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It Starts and Ends with Heart

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By John R Childress
Author: Fly Fishing for Leadership

Fly fishing starts way before you step into the river. It begins with the dream of being there, of making the arrangements, of talking to friends about an upcoming trip, of gathering equipment, choosing the right flies, dreaming of that first pull. ~Ali Gentry Flota

While fishing the North Fork of the Clearwater River in the Bitterroot Mountains of Montana with my older brother, we came upon a curious sight. On the bank next to the river was a wooden cross with an old straw hat stuck on top, and the initials “DM” written on the wood. It was too far from the road to mark a car accident, and after some discussion, it occurred to us just what this streamside marker might represent.

Our opinion was, this wooden shrine marked a much-loved section of the river of an avid fly fisher. We also assumed his fishing friends or family built and placed the cross and used his favorite hat. It looked like new construction and would certainly not survive the winter snows and the high spring water. We both looked at each other, and the same thoughts passed through our minds. “Not bad for a final resting place”!

We left the river and were back in Sandpoint, Idaho by 11 pm. I was definitely exhausted, from the driving, not the fishing. Somehow the brisk mountain air, the soothing sounds of the river, and the sight of the little grave marker had healed those parts of my soul that get bruised through city living.

Several months later I received a message in my email in response to a blog I wrote about the Clearwater trip. It read:

John. Thanks for your blog and the photo. That is a marker we left on the side of the Clearwater River this year to memorialize my dad, who grew up fishing that river. We lost Dad to diabetes on April 5, 2011, and he is greatly missed. Each year when we visit the North Fork, it brings us closer to him again.

Every year we replace his marker as we know it won’t last from year to year. My dad had no happier place on earth. This past year, his mother and brother passed away and we are going back to the Clearwater, spreading their ashes and placing two more crosses.

Fly fishing is much more than a sport, it’s a life well lived, and well loved

I often wonder why people fall in love with fly fishing. And it’s not the kind of love a football fan has for a team. It seems to be deeper and less about the wins and losses than the personal feeling of connectedness to something bigger than myself. In many ways, fly fishing is an extension of who I am, and also the kind of person I want to become. ~Greg Keenan

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