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The Leaf

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The Leaf

The Leaf

Fly CatcherI had several choices of where to go and what to do, but I was drawn to the river that day. I was going fishing. At least that was what I had in mind when I headed down to my favorite stretch of the Musconetcong.

The “Musky,” as it is called by the locals, is a sweet little river with riffles sparkling in the sun. It had been a while since I’d cast a fly rod, since in the recent past I’d only been Spey fishing. Technically speaking, a Spey rod is also a type of a fly rod but it is a totally different, two-handed system. The singlehanded rod felt light and vaguely unfamiliar in my hand and I feared I might be a tad rusty.

On this particular day, the sky was dotted with clouds so the light through the trees was intermittently sun dappled and then diffuse. It was early spring with chartreuse leaves unfurling in the trees. The air was still and the soothing sound of water played in the background of my senses. The water is still cold at that time of year, so I was geared up with polar fleece and heavy socks underneath my waders and boots.

Quietly I moved down the gentle sloping bank until I stood in the river at about knee depth. Line pulled off the reel, an attractive little fly attached, I made my first cast…and then the next and the next, as I rhythmically made my way downstream, one step at a time with only the wildlife to mark my passing.

A fox eyed a pair of Canadian geese, sizing them up for a potential meal. Birds flew about the canopy, and a merganser duck swam upstream. It was too early in the season for the duck to be trailed yet by a dozen or more chicks.

As I made my way down to the farmhouse stretch, a cheerful little riffle where the water dances its way over rocks before emptying into a pool, I caught in my periphery a small leaf hanging from a high branch, fluttering in the wind.

How odd, I thought. There isn’t any breeze today.
I looked more closely.
Is that a bird? Is it snagged up somehow?…Yes –Yes it is!

Fly Catcher with FlyThe branch with the frightened bird was hanging over the far side of the stream, too high for me to reach. I waded ashore, leaned my fly rod on a bush and picked up a stick. Wading back out beneath the limb I used the stick to snag the branch, pulling it down until it was within my grasp. Snapping the entire thing off, I turned my attention to the little creature that was fluttering wildly now. The bird appeared to be a small flycatcher of some sort: gray with a black head and tan sides. But I didn’t take much time to gather details as it quickly became apparent the source of its plight.

Someone else had obviously been to this fishing hole before me. Not surprising, of course, as this stretch of the Musky is part of the fishing club to which I belong. The angler that came before me had also been fishing with a single-handed rod and had clearly made a “bad” cast as his fly had landed in the trees rather than in the spot that was his intent. It’s easy to snag a tree or bush when the limbs hang over the river unless you make your cast just so. I’ve been to some places where the trees look ready for Christmas all year round, decked out with bright colored lures and flies left by anglers over the years.

By this point the little bird was understandably in a panic, flapping and flittering it’s heart out in an attempt to get away. Of course from his perspective I was a huge predator. Gently I closed my hand around him smoothing his frantic wings against his sides so that I could get a closer look at how he was trapped against this branch – at what was preventing his escape. The problem was tiny, oh-so-tiny, yet-oh so-strong.

The angler who came before me had left a little “trico” upon the limb, likely on a size 22 hook, so small as to be almost unseeable, with minuscule translucent white wings that imitate a trico fly. The bird had obviously been fooled by this imitation as he had attempted to catch a meal and had been caught instead.

I could feel the frantic beating of the fly catcher’s tiny heart as I gently eased the hook from his beak. I flung the offending branch and fly into the bushes and looked into the eye of the wild creature and as I opened my hand, he took wing.

By now it was dusk, the magic time when trout often surface to catch a meal. But I had thoroughly disturbed the pool where I was standing and no rising fish were in sight.

That’s alright, I realized as I waded ashore to retrieve my rod. Today’s catch and release wasn’t about trout. I had just thought I was going fishing. If I hadn’t been there to see the “leaf” fluttering when there was no wind, that little bird would have died.

Breathing deeply as day turned to night I headed for home, feeling quietly satisfied at an afternoon well spent.

