Reel Recovery

Group size:  Any

Purpose:  To increase awareness of one’s Focus, Adaptability, Passion, Desire and Continuous Improvement.

Props Needed:  None

Activity Preparation

  1. Prep time needed: 5 minutes
  2. The activity can be accomplished in any setting; individual or group setting.

Time needed

  • Activity: 10 minutes, with discussion.
  • Debrief: 10 minutes; may be more with larger group size.


  • The activity can be accomplished in any setting: individual or group setting.
  • Participants may be seated in a classroom style set-up or gathered around in a circle

Activity Directions:

  • Have participants find a seat – they may be seated in theater style or round circle group.
  • If you are projecting the story on to a screen, have participants face the projected image or story.
  • Explain the purpose of the activity
  • Read Facilitators Script and Fly Fishing parallels

Facilitator script: “Hey everyone let’s gather around so we can get started with today’s group. Let’s take time to listen to Michelle’s story about Fly Fishing. “

I started fly fishing in 2009.  I found fly fishing to be a lot tougher than I had expected and I nearly gave up after a few unsuccessful attempts.  I usually pick things up very rapidly and I was astounded by how much there was to learn. I was hopelessly discouraged, after my initial exposure found me overwhelmed by what seemed to be an endless array of complexities, dozens of casting techniques, and enough knots to hold Houdini captive.

But I kept pushing myself. Tried a new casting technique, tried a new fly, hired a guide to help mend my mistakes.  Then one day I realized that I could improve my casting by focusing on my goals, adjusting my techniques and following through with commitment--all things I instruct my clients to do to meet their goals. 

When it dawned on me that I had found something that was pushing me outside my comfort zone, I got excited.  I ask people to step outside their comfort zones on a regular basis.  Finding something that did the same for me gave me new perspective, and an opportunity to find some parallels back to recovery.


There are several techniques in Recovery that remind me of Fly Fishing:  Focus, Adaptability, Passion, Desire and Continuous Improvement.

Here are a few of my favorite parallels between recovery and fly fishing:

  • You have to know when to untangle a knot and when to cut your losses. One time I was standing in the river untangling a horrible knot.  For some reason I was hell-bent on untangling it instead of cutting off the fly and starting over.  Suddenly something caught my eye, and when I looked down I literally had a fish swimming at my knees.  Because I was so focused on untangling a knot, I missed the opportunities that were right in front of me.  I think we do this in life as well.  There are times we spend so much time focused on the mistakes we have made in the past, that we don't see the opportunities that are right in front of us.
  • Conditions change--you have to be prepared to change with them. There's a saying in fly fishing:  'Don't fish yesterday's fish.' Just because you were successful doing something yesterday, or if one tactic worked for a week, or a month, or a year, that was then. You have to figure out the now. Tides change, weather changes, fish move. Try to look ahead to the next spot, where you can use the knowledge you gained at your old spot. That's how you repeat success.
  • You have to want to get better or you will become complacent and frustrated.
  • The last 10% of your backcast is the most important part of your cast. Most anglers work 2-3 times harder than they need to when trying to catch a fish.  Most people work 2-3 times harder than necessary.  Better results are necessary with less effort. Sometimes we miss the mark when we are trying to force it to happen. Working smarter rather than harder can be extremely useful.


Take a moment to think about how the lessons from the Recovery on the Fly story relates to things you have gone through or are currently going through. (either have group process personal examples of this lesson or debrief the story)



  • What did you notice as you listened to the story?
  • What thoughts were you aware of as you listened to the story?
  • What are one of the parallels you identified with?
  • What might be getting in your way when you look at your own struggle?

Recovery/Wellness Metaphor. This story relates to several recovery slogans like cutting your losses related to knowing when it is important to walk away from people places and things that do not support your recovery. Conditions change relates to the slogan learning to live life on life’s terms. We have to learn adaptability in order to manage life without using negative coping skills. Recovery is also about not resting on our laurels and the parallel about getting better rather than being complacent relates to that. Like the quote from the movie Shawshank Redemption “guess it comes down to a simple choice really, get busy living or get busy dying”.

Role of Facilitator: Take time to debrief the story with participants, helping them explore what they relate to in the story.

Variations: this can be accomplished in individual sessions.