The Bliss of Fly Fishing: How One Fisherwoman Found a Spot for Herself

All photos:  Cat Mayer

All photos: Cat Mayer

Kari Sewell was destined for the outdoors. Her parents met skiing. She grew up in the mountains of Aspen and Park City. She has fond memories of fishing, wind surfing, and racing Hobie Cats as a girl. She met her husband, Tim, on a moonlit cross-country skiing tour. Yet when Sewell, her husband, and their two young daughters moved to Grand Junction from Salt Lake City in 2004, it wasn’t love at first sight. 

Fly fishing fisherwoman on Grand Mesa, Colorado

Out of her element and unconnected, Sewell wanted to be back in the mountains, or anywhere but here. Before the family’s boxes were even unpacked she flew to Alaska to be with her brother, who died of brain cancer two days later. Despite the rocky transition to the Grand Valley, the Sewells settled in and built a life for their family centered on work, volunteering, and the community they met through school, skiing, and biking.

In 2012, Sewell found herself facing another devastating loss when Tim died suddenly by suicide. Again she sought comfort and stability in school, sports, and community. At the time of Tim’s death, Sewell had been pursuing a degree in studio art, and afterward she used her art as an outlet. In time, though, she changed her focus to psychology and social work. “I chased knowledge by going back to school for answers, understanding, and more perspective,” says Sewell. “Getting my bachelor’s in social work was helpful, and I learned about coping skills. I knew I needed to keep myself together so the girls and I could move ahead.” But something was still missing. 

Unbeknownst to Sewell, the rivers in this “harsh environment” would be the saving grace in her journey through grief. “I always thought it was the mountains I needed, but it’s the water,” she says. “When I learned I could fish here just minutes from my home, it changed everything. Fly fishing exploded exponentially for me after that. I reconnected with the same comforting feelings I had fishing as a child. It was the first time I was doing something I loved, just for me.”

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Through fly fishing and her connection with its community, Sewell found hope, security, and support. Sewell calls fly fishing “water therapy” and considers it part of her spirituality—the calming sound of water, the focus of casting, the brilliance of the sun, the dissipating mind chatter. She believes the art of fly fishing has a commonality that binds people together and is full of hope and anticipation. A fish on the line is just an added bonus.

“I truly believe that water and nature in general can have a huge healing impact on people,” says Sewell. “Right now fishing is my healing journey for myself, but I would gladly share it with people if it would be helpful to them. If it’s not fishing, I hope for people that they find whatever their bliss is. Whatever resonates, latch on and commit to it to get through grief or trauma. It’s is the most helpful way to balance your life and sort things out. It’s the gift you give yourself during good days and bad. For me, it’s fly fishing.”

Through the years, Sewell has incorporated the hobby into her travels and time with her daughters and mother. She continues to build her skills and social circle as a member of Trout Unlimited, a visitor to Western Anglers fly shop, and an attendee of Grand Valley Anglers meetings – including one where she was convinced to sign up for the annual Carpocalypse tournament. Carp fishing has since become one of her favorite pastimes. More recently, thanks to the generosity of friends willing to share their boats, Sewell has added rowing to her ever-evolving interest. 

Today Sewell values the ease of sneaking away to one of many local spots. The Gunnison is her favorite, but she also appreciates Kannah Creek, the sloughs along the Colorado, and the lakes of the Grand Mesa, especially during the fall color season. 

The variety of outdoor offerings became a major factor in Sewell’s decision to stay and craft a life for herself in Grand Junction. She ultimately settled in a Redlands Mesa home with easy access to recreation and dramatic views. “I have a deep appreciation for clouds, seasons, sunsets, sunrises,” she says. “Being able to see all of this from my backyard is very settling. In my opinion, our environment has something for everyone.” Despite all the available activities, Sewell’s bike, skis, and other gear can now be found hanging in her garage while she fishes year-round. “I just love fishing so much!” she gushes.