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Finding Faith in a Fish

Many Sunday's you will find Chris Muia behind the altar adding percussion to our hymns and anthems while bringing depth to all of our congregational singing. When he isn't at St. Barnabas, Chris has found a place that brings him closer to God, one stone, one fish, one river at a time.

This month, we will be displaying Chris' photos and hand tied flies and we encourage you to drop by to see his passion unfold on our exhibit wall.

When did you begin fly fishing and why?

I started fly fishing in 1998 with my wife, Jeanne's encouragement. While planning a mountain vacation, Jeanne mentioned fly fishing as an option for me during her shopping trips. I booked a guide and on my first steps into the stream I was ‘hooked’, even before I caught a fish. This situation has worked out well for me over the years when justifying the acquisition of tying materials and tools, reels, rods, waders or when declaring I’m going on a trip….”Remember, this was your idea!”.

"I've gone fishing thousands of times in my life, and I have never once felt unlucky or poorly paid for those hours on the water."- William Tapply "A Fly-Fishing Life"

Why is it important that you tie your own flies?

I didn’t tie at first and purchased flies. Although I caught fish with purchased flies, hearing my fishing friends and mentors talk tying and about their own creations and variations, I realized tying one’s own flies was just as important to fly fishing as rod, reel, line and the cast. I start with a bare hook and a pile of lifeless materials and wrap materials in, layer by layer, in the correct proportions and eventually produce an imitation of an aquatic insect. Taking that fly onto a stream and presenting it is a very humbling experience. It is much like the feeling of opening up and presenting this display or approaching a new parishioner with a smile and an open hand. Will I be accepted or rejected? On an even higher level, in my relationship with God….Are my works good enough? When a fish takes a fly you’ve created, there is a feeling that you’ve come as close to a real connection with that wild creature that is possible and completes the experience. But, as with rejections in life, having a fish rise to a fly and turn back to the depths in disdain (or laughter) is also part of the fly fishing experience and sends you home to your tying to start all over.

"Whether I caught fish or not, just the thrill of rolling out that line and watching my fly turn over has been good enough for me. That and the hundreds of treasured memories I have of this wonderful sport." - Curt Gowdy

How has your passion influenced your life outside of the river?

Both fly fishing and tying have given me a way of shifting my perspective on the world and to hold the really important things of life in highest priority. When the world is closing in on me, making me anxious about worldly worries; thinking back to a cast in a riffle and the take of a fly, sitting down to tie a wooly bugger or even laughing at myself remembering a fall helps me take a step back, relax and rethink with a new perspective. Fishing and tying has also connected me with friends and mentors that are blessings in my life.

"Poets talk about "spots of time", but it is really the fishermen* who experience eternity compressed into a moment. No one can tell what a spot of time is until suddenly the whole world is a fish and the fish is gone." - Norman Mclean, author of “A River Runs Through It”

How does fishing feed your faith?

No matter where I’m fly fishing, a mountain stream for trout or a pond for the mighty bluegill, the world becomes very small and our time loses it’s hold and nature’s time takes over. For me, fly fishing slows down everything. This ‘fishing time’ is when I feel closest to God and his creation, refreshing my relationship with Him. This also applies to the time when I’m tying. Although there is some frustration from mistakes, wrapping thread, fur, feathers around a hook in an attempt to imitate nature provides a quiet time when I often turn to reflection and prayer.

"Often I have been exhausted on trout streams, uncomfortable, wet, cold, briar scarred, sunburned, mosquito bitten, but never, with a fly rod in my hand have I been less than in a place that was less than beautiful." - Charles Kuralt

Why does this passion bring you joy?

It is difficult to put into words how this passion brings me joy so to answer, I‘ll fall back on Robert Traver again, from his “Trout Madness” book/video that is a favorite among my circle of fly fishing friends and from a few others much smarter than I:

“To this fisherman*, catching an occasional fish is to the enjoyment of trout fishing what encountering an occasional oyster is to the enjoyment of oyster stew. Gratifying yes, but far from everything. One of the big reasons I fish, I guess, is that I love the environs where trout are found, which are invariably beautiful. For wise trout, unlike men, will not, indeed cannot live except where beauty dwells."


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