate. The same goes for hiking, cycling, stand-up paddleboarding, nature photography. These experiences are simply part of the way I expand and work through blocks to living fully, to allowing the Medicine that wants to flow through me to have a clearer channel to do so.  Nature is my best teacher and healer.

A friend of mine recently commented that whatever I do, I aim to do it professionally and with perfection. I thought it was a helpful observation and one I’d never considered. But then I remembered my first time in the pool during scuba lessons when I knew I’d become a scuba instructor…and I did become one. Since then, I’ve learned I don’t have to reach that level of professionalism to excel and enjoy a sport or activity. But it does explain my tendency to be a gear nerd. And my love of having the right tools to do a good job whether they are outdoor gear tools or inner tools and skills I develop to live more effectively.


Many thanks to my mentors at Little River Outfitters for always being supportive and welcoming and to Dave for braving the wilds of the grasslands and my backcast to offer some really great coaching. You can’t get that from ordering online or visiting a store that wants to charge you for casting coaching. That’s why it’s worth the drive across the gap, through the peaks, and worth the frustration of getting behind super-slow-driving tourists.

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