Fly Fishing as a Spiritual Practice

In recent years, I’ve broadened my understanding of spiritual practices to include fly fishing. For most of my life, my list of spiritual practices included the traditional ones we all think of like prayer, Scripture reading, weekly worship, and sabbath keeping. But thanks to the guidance of some of the great teachers of our faith, like Henri Nouwen who identified a spiritual practice as an “effort to create space for God to act,” I’ve come to understand there are countless other practices that create space for God to act … even fly fishing.

There’s something about standing in the current of a stream casting to a rising trout that slows me down, makes me more attentive to my surroundings, and brings me into the present moment. All these things open me to wonder which creates space for God to act. John Muir’s famous words ring true when I have a fly rod in hand: “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, when nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.”

About a year ago, I added an additional piece to my preparation before getting into a stream. When I park my truck, before taking my fly rod out of its tube and unpacking my waders, I sit quietly for a few moments and pray the following:

O Lord, for the gift of the coming hours on this stream, thank you.

Remind me there is no need to hurry.

Grant me the grace of putting aside what might keep me from being fully present: a worry, a deadline, a sorrow.

Bring me instead into this moment as I slowly:

            piece my fly rod together and seat the reel,

            string the line through the guides,

            tie on a fly,

            put on my waders,

and squeeze my feet into my boots.

Remind me there is no need to hurry.

As I walk to the stream, keep me alert to the sights, sounds and smells:

            the blowing wind through the trees,

            the chatter of birds,

            the colors of wildflowers,

            and the stillness that surrounds me.

Before I step into the moving water, give me the patience to pause that I might:

            observe the currents,

            notice an insect break through the water’s surface,

            enjoy the stream’s beauty,

            and listen for the splash of a rising fish.

Remind me there is no need to hurry.

When I finally step into the stream, may I hold in wonder the ever-present force of its water against my legs.

From my first cast until my last, keep me hopeful for a rise to the fly, the excitement of the tug, and the joy of a fish come to hand.

But even if there are no fish come to hand this day, assure me it is enough to be standing knee-deep in a stream in the presence of your glorious creation.

These things I pray to the One who is the River of Life, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.


Perhaps praying words likes these (or words of your own) before you step into a stream the next time will create space for God to act in you.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you … Isaiah 43:2


  • What are the spiritual practices that God has used to shape your life in the past? Which one or two have been most formative?
  • Consider that fly fishing can be a spiritual practice. The next time you step into a stream, how could you create space for God to act?
  • What is it about fly fishing that awakens you to the deeper things of life?

Steve Ebling  |   June 2022