What Are You Holding On To? And What Can You Let Go Of?

My friend Peter Dawson is a fly-fisher. He has caught more fish than anyone I know. And he’s never brought one home.

I find that idea fascinating.

He told me it is what those who fish call “catch-and-release.”

It is about being part of nature, including both the struggle and the beauty.

It is a time of reflection, of contemplation, and just allowing the experience to occur.

The line from your reel connects you in a way that you did not feel before.

As you wait, the connection deepens.

Then a fish strikes, and you are bonded.

Reeling in, artfully, letting go of some line, pulling it back, coaxing the fish to you, sharing a dance with nature, in the struggle, there is a giving in, a releasing, and an acceptance.

“It’s like nature has painted this beautiful moment. And you have become part of it,” Peter said, trying to explain why he does not bring any fish home.

Fly fishing, the way he describes it, is an art form.

“Part of it is also the craft of having the right fly, the right presentation, and dragging it through the water in just the right way, so that at the right moment, you can fool a fish,” Peter said. “Still, once you’ve fooled a beautiful rainbow trout, it would just be a crime to kill it.”

So, instead, Peter brings this exquisite fish up in his net, gently takes it off the hook, revives it, and lets it swim back out to where it came from. And every time he does that, he smiles to himself, and says, “Back to nature. Have a nice day!”

He paused, then added, “Honestly, when I was younger, I used to hunt. But once that bird comes down or that rabbit falls, you can’t release it.”

Shaking his head, Peter said, “That’s why fishing intrigues me. Because you can catch the same fish two or three times or more.”

Has he ever thought or imagined that he caught the same fish again?

“Oh, I know I have,” he said, immediately. “More times than I can count. You get to know them.”

Catch-and-release.

I started wondering if there was anything else like that.

The notion of not needing to hold on to something we have captured.

Or something that has captured us.

What are those things we hold onto?

The things that happen to us.

Things that occur.

Some of which may be beautiful.

Some of which may not.

Sometimes we carry those things with us.

And sometimes they seem to carry us.

Why do we hold on to some experiences so tightly?

Why do we struggle with them as if they had us on a hook and were reeling us in?

Why do we allow some experiences to define us?

Why can’t we just let go of them?

What if we were able to hold such memories at arm’s length, gently take them off the hook, revive them, and let them swim back out to where they came from?

Then smile, as we said, “Back to nature. Have a nice day!”