On the Fly: We can find our humanity in our fishing journeys through natural world

Michael Attas
On the Fly
Dr. Michael Attas on the Fryingpan River.
Courtesy of Guadalupe Laiz Photography of Aspen

I have always seen my life in terms of landscape and journey. My earliest memories are of water, sky, mountains, and streams. I have been inspired by the natural world in ways that, even in my later stage in life, are both fulfilling and mystifying. 

For one who was trained as a scientist, I see things in very mystical and weird ways. I look for the meaning when it is elusive. I look for metaphor when my rational brain tells me that a rock is just a rock and a storm is just a storm. I search for and see trout in my sleep. I believe that time spent in nature exploring the wonders of fish and their habitat teaches us more about ourselves and our lives than we would ever learn otherwise. We find our humanity and wrestle with its dark side: fear, desire, failure, and weakness.

Like most of us, I am enchanted with the notion of journey. I have done my share of wonderful road trips —  I love to explore wander, dream, and engage creation on its own terms. The human spirit is always best expressed in terms of journey. In my life in medicine, I meet people in all stages of journeying. They are the walking, the broken, the wounded, and the glorious. Fishing captures and symbolizes the completeness of the human spirit and journey. I see each journey to the river as a tiny recapitulation of my own humanity, and the things I share in common with my fellow travelers.

Early in my flyfishing career, I remember telling a friend that there is so much to learn! Some 40 years later, that is still true.  Every trip, I learn something new about rivers, fish, and the natural world. Most importantly, I learn something new about myself. Every encounter with the waters of our planet draws me deeper into who I am and who I want to become.

(Excerpts, originally published in Fly Fishing — the Sacred Art, by Rabbi Eric Eisenkramer and Rev. Michael Attas, MD, Skylight Paths Publishing)

Dr. Michael Attas is a friend of Taylor Creek Fly Shops in Aspen and Basalt, which provides this report each week. Taylor Creek can be reached at 970-927-4374 or