"A River Runs Through it" and Mental Health

Guys and Gals,

I have an inquiry. I am a Case Manager for a youth suicide residential facilty here in yakima. There is a strange phenomana I wanted to run by you guys and get some imput on.

Most of my patients have ADHD or a bunch of other mental illness problems. They are very active and sometimes out of control. Many of them have been abused when they were younger and all of them are suicidal.

But an interesting thing happens when a river runs through it comes on, or I bring out my fly rod. everything gets quite, every one in the facility stops what they are doing to watch the film or watch me cast, or they want to try to cast. This does not happen with any other movie or any other activity. These kids, regardless of thier diagnosis, are captivated by the thought of fly fishing.

anyone know why? could it be that fly fishing, casting are theraputic? what is it that makes adhd kids relax with a fly rod in there hands?

Any imputs gents? -


I hope she likes whitefish
Very interesting Mike!

I don't know the answer, but I can tell you this; there is something almost magical about the way fly line moves through the air with a good cast that makes me relax. Fly fishing has become my escape...my outlet to recharge my batteries. I can guess the same goes for them. With everything else in life, I'm sure these kids can make a connection to their past or troubles, but with fly casting, they forget all and just focus on the line, timing, rythmic motion, and the shear art of it. And maybe, just maybe some of them think to themselves, "wow, that's amazing...I'd love to try that someday." I think it's great that you're exposing them to something they're not familiar with that captivates their attention. Who knows, maybe you've stumbled onto a new form of therapy. Run with it man, there are no rules that say it can't work!


Active Member
The soul and the mind are always at war. One keeps to the now, the other is constantly trying to wander off to what was, and what will be. Fly fishing is one of those things that forces the mind to reside with the soul firmly in the now, and both the mind and the soul sit in quiet anticipation of the bounty of the river.

Sounds hokey, but somewhere in there is a nugget of truth.
As a former teacher, and a lover of flyfishing and that particular movie, I would say that its the act of fly fishing that is intriguing them. The movie portrays it as this great talent that is easy to pick up but hard to master. The movie is very peaceful and calming as it is, and fly fishing is rythmic process, that can be peaceful as well. Kids in my class that had ADHD or ADD needed something tactile 99% of the time to bring them out of their whirlwind motions. So I can see why they are intrigued about the sport, especially when you see two good actors glorifying this great sport. I would go to your local shops and see if they can donate rods and get these kids on a river. I can only imagine the reaction one of these troubled kids would have when snag a huge trout for the first time. Or just getting out into nature and being able to hike to a peaceful river where their jumbled minds can just relax and appreciate the world around them. If you need extra rods, and dealers or stores won't help I am sure you could post something on here, I would be happy to give up a one of mine for kids like that. I live in Everett but I would be glad to help in anyway. PM if anything comes up.
Read everything you can by Joan Salvato Wulff. Buy a fly rod, line, leader material and some yarn. Flyborg pretty much sums it up. I'm a musician and fly fishing produces much the same state of mind as improvising musically. Anticipate some frustration and anxiety from the "students".

Ed Call

Well-Known Member
The mesmerizing movement of the fly line, the surface of the water, the rhythm of the body and rod in motion...

The constant yet different sound of the river, the force of the current as it works around you and the smell of the water in the air...

Tough not to pay attention to something that so engages the senses. I don't know why but I can see how it could be very alluring to anyone.


Membership Pending
I think it comes down to beauty and rhythms. The book (and I think the movie too) is about a man who is out of rhythm with his family and other aspects of his life. Flyfishing is the thing that connects the family and helps him to re-capture the rhythm of his life (his identity). The beauty (and rhythm) of the line is inherently calming and re-connects the physical, mental and soul together in one activity (at least for me). Your kids are likely disconnected and fractured in all these areas. Fly fishing is one way to re-connect (soothe) them. You might also look into the Healing Waters program. I think that is the one where disabled vets returning from the Middle East go fly fishing. There is likely a way to adapt what they are doing to your kids.
I think you guys need to get over yourselves.....It is a great movie that takes you away so it seems to be more magical than it is.......Such are movies and that is why we watch them. I would argue in a different time and place that our society watches way way way too many movies.

Fly fishing is an excellent way to spend time in the outdoors. Hiking is an excellent way to spend time in the outdoors. Rafting is an excellent way to spend time in the outdoors. Skiing/snowboarding is an excellent way to spend time in the outdoors.

The important thing is the outdoors!

I say that as a lifetime devotee and teacher of fly fishing. It is different for everybody.

Some people get the fly fishing bug and some don't but all people enjoy getting into that peaceful place that only her majesty nature can provide (see my sig).

I also wanted to add a thing about quantum physics: if you think fly fishing is therapeutic and good for your soul than it is! Nothing else matters beyond that!


Active Member
I believe it's the rhythm factor also, as a few others have stated. It's your mind telling your body to sync up, so to speak. I found there are also other activities that give this kind of satisfaction, one being playing ping pong (assuming your opponent can hold a rally) and the other is hitting a speed bag (strange I know, but very rhythmic and soothing). And there is also the beauty of watching someone properly cast a flyrod, it really is mesmerizing.

Rob Zelk

I swing, therefore i am.
The whole movie sets a relaxing tone. The writing, story, everything to the soundtrack takes a relaxing melody. I'm not surprized that your kids like it Michael, the movie is what made me get into fly fishing which was all of seventeen years ago!! Wow, I can't believe its been so many years.

"Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters." - Norman Mclean

Being around water, moving water especially, is very soothing, in a way hypnotic. Add to that being in the beauty of creation and then Fly fishing is just icing on the cake!

Some people get the fly fishing bug. They just want to catch FISH. Others are so wound up in the art of flyfishing, its not about the fish. And many have found a happy medium. There are many reasons why a person fishes. When I used to steelhead all the time, I think I was actually getting addicted to the adrenalin rush you get when you hook up! Oh yes, many of us have a real addiction. Many marriages have not survived it, and that is the truth right there.
Good morning Michael:

Being being diagnosed with ADD I find tying flies and fishing relaxing and satisfying.
For me it's a focus issue more than being hyperactive.
Whether it's on a river, lake, or in the salt, the combination of being outside and focusing on the processes of catching something is theraputic, strangely enough.

I can be be easily distracted if I don't find something mentally constructive or stimulating to do (And why my musical tastes are everything from classical to metal because of it's complexity).

So I can understand why your patients are mesmerized by the movie (the sound of the river) or the movement of the fly line or rod (the timing of the cast?)

Just my two-cents worth..

I am at work so i will respond more when I get off, I just wanted to take a second and thank you guys for such wonderful insight, and great information. I really like where this thread is going.

Itchy Dog

Some call me Kirk Werner
I'm gonna quote Flyborg on his first post- maybe not so much on the second.
I've read that kids with autism really take to fly tying. Seems that all aspects of fly fishing
are good for taming the nervous system.