these are a few of my favorite things...
Just when I thought I had bitten just about every aspect of fly fishing, someone let me sit in an oarsman's seat and row a boat. I found it scary, stressful and exhilarating. I was trembling with stress and smiling from ear to ear at the same time. Never ever had I been so aware of the river. Her subtle cues and ways of moving became clues as to how to navigate her waters. Is that thing coming up a rock or merely a riffle? Where is the deepest spot to pass through a shallow? What is the best approach to a water feature? I became fascinated by the approach and "fall into" a line in the river. It was beautiful, strong, powerful and gentle all in the same stroke.
I immediately invested in an oar driven two-person boat. I couldn't wait to get on the water. Little did I know, COVID times would make the arrival of my boat later. I also came to realize the rowable waters near me are heavy with rafters during the summer. I waited for the boat to arrive and the river to open. Today was the day that I got to put my new boat in the water and row my good friend down the river.
I was nervous. I had dreams about anchors falling off and boats being lost to the current passengerless. But, when I awoke, we set off and had a beautiful day on the river. It took some time to dial in the handling of the boat. As a double pontoon, it is subject to the current quickly. The oars are smaller and less effective than that of a drift boat. Back rowing and dropping into a line is a skill I need to refine. Overall, I had a tremendously fun day. Did I mention that I didn't even bring a rod? I never cast a line. I rowed. I paid attention to my friend fishing. I tried to refine my oarsmanship. I read the river. I had a phenomenal day. I truly hope it is the first of many days that I don't catch a fish. The first of many days where I watch my fellow anglers roping in fish. The first of many days when I have oars in my hands.
My favorite place in the world is in pretty sad shape right now. There has been a master operating agreement that allows the flows to be lowered to a trickle. For over a month the water flow has been at horribly low levels. The river is filled with weeds and algae. You get whiffs of rotten egg smell from the standing water in certain areas. It breaks my heart. I can't bring myself to aggressively fish under these conditions. The fish are struggling enough under the miserable management of the operators of the waterway without me adding to their stress.
Even though I am not actively fishing the water, I still feel like I need to be present in the river. As strange as it may sound, I feel a relationship and a bond to this place and I am not someone who stays around just when times are good and easy. If I am connected to someone or something, it is for the good and bad. For every amazing fishing day I have had at this spot, I am willing to stand by her for days while the angling community bands together to work on behalf of this river's health. