Teach your Students to Trust and they will Fish for a Lifetime

There is an old Chinese Proverb that says, "Give a man a fish and he will eat for a meal, teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime."  Over the past six weeks in recreational therapy Calo students have been doing just that, fishing.  After learning the basic principles of standard real casting techniques, Calo students broke out the waders and the fly rods and have been learning how to fly fish.  It has been an incredibly frustrating experience for both staff and students.  A great deal of time has been spent untying knots that were miraculously created while learning the overhead and roll casts.  Hooks have snuck their way into the most difficult and hard to reach places snagging branches high in the trees and deep underwater.  Hooks have also managed to sneak into the fingertips of a couple of unsuspecting students. Throughout this learning process students have learned about fishing, and also about trust.

Trust is a concept that is scary to many of our students.  Due to traumatic experiences in their past, relying on others and allowing responsible adults to take care of their needs is a very frightening experience.  Frequently I am asked what fly fishing and trust have in common.  The answer is simple, nothing.  Fly fishing isnt about trust, fly fishing is about deception, the antithesis of trust. Many of our students are very familiar and unfortunately comfortable with deception.  This becomes very apparent as we tie our own flies. 

The process of tying a fly mimics the process of deception.  A sharp dangerous hook is held in a vice while thread and feathers are decoratively wrapped around it causing it to like a bug.  A good fly pattern mimics the color, length and size of natural bugs while housing a sharp and dangerous hook inside. An unsuspecting bug mistakes the hook for a meal and before it knows it, it is hooked in the mouth, reeled in and served with a side of potatoes.

How is this like your life?  This is one of my favorite processing questions at the end of a therapeutic activity.  The ability to recognize patters and apply principles learned in a group setting to your individual life and experience is the purpose of many of our activities.  We recently returned from our fly fishing trip that marked the end of our trust sequence.  Days were spent fishing, canoeing, cooking meals around an open fire and trying to stay warm and dry while the rain poured down all around us.  Late at night while sitting around a roaring fire, students responded to questions in handmade leather journals.  The exploration of these questions linked the dangers of deception with the experience of fishing.  Who has deceived you in your past and what were the lures you are most likely to fall for?  What are your favorite lures, and who have you deceived in your past? These are only a few of the questions that students responded to.  The following is a poem written by one of our students.  He was instructed to write a poem about the person in his life that he trusts the most.

The two people that I trust the most

Are the two that brought me light when it was dark

The two that helped me up when I was down

The two that still love me when it seems as though no one else can

Those two people are my parents which I love and trust unconditionally

On our camping trip students had opportunities to witness the dangers of deception first hand while they lured in rainbow and brown trout.  They also had opportunities to demonstrate their ability to trust and be trusted.  As canoeing partnerships traveled down the beautiful waters of the Current River, and as groups of girls worked together to fish the waters of the Roaring Rivers Trout Hatchery they were accepting of help.  They sought out guidance.  At one point staff and student worked together, one of them catching fish while the other captured the fish in their net.  Teamwork, communication and patience are all parts of trust that help encourage individuals to build lasting relationships on their journey towards interdependence.