Since 1987, internationally acclaimed authors, seminar leaders, podcast/radio show hosts and business consultants Ariel and Shya Kane have acted as guides, leading people through the swamp of the mind into the clarity and brilliance of the moment. Find out more about the Kanes, their seminars in NYC, Germany and Costa Rica, the Say YES to Your Life! Meetups their work has inspired, their Being Here podcast or join their email newsletter. Also get information about their award-winning books. Their newest book, Being Here…Too, is available on Amazon.comBarnesandNoble.com and everywhere books are sold.

Books by Ariel & Shya Kane

Catch and Release, An Angler’s Guide to Enlightenment

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Catch and Release, An Angler’s Guide to Enlightenment

Catch and Release,
An Angler’s Guide to Enlightenment

By Ariel & Shya Kane

Ariel & ShyaIt has been many years since we have caught fish for food. Back then we had never heard of the practice of “catch and release.” In those days, we would go to a lake, fish for the day and pull in our catch without particular thought to what we would do with the fish after. We would eat as much as we could, give away the rest but from time to time the catch was more than we could consume. Never having seen it done, it simply never occurred to us that one could hook a fish and then simply free it to swim back to its fishy home in the murky depths, rushing river or the deep blue sea.

Then we were introduced to the sport of fly fishing and ultimately to the idea of catch and release. Nowadays when we go fishing, you will find us in the midst of nature, casting a fly in order to see a fish up close and personal before we release it back to its watery world.

It wasn’t too long ago that we realized that catch and release can be a lifestyle as well. Most people go about their lives gathering realizations and holding on to them as if they need the extra food in order to survive. But that is a bit like putting a fish in your pocket to eat for later. It stinks!

As you go about the waking up process, as you go about your day with awareness, and ultimately as awareness becomes a lifestyle, you will see many things. You will see what knocks you off balance. You will see what brings you back to center again. You will discover hidden talents, and you will see mechanical behaviors that no longer serve you. Yet, if you try to hold onto what you have seen and tuck it away to be taken out and remembered and played with and teased out over time, this magical freeing moment of “aha” will become a slick and slimy mess.

So next time you see something about yourself, something that reveals itself spontaneously or even after years of searching, let it go. Simply slip it free of the hooks in your mind and go back to fishing again. There are plenty of fish in the sea. You don’t need a stash to prove to yourself that you are getting somewhere. You don’t need to store them so that you will survive for another day. Simply cast out again and keep fishing.

Since 1987, internationally acclaimed authors, seminar leaders, radio show hosts and business consultants Ariel and Shya Kane have acted as guides, leading people through the swamp of the mind into the clarity and brilliance of the moment. Find out more about the Kanes, their seminars in NYC, in the UKGermany and Costa Rica, the Say YES to Your Life! Meetups their work has inspired, their Being Here radio show or join their email newsletter. Also get information about their award-winning books.  Their newest book, Practical Enlightenment, is now available on Amazon.com.

A Surprisingly Sweet Morning

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A Surprisingly Sweet Morning

A Surprisingly Sweet Morning

By Ariel & Shya Kane

The set up to our surprisingly sweet morning happened the day before. It was mid–August and Shya and I were in the midst of a trip to Oregon to visit my parents and to spend a couple of days fly fishing on the Deschutes River.

douglasfirsMy parents live in my childhood home of Gresham, a suburb of Portland. Their home abuts a forested area and the Douglas firs tower above – stately sentinels, old and moss laden. I like to stand at the base of those trees and gaze up to admire the sunlight shafting through the bows that march up the trunks in orderly rows.

At 86 and 85 years respectively, Mom and Dad enjoy our company, as we do theirs, and our visits are very relaxed affairs. The night before our fishing adventure to Eastern Oregon we set up the coffee and packed a lunch. We awoke early to the smell of coffee, toast and bacon, as my mom was up long before dawn to see us on our way.

Two hours later it was still dark when we met up with our guide Brian at the Imperial River Inn in Maupin. Excited for a day on the water we stowed our gear in his pickup truck and, boat in tow, we went to the area where we would launch. As the sky just began to show the barest hints of light, we all loaded into the drift boat and Brian began to row downstream to our first destination, as anticipation of the day before us filled our hearts and minds.

