PENFIELD, N.Y. — For one local author and scholar, there is no greater place to find peace than at one of his favorite fishing streams.
If all things truly merge into one, then for Pat Scanlon, a stream runs through it.
“I think a lot of it is the peace,” said Scanlon. “You lose track of time. It's as if time is suspended. You could suddenly realize you've been doing it for three hours and didn't know it."
Scanlon has been fishing his whole life and fly fishing for 35 years. He enjoys it so much that the professor emeritus at RIT’s School of Communication wrote a book about it. It's called "Casting and Mending: How Therapeutic Fly Fishing Heals Shattered Minds and Bodies."
“I was just looking around for ideas about fly fishing," said Scanlon. "And I came upon all of these different programs that use fly fishing as therapy.”
He discovered groups like Casting for Recovery, which offers fly fishing retreats for breast cancer survivors.
He interviewed people with cancer, addiction and PTSD.
“What I found out was that it was really life-changing for them," Scanlon said. "That fly fishing was a way to give them back a sense of control I think and a sense of peace. And it just grabbed me.”
There’s a certain mythology around fly fishing that's been romanticized in novels and movies.
“Some people kind of think of it as mystical and magical, and that seems a little over the top to me,” said Scanlon.
His own book questions the therapeutic powers of fly fishing. A scholar and natural skeptic, what he found during his research is that there is something to it.
“It turns out there’s actually some solid science behind it,” Scanlon said. “I found out that there was a lot of commonality between these different programs that fly fishing had become really life-changing for the men and women in it.”
It's something Scanlon refers to as "flow:" an experience that leaves a person stronger, more confident and refreshed.
In fly fishing, he says, the fish aren't always what you’re looking for.
“It’s being outdoors in a place like this, being somewhere beautiful and especially with moving water," said Scanlon. “Those things all together, make for, I think, a pretty powerful therapeutic experience.”