Evening on the Green River in Utah. Photograph by Brad Nicol

River Therapy

I live in a city. A big city. One that feels bigger every day. The busyness of it clings to me, with the sights and sounds bombarding me from all angles. It’s constant. And this time of year, it’s amplified. It’s that in-between time before the AC has to be on and we sleep with our windows open to get a pleasant breeze blowing through our small home. But it also sends the dissonant sounds of city nights– sirens, cars driving too fast, train horns, and the shrieks of random people and barking dogs. This is city life.

For me, city life has a way of making me feel trapped, crowded and tense. The constant commotion keeps my mind racing with a perpetual sense of being unsettled. I live here because this is where I built my small business. My business needed a growing city and we chose this one. My only escape is getting outside… to the real outside where there is space, big skies.  Where the noises of the city are replaced by sounds of a flowing river. It’s being outside that has become a form of therapy which allows me to reset and find peace.

For years I was fishing as much as I could on the North Platte River from Colorado through Wyoming. Following the flow of the river, I too began to travel north. It was an escape that I couldn’t match within an hour of the ever-crowded city life. Very soon I found myself in the middle of Wyoming guiding trips for an outfitter outside of Casper (Cowboy Drifters). Guiding, although never something I had planned, unintentionally offered me two valuable things: one, a little money to bring home and continue to feed the habits of fly-fishing and two, a complete mental escape from the blaring sounds of the city. A therapy I so desperately need. 

Healthy Wyoming brown.
Caddis on the menu.

Going on five years now, I’ve been guiding and escaping city life. Between 30 to 40 days a year I take anglers down the river, sharing the space that allows me to forget the noise and stress of city life. This sacred, peaceful space is something that I am excited to share with others. Once folks step into the boat, they seem to enter into an altered consciousness. The sedative sounds of the river drowns out the pressures of the past week.

The countless meetings and to-do lists are washed away and replaced with thoughts of catching fish and the peaceful hum of nature reminding us that this is where we are supposed to be. That this is therapy. Sometimes it’s group therapy, and other days it’s individual. I always return home with a clear mind and recharged soul, at least for a week or two.

Blushing rainbow.
It’s all about the bugs.

“It’s being outside that has become a form of therapy, <br> which allows me to reset and find peace.

Aerial view of friend Anndee McKinney fishing on the North Platte River.
Sometimes the view away from the water is just as good.

Contributed By

Brad Nicol

Brad Nicol is a professional photographer and part-time fly fishing guide. He lives with his wife, Angelina, and their three dogs Bella, Kaia and Finn. When not on the water fishing or creating images, he runs an architectural photography business in Denver, Colorado. He is an advocate for our wild public lands and is a long time member of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers.


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