Although it was hard to believe, we weren’t the first on the water. A couple of drift boats had managed to put in before us. Stifling a curse Brian continued downstream as the other anglers had already taken up residence in his favorite spots.

river-columnar-basaltWe love fishing and particularly love using our spey rods – long two handed fly rods that turn the art of fishing into a graceful dance. The rest of the day was a ballet of loops and line arcing out over the rush of the river; watching it swing downstream in hopes that a Steelhead (an ocean going trout that returns to the river to spawn) is intrigued by the fishing fly passing by their nose enough to take a bite. Cast, swing, two steps down is the cadence of this dance and it is a quiet, restive meditation where each cast is its own reward and the tug of a fish on the end of the line is an occasional bonus.

The day turned out to be glorious, hot and dry. We drifted past magnificent stretches of columnar basalt cliffs and high above we saw a couple of big horn sheep, their stout bodies supporting their massive cornucopia curls of horn.

columnar-basalt-detail“Do you mind,” Brian eventually said, “if we start a little earlier tomorrow morning? It would be nice if we could get a head start so that we can get on the river before first light and so we aren’t following anyone.”

Our reply was an enthusiastic “Yes!”

The day ended with each of us having caught and released one fish. We went to dinner that night at the little restaurant associated with the hotel blissfully exhausted by our day on the water. After eating we took a shower, set an alarm for 4am, poured ourselves into bed and enjoyed a night of deep, deep sleep.

Our iPhone alarm roused us at 4am and we were surprisingly alert given the hour. Of course that is often the case on fishing mornings. They awaken in us the childlike anticipation of large swimming creatures lurking in the deep awaiting a chance encounter with our fly.

Our luggage was mostly packed so it was easy to house the remaining toiletries in our bags. We had left our waders hanging up so it was a simple matter to slip into our warm socks, long–johns, fleece pants and fishing shirts before donning our waders and pulling on our wading boots. As is our habit, we did a final check of the room to make sure we weren’t leaving anything of ours and, wheeling our bags behind us, we exited the room to the walkway.

The room spilled directly outdoors and we brought our bags to our rental car to leave them in the trunk for when we returned in the late afternoon. We had set up an automatic check out so after our day of fishing, we planned to have a bite to eat and then drive back to my parent’s house for the night.

It was now about 4:15 and the business of getting ready accomplished, we used our keycards to let us into the dining area that was preset for fisher folk and early travelers to use so that staff didn’t have to be on hand at that early hour.

Since we were the first patrons that morning we flipped the switch on the coffee maker and the pungent smell of fresh java soon filled the air. There were breakfast sandwiches, cold and instant cereal but we each elected to snag a couple of hard–boiled eggs and an apple. Food and cup of Joe in hand we headed outside to await the arrival of our guide Brian in his extended cab pick–up, hauling his drift boat behind.

Happily we set about consuming our food and sipping the hot black coffee. We were pleased to be ready before he arrived and eager to be out on the river before first light. It was still jet black out and in the high desert air the stars splashed across the sky like fistfuls of diamonds. 20 minutes later Brian still had not arrived so we sat on the end of the aggregate walkway, our legs stretched out before us, boots resting in the parking lot. 40 minutes later, still no Brian. By now we knew something was amiss. But given the circumstances, we had very little recourse to rectify the situation. There are no phones in the rooms at the Inn, our cell phone didn’t have reception in the area, and even if we did have phone service there would have been nowhere to call since we didn’t have Brian’s number and the fishing company where we booked our trip was not open yet. We briefly considered going back to our room but realized that if Brian did eventually show up that he would have no way to find us since the office wasn’t open and he would have no way of knowing our room number. There were two options remaining – get upset and complain or enjoy our morning. Getting upset wasn’t actually an option. What would it accomplish other than to ruin our mood and spoil our day? So we leaned into one another and enjoyed the quiet.

mountain-riverAs the sky began to grey, birds began to rustle. The smell of sage wafted on a slight breeze, insects hummed. We enjoyed the warmth of each other as we sat shoulder to shoulder, quietly chatting about inconsequential things. Our morning was unfolding in an unforeseen manner and we found the experience surprisingly sweet and intimate. All forward momentum in our lives was forestalled and what was left was the moment and being there for it.

