For many people fly fishing isn’t just a pastime
For many people fly fishing isn’t just a pastime, it’s a lifesaving healthy hobby to break the cycle of addiction. Today I would like to share with y’all Sean Reilly’s story that he was so brave and honest to share with me. Sean told me that if sharing his story helps just one addict, then that in itself is enough. Sean aspires to run a fly fishing organization one day that gets addicts out on the water to give them a new way to cope with a drugfree lifestyle. He wants it to inspire hope and to show people they can get the same feeling through chasing trout.
Sean was born into a wonderful family and never had to want for anything growing up. Looking back on his childhood he now sees he’s always had some form of addiction but then it was simpler, like collecting baseball cards. Whenever he got into these hobbies it was consuming for him, he had to have all the best baseball cards, or the most stamps than anyone else in their stamp collection... but as he grew up those hobbies faded away.
Don’t worry, this guy is stronger than his demons
Sean was introduced to alcohol at a young age, then on to pot, pills and then heroine. He was no longer was interested in childhood hobbies, his new one was chasing that buzz. After a couple of ups, but mostly downs, he hit rock bottom. Only to find out rock bottom had basement. Throughout it all his family, especially his parents, has been there to give him all the support he needed. After breaking his ankle at his friend’s dad’s funeral (after blacking out) he gave up alcohol. This injury led him to a new addiction, his prescribed pain killers, this led him down a nasty path... but don’t worry, this guy is stronger than his demons. After a few goes on the addiction cycle spanning the course of most of his adult life he moved around to a few places but eventually felt a calling to move back to Ashville, NC. This area was a well-known recovery community and he decided to pack up from Georgia and head to North Carolina. Sean Convinced a long-time buddy to move from Detroit to North Carolina to be his roommate. One day while at Walmart they were passing through the fishing section and on a whim decided to buy a two and half foot $10 cheapo rod, tackle and hit a local creek. This was his pivotal point, he caught his first trout, a rainbow trout.
"Sean told me over and over again that it was the beauty of the fish that got him addicted, that each one was different just like how snowflakes are."
Sean was in awe with the beauty of trout and after catching a few more stockers on a few more outings he upgraded to a $50 spinning rod. Sean told me over and over again that it was the beauty of the fish that got him addicted, that each one was different just like how snowflakes are.
So where in his story did Sean find the joy of fly fishing? Sean discovered fly fishing through a friend he looks up to, Paul whom he admiringly calls his “fly fishing mentor”. Paul reached out to Sean on Facebook spring of 2019 and asked if he would show him some creeks to hit because he was making a trip out to North Carolina. Sean was nervous because he was a beginner, what could he possibly show Paul? Paul was in his 50’s and has been fishing since he was knee high to a grasshopper. Paul wouldn’t take no for an answer though, he told Sean that the first 4 days he’d be with professional guides and on the 5th day he wanted to hit some of the same great streams that Sean has had so much luck on. Sean gave in and agreed to take Paul fishing. At the end of the fishing trip with Sean, Paul tried to tip him but Sean just couldn’t take the money. He felt he made a valuable friendship and didn’t want the money. So, Paul told Sean to at least let him make Sean a custom rod. When Sean got his package a couple months later, it turns out Paul sent two rods, a spinner and a 9 foot 5 wt fly rod. Sean has been forever grateful that Paul has taken him under his wing and taught him so much about fly fishing.
I asked Sean what is it about fly fishing, other than the beauty of the trout that got him? Sean said “I’m really addicted to fly fishing, when I am on the river I don’t think about my past or worry about my future. It keeps me centered and grounded. It makes me stay in the moment, the whole time, the sounds, trees and beauty keep me happy the whole time”.
“I’m really addicted to fly fishing, when I am on the river I don’t think about my past or worry about my future. It keeps me centered and grounded. It makes me stay in the moment, the whole time, the sounds, trees and beauty keep me happy the whole time”.
In fly fishing we all have a go to fly
In fly fishing we all have a go to fly. It’s our secret sauce, the one we know never fails. For Sean it’s a tossup, he loves his squirmy worm, but loves throwing a bead head wooly bugger. I asked him what his favorite trout species was and he let me know in a millisecond “brook trout are my favorite; they are native to the Appalachian and are the state fish” (of North Carolina).
Next, I was curious on how he handles a bad day on the water, his reply “any day fishing is a really good day”. He told me about breaking his hand 6 months ago had almost made a damper on his healthy hobby but after putting on his ISYFO rod wrap he was able to enjoy fishing longer without his hand cramping up. This allowed him that time on the water that he has grown to need, it was go to place.
Sean and I had so many fun side conversations and I enjoyed his story so much that I almost didn’t want the conversation to come to an end, but since it had to, I told him I wanted it to end on a fun note. So here goes!
Me: “Sean, what is your all-time favorite movie?”
Sean: “My favorite go to movie is The Big Lebowski. I’ve seen it 200 times and can re-watch it over and over again.”
Me: “What is your favorite song that you love to belt out at karaoke?”
Sean: “Alive by Pearl Jam, yeah that one if I had to choose which one to sing the loudest. Wait, yeah that makes sense... even on Instagram I have a (catch and) release video with that song playing in the background!”
Me: “Alright Sean, last one. What 3 things would you take with you to a deserted island?”
Sean: “One would definitely be a rigged-up fly rod, um... golly Ned... I can’t think what else would I need?!! I’d admit my smart phone so I could look at photos of my family. Third is hard for me to decide, OH! I would bring a friend, any friend. But they have to be willing to fly fish.”
Me: “Hahaha! I love it, that was a tough one but good answers!”
Speaking with Sean opened my eyesSpeaking with Sean opened my eyes to other reasons why people get into fly fishing and I admired his ability to be honest with himself and get help to break the addiction, even when the cycle repeated, he kept up the battle. From Sean and all of us from It Set You Free Outdoors, we want you know that we are here if you need help in fly fishing or someone to talk to with your struggles. You are not alone.
"We want you know that we are here if you need help in fly fishing or someone to talk to with your struggles. You are not alone."
Please feel free to comment below on how you got into fly fishing and what your struggle may have been.
Tight lines and good vibes y’all!
Lady Angler Lentz