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Lessons in listening: Catch more than fish this season

The second Saturday in April is akin to Christmas morning in our home as it marks the opening day of fishing season in Vermont. There is a giddiness in the air, as waders, boots, and fly rods replace skis and poles at the door. Table talk is dominated by subjects of river depth, current speed and potential precipitation. Top shelf whiskey is purchased for the yearly salute and offering to the river gods and goddesses.
In Addison County, the commencement of opening day begins with The Fly Fishing Film Tour on Friday evening to kick off the Mountaineer’s Otter Creek Classic. For those of you who are not anglers, I have always described the film as a Warren Miller ski film for fish junkies. Showboating is the game and the fish are colossal.
This year’s film shorts had their fair share of the astounding catches and breathtaking landscapes, but something else caught my attention while watching this time. A central theme in each film was connection: connection to self, to each other, and to our fellow creatures and earth. The anglers in the film celebrated each other with high fives, fist bumps, and hugs when they landed a beautiful brown or rainbow trout. They commiserated together when they failed to net a hooked big one. They laid kisses smack dab on the fishes’ heads before slowly releasing them back into the water. They were intentional and dedicated to preservation of both the water and the land. They get this simple truth: we need each other and we need this earth.
The capacity to connect through fishing started early for me. Prior to meeting my partner, fishing in my world was all about night crawlers, bobbers and perch. I was that kid who when given the choice for a special day, picked a windy adventure in the old aluminum boat, much to the chagrin of my book-loving older sister. My favorite memories of childhood fishing are on the shores of Lake Champlain. It never got old hearing my grandpa sing “here fishy, fishy” after he made his first cast. I also remember my 10-year-old self, negotiating who would put the worm on and who would take the fish off with my squeamish boy cousins. Even at 46 years old, I will still take handling a fish any day over a wiggling worm.
Fly-fishing is a new venture for me, and I revel in the learning that accompanies my beginners’ experience. I delight in the names of the various flies: girdle bugs, chubbies, and woolly buggers. I gasp at the colors and patterns of the fish we catch. I also appreciate the opportunity to learn more about myself as well. How many times can I snag a tree or bush before I need to start practicing deep breathing? Hands down, though, the parts that I love best: the quiet kinship I feel to my partner/guide and the connection to the larger world outside my head. When I am standing in a river, gently bracing myself against the flow and tug over my boots, I am home. I am vibrant and alive with the world.
Remembering the importance of connection and making intentional choices to feed these connections os essential for our wellbeing. So, whatever your particular inclination, I invite you to soak in the wonder of spring with the people you love. Give yourself the gift of just being — right where you are. There is plenty of time later to manage your life, go ahead and live it today.
Laura Wilkinson is a Nurse Practitioner and Integrative Health Coach at Middlebury College. Learn more about her and her coaching at middlebury.edu/middleburyintegratedhealthcoach.

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