Eventually Brian came roaring up, apologetic and highly embarrassed. He had overslept. His wife had awakened him saying, “Brian, aren’t you working this morning?” around about the time he was supposed to be picking us up. The problem was he lived 45 minutes away and when he awoke he still had to hitch up the boat trailer as well as stop by the fly shop for supplies before picking us up. And just as we had no way of contacting him, he could not reach us either.

We felt for Brian. It must have been a very uncomfortable ride knowing he was late. He had to have been rehearsing his apologies, knowing that the fact it had never, ever happened before (and would likely never happen again) would be of little consequence. He must have been surprised and a bit skeptical when we told him it was OK…actually more than OK. We were just fine and had been enjoying each other’s company and the dawn of our new day.

Sometimes life shows up with unexpected twisting and turnings. If you are there for them the results can be surprisingly sweet.

Since 1987, internationally acclaimed authors, seminar leaders, radio show hosts and business consultants Ariel and Shya Kane have acted as guides, leading people through the swamp of the mind into the clarity and brilliance of the moment. Find out moreabout the Kanes, their seminars in NYC, in the UKGermany and Costa Rica, the Say YES to Your Life! Meetups their work has inspired, their Being Here radio show or join their email newsletter. Also get information about their award-winning books.  Their newest book, Practical Enlightenment, is now available on Amazon.com.


Bug Magic By Ariel & Shya Kane

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Bug Magic By Ariel & Shya Kane

Bug Magic
By Ariel Kane

One night I pulled into our local Pilot station to fill up our Prius with gas. To my surprise, as I stepped out of the car there were hundreds of Mayflies dancing in the overhead lights and alighting on my windshield, hood and top of the car. I am used to seeing Mayflies near rivers as they are aquatic insects whose life cycle is one that fisher folk follow closely since these delicate flying insects are a major food source for trout. I was unaware that the Pilot station was located anywhere near water but it must have been because the air was thick with Pale Evening Duns, the light yellow Mayflies that hatch in the spring and summer.

The young man who fills the tanks stepped over and I offered my credit card and asked him to fill it up with regular. He began swatting the air grumbling, “I hate bugs! They’re everywhere.”

His comment took me aback. Mosquitos, sure, I hate those, too. But Mayflies? As I stood there with the gas meter ticking in the background I realized how one is enculturated to hate some things and accept others. How we are taught to get the heebee-jeebees about certain things and how we learn to take others in stride. And often how, once we learn to “hate” something, we hate it forever without really taking another look.

As a country girl, growing up in Oregon, we didn’t have the video games and other diversions that kids have nowadays so when my sisters and I played outside we invented games with leaves and insects, salamanders and mice. Being toted up the hill on the back of a tricycle cost a handful of leaves. Soup served in the playhouse consisted of wild peppermint in water. Little field mice were trapped under up-side-down berry cartons and inspected at our leisure through the green plastic mesh. And grasshoppers were caught at Grandma’s house. We could be heard shrieking and squealing our childish delight as their feet tickled our hands and as they bounded away in unpredictable trajectories.

My grandfather had also taken me fishing in my youth, to a little river just below Mt. Hood. The Zig Zag River was a source of wonder and he introduced me to “Periwinkles”. These creatures hung onto the underside of rocks in the river, their shells a cocoon of tiny pebbles. We would peel them and use the “worm” inside to bait our hooks to catch hungry trout. I now know that Periwinkles were just a name my Grandpa made up and that these bugs are actually the larval stage of a Caddis Fly, also a favorite of trout. But when I was a child I knew nothing of bug magic. Periwinkles were just one of the small details of daily living taken for granted and filed away in the recesses of one’s childhood memories, seldom dusted off or reexamined in later life.

