Craving the River: Why Fly Rods Benefit Your Mental Health

12188625_10206580773669505_1565495832_nby Kaitlin Barnhart

Kaitlin2Kaitlin Barnhart has her Bachelors Degree in Psychology from Pacific Lutheran University and currently works with troubled youth at Integrative Interventions, LLC, as well as writing for Idaho Life Magazines. Check out her blog at and follow her Women’s Fly Fishing Facebook Page.


My friend, Holly Finn, wrote something the other day that made me smile. She posted this under a picture of a huge rainbow trout: “Just snuck off for some river time and glad I did”. A few other friends chimed in and stories filled her comment section of women fishing on their way to the grocery store, or fishing every day on their lunch break because they are a “Better person in the office after river-time”. What do these fly-fishing addicted women receive from these river outings? The list is far too long to write, but here are a few reasons why sneaking away to the river is the best medicine for improving your mental health…

The first thing we receive from river-time is the chance to silence our multi-tasking, problem-solving, minds by focusing only on fishing. When you are stalking a fish, your brain locks down the hatches of all other concerns and gears every movement towards what fly to use and where to cast. In some ways, we turn into simple-minded animals instead of over-stressed moms/wives/employees/housekeepers. To crave that single-mindedness is spot on, because our hard working brains deserve a rest.

The second thing we are craving is time in the outdoors to challenge our viewpoint of the world and calm our anxieties. Our ears hear water trickling and birds chirping, which forces out the gnawing sound of phones ringing, texts alerting, or people needing something from us. Our eyes stare at the colors of the fish we catch and we are amazed every time at the beauty that is in the natural world. We can smell the fresh trees soaked in morning dew and know that even though there may be things out of control in our lives, the outdoors has a rhythm that operates without our hand, consistently. When our minds are bogged down with troubles from our everyday lives, time with a fly rod helps us see that the world is still good out there and things are still beautiful if we choose to see them; if we make it priority to meet with them.

The third thing that we get from fly-fishing is adventure. We need adventure, excitement, the thrill, the chase, the moment of learning we are capable of much more than our mind allow us to believe. When we are out there casting a line or forging a river, we are always calculating; and when those calculations add up to a gorgeous trout or a giant steelhead, we can’t help but feel good about ourselves. We are stronger women, mentally and physically, because of the adventures that unfold with a fly rod in our hands.

Women have lists and lists of things they need to do this fall, but for the sake of your mental health and happiness, I encourage you to sneak away to the river as often as you can. Your boss and family will thank you for it…in the long run. It also helps to get that crazy look in your eye from time to time so people around you encourage you to get to the river! Be well, friends, get after life, and fish on!

Further Evidence:

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