You have to think like a fish.

I caught this wisdom on my first fly-fishing expedition. I didn’t throw it back, the way I did the only rainbow trout I caught in eight hours of wading and waiting in Clear Creek outside of Leadville, Colo.

Trout, come to find out, like to lurk in holes — stiller and deeper water that doesn’t cost much effort to hold steady in as they counter the current. Sometimes they sit on the calmer side of rocks, spying unsuspecting floating insects that would be food. Sometimes they frustratingly keep their own counsel and defy our Intel.

There’s an art to fly-fishing that goes beyond skill. How to cast a line with patient grace, without wristy violence, with purpose and repose. How to let the line fall so gently that the artificial fly barely breaks the surface the way a true fly would, thus not spooking hungry fish from biting. How to allow the fake fly to drift along at the same speed as the stream by mending the line so as not to sink the lure, slow it, or speed it. This is only the beginning.

As fly-fishing goes, I am a pretty good golfer. Yet the principles of this graceful angling extend beyond hobbies to human relations, too.

Friendships, marriages, neighborhood and workplace relations would profit by the sagacity, “Think like a fish.”

Think like the one you would like to catch or please or profit by. Imagine what the other person would imagine. Rather than foisting your own tastes or habits or ideals on others, get inside their mind and heart, and act accordingly.

Granted, the analogy slips the hook, since in human relations we are not — or should not be — trying to trick someone into being our prey the way we do when angling for brook trout. But we would all love more passionately, care more deeply, and succeed more regularly if we learned to see the world through the eyes of others instead of insisting on our own view.

St. Francis of Assisi wrote the familiar prayer that includes the line: “Lord, grant that I may understand more than be understood.”

Christians claim that God heals the world from the inside out. God’s ways are more mysterious than our imaginings, but it’s not hard to imagine the catch of joy for all of us if we got hooked on this wisdom.


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