As my husband Shya and I became more interested in the art of fly fishing, particularly on rivers, we were introduced to entomology, the science of bugs. I learned that Mayflies, for instance, mate in the air and the female lays her fertilized eggs on the water, which then float down to the riverbed where they gestate and turn into the larval stage. Eventually the larva swim to the top of the water column, where they shed their case and emerge to fly away and start the cycle once again. That’s why trout will eat the larva, the immerging flies as they swim toward the sky or the flies as they dance on top of the water, dropping their eggs. They will also key in on the spinners, spent bugs who have mated and fall back to the surface to be eaten or reabsorbed into the river itself.

There have been days on the river when I have seen a patchy fog of gnats, a smoky winged haze as millions undulate millimeters above the water’s surface skin as far as the eye can see. At times there are Trico spinners masquerading as gossamer tree fluff floating weightlessly down toward the water’s slick surface. It is easy to watch their effortless descent only to be surprised as they abruptly change direction and dance skyward on translucent white wings.

As I stood by my car, I watched the buttery colored Mayflies, dainty ballerinas, wings erect, waiting to make their entrance on a watery stage. I did so with a sense of wonder, of childlike innocence.

When my tank was full and the pump clicked off, the attendant returned. “Damned bugs,” he said as he removed the nozzle, replaced my fuel cap and closed the fuel door. No, I thought. It’s magic. Bug Magic.


Since 1987, internationally acclaimed authors, seminar leaders, radio show hosts and business consultants Ariel and Shya Kane have acted as guides, leading people through the swamp of the mind into the clarity and brilliance of the moment. Find out more about the Kanes, their seminars in NYC, in the UK, Germany and Costa Rica, the Say YES to Your Life! Meetups their work has inspired, their Being Here radio show or join their email newsletter. Also get information about their award-winning books. Their newest book, Practical Enlightenment, is now available on Amazon.com.

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The Kindness of Strangers By Ariel & Shya Kane

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7th Wave
The Kindness of Strangers By Ariel & Shya Kane


Have you ever thought about the impact that a simple act of kindness can make, how being generous can ripple out in time and alter a person’s life forever? A young man and his buddy were incredibly kind to my wife Ariel and I and our lives have never been the same. In fact, his unhesitating willingness to be so unstinting with his knowledge, time and expertise became our springboard into the art of fly fishing and it has radically influenced our life paths.

Having grown up near the ocean in Far Rockaway, NY, I have always been drawn to fishing, but came to be a fly fisherman somewhat later in life. When I was about 50 years of age, a friend of mine mentioned in passing that I might really enjoy fly fishing and that I should look into it. Not long after, Ariel and I flew to Oregon to visit her family in her hometown of Gresham, a suburb of Portland. While there, Ariel and I borrowed her parent’s car and drove to a local sporting goods store, GI Joe’s. We walked in and saw an entire array of goods from balls and jerseys to hunting gear and guns, but right in the middle of the store there was a case that held fly fishing reels and a stand with fly rods, also. I immediately noticed that while there was at least some similarity to the spin fishing rods that I was familiar with, clearly they were different.

A young man stepped up behind the counter. He was medium tall, lean with thick dark hair, wearing a blue button down shirt and chinos. Although he was young, undoubtedly only a year or two out of high school, when he said, “Can I help you?” I thought it very likely that he could.

“What’s your name?” I asked.


“Well Gil, I am interested in fly fishing but really know nothing about it.” Looking at the rods, reels, lines and other gear displayed before me I said, “If money wasn’t an issue, what would you recommend I get to get started?”

“What do you want to fish for?” He asked.

“I don’t know. What is there?”

“Well, there are trout and steelhead.” He replied.

“I guess trout then.” I said. “That is what we have in upstate New York where I live.”

Gil was indeed extremely knowledgeable. He patiently explained some of the rudimentary differences between spin and fly fishing – such as when you use a spinning rod, the heft of the lure pulls the line out behind it. But with fly fishing, the fly, so called because they were originally constructed to imitate flying aquatic insects, has virtually no weight at all. The line itself, Gil explained, has the weight and by using the rod like a lever the weighted line draws the fly behind it.

I don’t know what moved me to be so bold with this young stranger. Perhaps it was his innate kindness. Perhaps it was his experience that so outstripped mine. Perhaps it was his openness and patience. But whatever the inspiration, after I paid for and collected my exciting new purchase, I placed both hands on the edge of the counter and said, “Will you take me fishing?”

