Mending The Mind

Mending the mind

Time on a stream puts life’s struggles into perspective.

By Tom Meyer


One cold evening in February a group of six of my fishing friends met at my house near Wild Rose to make plans for the upcoming season’s fishing trips. Four of us are going to New Brunswick to fish the Restigouche River for Atlantic salmon in July.  We also were planning our annual trip to the Escanaba River in June. We needed to book flights and rental cars, reserve hotel rooms, and also talk about and tie flies for the trips. Jeff Treu got out his fly-tying gear and got busy at my dining room table demonstrating some classic Atlantic salmon patterns, namely the Rusty Rat and the Picasse. We discussed some proven reliable flies for the Escanaba. The Thin Mint streamer and various dry or emerger mayfly patterns usually work in early June. We also had plans to watch the new fly-fishing movie “Mending the Line” on Amazon Prime.


After getting a handle on our plans, we sampled some fine bourbon I brought back from the Spokane CX3 last October and a couple favorite craft beers that Wayne Parmley and Joe Peikert brought to share.  After enjoying Mike Salas’s famous nachos and dip and my wife Karen’s chili, followed by chocolate chip bars from Karen Giese, I started the movie. I don’t want to be a spoiler but I don’t think it’s going to be the new blockbuster fly fishing movie like “A River Runs Through It.” That film took fly fishing from an elite specialized passion for a few, into a new trendy lifestyle for many. It brought new people into the sport and the fly shops loved it.


“Mending the Line” is about a group of U.S. Marines with PTSD and the struggles they have after returning from war. The film, while sad and tragic, brings the very real problem to the forefront that many soldiers are experiencing. Not surprisingly, fly fishing is featured as an effective therapy. It was uplifting at the end of the film knowing that the sport of fly fishing is not only just plain fun but also has a healing effect for many. I think anyone who fishes and has a stressful job, or anyone who has lost a loved one, was given a scary diagnosis or experienced any kind of tragedy can relate to how rivers and fly fishing can be therapeutic.


I am retired now but I had a very stressful job as a Police Officer and Detective in Milwaukee’s inner city for nearly 30 years. I always felt that I had a stable mindset and the right attitude.  Most of the time I was able to leave the violence, hostility and tragedies at work and not take it home with me, but not always.


I did not serve in the Military and am not trying to compare the stress from my job with that of soldiers who have PTSD. My only point is that fly fishing can be beneficial to many and anyone reading this probably already knows that. I was fortunate to have a family cabin to go to in Waushara County and, of course, trout fishing. It was my outlet to relieve stress.


The trout stream was and still is my happy place. The stress and problems seem to go away at least while I am focused on fishing. Of course, they don’t go away, but at least after spending time on a trout stream I feel renewed and more ready to tackle the struggles that life brings. Even the sounds and smells along a trout stream have a positive and pleasing affect.  The sound of water trickling over rocks, the pounding of hooves as a deer runs away and stops to snort. The squawking of birds, squirrels and other small creatures that object to you intruding in their habitat. I enjoy the smell of pine trees and ferns along the river and that sweet smell of trout on your hands after releasing a fish.


There are some notable lines in the movie by one of the lead actors Brian Cox. “Standing in the river you become part of it. A small piece of the grandness that surrounds us.” That reminds me of the famous quote by an unknown author that says “Trout don’t live in ugly places” or something like that. The term “healing waters” is a real thing. Even when the fishing isn’t great, just being out in nature and spending time with good friends makes it all worth it.


My friends know that John Gierach is my favorite author, and I quote him often. Perhaps no-one has ever said it better than Gierach in these two quotes:


“They say you forget your troubles on a trout stream, but that’s not quite it. What happens is that you begin to see where your troubles fit into the grand scheme of things, and suddenly they’re just not such a big deal anymore.”


“The solution to any problem , work, love, money, whatever, is to go fishing, and the worse the problem, the longer the trip should be.”


Tom Meyer - Central Wisconsin Chapter of TU