Shannon Mahre shows off a fish she landed during a beginner fly fishing clinic organized by Red's Fly Shop. 

As a parent, athlete, coach and business owner, there is always one thing that I can rely on — failure.

Messing up, making mistakes and not accomplishing goals the first, second, or even third time we set them is inevitable during ALL of our journeys. But when these failures are thought of as lessons, and we take the time to learn from them, to grow from them, we become stronger because of them.

It’s easy to stop trying new things, to keep ourselves within our comfort zones and it’s even easier to avoid activities to limit the amount of times we can potentially fail. And as we get older, the fear of failure, of falling, of trying new things becomes greater — and by setting these limits for ourselves we limit our potential.

A few weeks ago, Red’s Fly Shop came out to Naches to put on a women’s beginner fly fishing clinic, and I jumped at the opportunity to not only learn something new, but to put myself in a position where I felt completely uncomfortable.

Our day started on the lawn and after a brief intro by the guides, we all stood in a line with rod and reel in hand, awaiting direction, and a bit nervous about what was to come. We were taught how to cast, how to tie flies, about where the fish typically like to hang out on the river, and a ton of other helpful bits in between.

As with most things I begin, my natural talent was sub-par, but that just made me want to learn more, to do better and to glean as many tips and tricks as I possibly could to improve. When we were good and ready to get into the water, the guides split us into smaller groups and drove the separate groups to different spots on the river to put our new skills to the test — and to learn even more information from our seasoned “coaches.”

With air temps hovering near 100 degrees, the river water on our legs was a welcome treat as we waded in, trying to remember all of the skills we had learned on the grass earlier that morning. Our guide, Joe, helped us every step of the way — giving us hands-on coaching and continuing to offer up knowledge and skills as needed, as well as being our quiet cheerleader as we got bites — and even when we lost the fish before getting them all of the way in.

As an otter swam by, popping up to say hello, then a bald eagle flew overhead, I looked down at the water slowly flowing past my body and just listened. I realized that for the first time in a very long time, my mind was quiet — it wasn’t writing articles, putting together a to-do list, or thinking about what I was going to make for dinner.

I was fully present fly fishing with one of my best friends just a few rocks down, and I was not only having a dang good time, but I was giving myself the mental and physical break that I didn’t even know that I needed from the wild ride that usually is my life.

At the end of the day, after a much deserved happy hour, I left the clinic and headed back to my boys feeling completely fulfilled — with adventure, with knowledge, with new friendships and with a new unexpected passion. The day was full of mistakes, of countless failures of losing fish…but also filled with learning and the triumphs of catching them.

This day, like every other day of my life, my goal was not to be the best or the most skilled, or to not fail…my goal was to continue to improve, to laugh, to mess up, to learn — and to have as much fun as I possibly could along the way.

Now, if you see me on one of our rivers in the valley, it may not just be on a paddleboard — but you can bet that whether I have a rod or a paddle in my hand, I’ll have a smile on my face, and I’ll be taking the baby steps that I need to grow and to learn… even if that means falling more than flying along the way.

Shannon Mahre contributes to Yakima Magazine and owns an outdoors company, Girls with Grit, that allows her to share her passions for skiing, running, mountain biking, standup paddleboarding and much more. She lives in Naches with her husband, Andy, and their two children.

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