“Yes!” Gil said. “I’d be happy to!”

I don’t recall how we made all the detailed plans. I do know that Gil and his friend Rob were avid fly fisherman and that before I left that day I had Gil’s phone number and a promise for a trip to the Deschutes River in eastern Oregon.

The next day, Ariel and I flew back home to where we were living near Woodstock, New York overlooking the Ashokan reservoir. Inspired by my recent purchase, I drove to the nearest little fly fishing shop in Phoenicia. As I was standing there, looking over the confusing assortment flies one might need to fly fish in that area, a man hurried into the shop and said, “Am I too late to still take part in the fly casting class?” When the owner replied, “No we haven’t started yet.” I hastily said, “Can I come, too?”

On that day I cast a fly rod for the very first time. I then went down to the river and hooked and released my very first rainbow trout. But truth be told, that fish hooked me. Ariel soon took a class and also caught a little trout – although she and I still laugh that she caught her first fish behind her when her fly accidentally hit the water on a “bad” cast and a fish grabbed it.

In a matter of a few short months Ariel and I flew back to Oregon for our trip with Gil and his buddy Rob. It turned out that Rob had won a Driftboat in a raffle and he and Gil were prepared to not only take us down the Deschutes River, but also to provide us with an overnight camping trip. Nervous but enthusiastic, with our brand new gear including waders, we were prepared to begin an adventure. We had no clue that it would be the beginning of a way of life that would eventually take us all over the world.

Perhaps Gil and Rob had excellent teachers themselves. But whatever the reason, they were extremely patient and kind with Ariel and me. Years later, I finally caught a 180 lb. blue marlin on a fly rod off the coast of Costa Rica and Ariel has caught multiple world records with the International Game Fish Association, including the largest pacific sailfish ever recorded caught by a woman. The things they taught us on that initial trip we had mastered. But we actually began to learn them and learn them correctly right from the beginning. For instance when a powerful fish grabs your fly, you can’t immediately try to stop them as they race away or they will break off. It is true for trout and also true for a marlin or sailfish. If you want to hook a fish you can’t have a lot of extra slack in your line or they will taste the fly and spit it out before you have a chance to draw the line tight. I actually remember Gil giving Ariel gentle instructions about this on that first trip.

“Ariel, take a look at your flyline. If the fish were to hit now, would you be ready?”

She saw the big, wide and lazy S shapes of line scrolling out down the river and could see that she would have to take up the slack in order to be ready when the fish took the fly. Toward the end of the first day, not only did we catch trout, but when we got to our camping spot Gil and Rob encouraged us to keep fishing while they got out a tent and set it up for us, placing in sleeping bags they had brought for our use. Then they made us a meal over a campfire. At the end of the trip we were well satisfied, exhausted, and very grateful. Although we had paid for the food provisions, both Gil and Rob said that what they wanted in payment was…. absolutely nothing. At the end of our adventure, we asked once again to give the pair something but they said no, it wasn’t legal. They weren’t guides and said they couldn’t accept payment for the trip – it had to be a trip between friends.

Over the last 20-some years Ariel and I have gone on to catch many fish both large and small. We’ve traveled from Alaska to the tip of South America, from a river in New Mexico to deep-sea fishing in Costa Rica, from the Seychelles off the coast of Africa to the fjords of Quebec. I lost touch with Gil for many years. I tried to track him down through his family but never managed to get in touch. I wanted him and Rob to know how grateful I was and still am for all they have given me. And I wanted them to know the difference they have made in my life. I was absolutely certain that they had no idea how their kindness would make an impact.

Recently I found Gil and Rob on Facebook. Rob now owns Water Time Outfitters and Gil works for him as a fishing guide. I must admit I was surprised when I saw a current picture of them to see them both as middle-age men with the families of their own. In my mind’s eye they are still barely out of school, wide eyed youths who had time, enthusiasm, and the willingness to so generously give us a gift. I am profoundly grateful for the kindness of two strangers.


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