I’m not a fisherman.
Whatever the terminology, I’ve never liked to fish.
I grew up in Bozeman Montana, a town known for its skiing and fishing. I also grew up in the 90’s, the era of a cute young Brad Pitt in A River Runs Through It. You think that those two things alone would have made me fall in love with fishing.
But that’s not the case.
I had a pretty stereotypical Bozeman upbringing. My family fished, hiked and skied. I have early memories of falling into a lake while on a family fishing trip and hiking out wearing my older brothers extra underpants and clothes because my parents had forgotten to pack a change of clothing for me.
I learned to cast on a spinning rod with a bubble and a fly, “just twitch the fly around like it’s alive,” my Dad would say. But I’d have more fun trying to identify wildflowers, catching grasshoppers or digging up worms for bait than actually fishing.
There was a time when my Uncle John got hooked under his lower eye while fly fishing on the Gallatin River at a family reunion. It took the doctor and two nurses in the family to remove it.
My Dad tried to show me that fishing was fun, but it just wasn’t my thing.
“Fishing is boring”— I told myself. I needed to be active. To be running, or hiking, or mountain biking.
But the men in my family kept on fishing. My Dad and brothers would come home on Saturday afternoons with an armload of trout to eat and tales of the fish that got away, but I still couldn’t be convinced.
I tried ice fishing with my brother a few years ago. I had a newborn strapped to my chest and thought my toddler would have fun. It was a beautiful winter day…and I would have rather been skiing.
My kids like to fish at a pond in one of our local parks but to me, fishing in a park in town just isn’t that fun. I need to be in the mountains. It’s something we do when my Dad comes to town.
I’d just about written off fishing when I was invited to fish with a few great people from Orvis a few weeks ago.
At the end of the Outdoor Blogger Summit, I found myself with fellow outdoor bloggers and writers Tyler, Kraig, Casey, Cameron, a guy from Orvis named Tom (who I later found out from my kids’ guitar teacher is a fly-fishing legend) and several guides from Orvis at Escatawba Farms. A private fly-fishing farm about an hour from Roanoke.
The farm was beautiful. The day was sunny with a hint of fall in the air and after several days of traveling and sitting inside for the conference I was ready to be outside learning a new skill…even if it was fishing.
After getting equipped with a rod and a reel the first thing we did was head to a large grassy area to practice our casting.
Tom told us about our equipment, showed us a few flies (the woolly booger being my favorite, of course) and to cast. He made it look so easy.
But, just like the first time I learned to shoot a rifle, I found myself over-thinking it.
It wasn’t until I took a deep breath and relaxed that I was ready to cast into the water.
My guide took me to the edge of the pond, I cast my line out into the water and tried to find a rhythm.
I discovered that this fly-fishing thing was similar to my true love, cross-country skiing. Once I learned to let go it was meditative, with my fly dancing to the rhythm of the wind and the water.
Time flew by, I didn’t notice the growling in my stomach. Later I learned that Tom doesn’t stop to eat when he’s fishing, now I can see why. I just wanted to cast and catch a fish.
Eventually, my guide led me to another pond, he tied on a different fly and then walked away giving me a little bit of space to practice on my own when it happened. I felt a pull, saw waves in the water and tried to reel in a fish…just to have it get away.
Determined to find that fish again I cast my line just to get my fly stuck in a tree.
I walked over to my guide…” looks like I owe you a fly…” I joked.
After helping me get another fly tied onto my line I was once again ready to catch my fish.
It didn’t take long.
After a few more casts I had a bite. My rod jerked and I brought in an adorable little fish.
I was concerned because the fish was so tiny and so cute, I didn’t want to hurt it but as we took it off the hook for the obligatory photo. I was reassured that the Blue Gill Sunfish I’d just caught was a hearty little fish.
I learned that it’s best to try to leave any fish you caught in the water as much as possible when you’re taking them off the hook and getting ready to release them.
Eventually, I was ready for a break, so I grabbed a sandwich and texted my Dad and little brother. I knew they would be jealous that I was fishing with Orvis. My siblings and I aren’t competitive at all…;)
After lunch, I wanted to fish in the river, so our nice guides got us rigged up again…and I decided that fishing in a river is so much more fun than fishing in a pond. There’s something about the moving water and the challenge of trying to cast in the right place and knowing where the line is going to go and the fly is going to hit the water. But, baby steps I suppose. I think ponds are probably the best place to learn (but really that’s just a wild guess, I have no idea).
As I fished I learned to appreciate the science behind it. Knowing the water, how the water moves, what the fish are eating and how to tell what fly to tie on.
Before this fishing trip, I had a lot of preconceived notions about fly fishing.
I thought it would be difficult to learn, I thought it would take a lot of skill, I thought fly fishing might be limited to certain parts of the country (boy was I wrong about that), and I thought that fly fishing was a sport for rich old men.
I should know better than that, knowing so many people including my family members who like to fish but don’t meet that stereotype.
But mostly I felt a little annoyed at my younger self.
My 40th birthday is right around the corner and I wasted all this time avoiding fishing when I could have been reelin’ them in.
I’m not too old to learn.
When I got back to Wyoming I cuddled up on the couch with my husband and asked him if he knew how to fly fish. You’d think after 13 years of marriage I would know such things.
“My Grandpa taught me. I loved it. He even gave me all the equipment I needed to get started at one point but I have no idea where it is now,” my husband replied, “we really should take the boys fishing.”
I came back from Virginia with a book about fishing.
I’ve been learning about Orvis’ 50/50 on the water campaign and their goal to create gender parity on the water.
HLAW is all about helping women crushing barriers to entry in the outdoors.
I’m not going to lie.
I felt like there were a lot of barriers to entry into the fly fishing community until I spent a day learning and realized that I could, in fact, fly fish and enjoy it.
Now I have the confidence to start.
As a Mom of young boys, boys who love all things outdoorsy and adventurous I know they would love to fish more. But, I’ve felt inadequate when it comes to teaching them. But Orvis was kind enough to send me this book, so we just might become a fishing family after all.
Weekly we hike together as a family along trails that look like this…
When we come to places like this we usually stop for lunch or to skip rocks.
Perhaps if we put some fishing equipment in our packs we’ll have wonderful to have an excuse to linger a little bit longer before heading off to the hustle and bustle of owning a gear shop.
Maybe someday I’ll find myself at an Orvis women’s fishing weekend or a fly fishing trip to Patagonia with my husband, I’ve skied there and have been looking for a good excuse to go back. The Orvis fly fishing learning center is rapidly becoming my favorite place on the internet.
I’ve heard that there are big fish in rivers, lakes and streams in the mountains where I live.
I intend to find them.
And connect with myself and with the water in a way that I never thought was possible. Until my friends at Orvis handed me a rod and a reel and taught me how to cast.
My goal this winter is to learn every possible thing that I can about fly fishing so that next spring I can start to fish like a woman.
I’d love to have you come along my journey by subscribing to the Fish Like A Woman Newsletter.
I’ll be launching FLAW next month and it’ll be a blog where I talk about my journey into the world of fly fishing.
Eventually, I hope to become a full-fledged fly fishing woman through the blog and by carrying fly fishing equipment in my outdoor retail store too.
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