Fly Fisher’s Wellness Wednesday

| January 12, 2022

Welcome to the original Fly Fishing Wellness Wednesday report.

I heard something on the news recently – about staving off those brain problems we humans can all be subject to as the brain matter ages. Thinks like alzheimer’s and dementia are in my life, and chances are they will touch the lives of everyone who reads this.


There is a lot of hope on the horizon though! 

Researchers have the budgets and focus on these debilitating diseases more than any time in the history of the United States. While there is no silver bullet, we know a few things to be true and a few new truths I will highlight here as well.

The New Thinking

Doing the same brain exercises over and over again? That’s out. What’s in? Well, what’s in is variety, variety that spice of life. Variety in mental exercise. How do we translate that into fly fishing? I would imagine your mind is already wandering, and wondering what comes next!

I think we have an inherent advantage, as fly fishers, over our contemporaries in age and condition – BECAUSE WE FLY FISH. Our grey matter is already playing in a different groove that includes manual dexterity, exercise and copious amounts of thought. 

HOWEVER, that groove as good as it is, is still a mental groove. I have been out with many fly fishers, over the years, who are grooved to the extreme. They bring the same fly rod, the same flies, the same cast (good or bad), and use the exact same fly fishing techniques – no matter where, when and no matter what. It could be an 8-pound carp or a 4-ounce sunfish, on the same four-weight rod, with the same fly and the same tippet. I kid you not. Of course I feel duty-bound to point out the differences, and “help” these fly fishers, but I am always surprised by the groove, and how deep it is. I’ve been rebuffed more than once.


Don’t get me wrong, we all have our own grooves, but we can all pick a single area to make our records skip a groove, learn something new and stretch that grey matter.

Personally, when no one is around – and no one is looking – I work on my chocolate hand cast. What is your chocolate hand? That’s an old basketball term for the weak hand, the weak side. I can still make layups all day long with my right hand – right now. But put that ball in my left, and it’s still a roll of the dice.

So when I can be sure no one will get hurt, I give the left a go. Think about it. What if you lose the use of your good hand, arm or shoulder? Think about how much your skiff guide would love you if you were ambidextrous! I have had exactly one ambidextrous client on board, and it was … it was like butter (ok butter may not be too good for us) if you know what I mean. This young man earned a free pass with his casting skills – with me – forever.

Okay, so you see what I am saying? Work on casting with both hands eventually, but first start by thinking about and researching new places to fly fish. Find new flies to tie – real (challenging) hand-eye work will change your brain. And once you figure a fly out, find another pattern and keep on going. Break it down by species or water column, and work your way through the flies for the fish you are after. Tie with both hands, and alternate hands for palmering, thread wraps and even the fineries of gluing eyes on a fly. 

Find new places to fly fish; look at maps, google maps, google earth – talk to people and listen to what they tell you. Some of my friends find listening and talking to be a deal-breaker, if you can believe that! 


There are people I know, and have known (from 60-to-90-years-old), that I would say have “hermitized” themselves. They were / are of a personality that prefers complete aloneness or they have created a life that has hermitized them from their friends and maybe even family. This I believe, is a slippery slope that leads to brain jelly – no mental gymnastics means (in my opinion) that there is something wrong, or there will be something wrong later on in life. 


Here is my very short fly fishing list of ways to fight brain jelly:

Fly Fish With Friends – no matter what.

Talk to and Listen to Friends – no matter what.

Study new fly fishing possibilities – new fish / new techniques / new flies / new maps / new guides / new gear – – – it’s all a mental workout, and retaining that new knowledge? That is a REAL workout!

Get physical – go further than everyone else. Try casting with your chocolate hand. Try new casting techniques constantly. Practice casting all year long. 

ADD A SPORT – Start walking for endurance (with doctor’s approval) – one of my other exercises. Play another sport – pickle ball / golf / tennis / dog frisbee whatever puts you in another groove. I can honestly say my muscle memory FOR FLY FISHING is more ingrained than my free throws and my five-foot-putt, and that will probably always be so. I’ve made that choice until the last rod breaks. A good cast usually results in a good workout anyway!

CONCLUSION: These are my ideas, and obviously you and I are subject to doctor’s recommendations! We all practice common sense, right? There’s so much more to healthy minds than we ever realized, and diet is one other thing sure to help the grey matter. We live in the greatest times of miraculous medical miracles. This week, a genetically modified pig heart was transplanted into a human! Think about that for a minute, and let me know what you think! All I can say is, “mmmmm, bacon.”

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Category: Body-Mind-Soul, Fly Fisher Health and Wellness

About the Author () is where to find my other day job. I write and photograph fish stories professionally, and for free here! Journalist by training. This site is for telling true fishing news stories, unless otherwise noted.

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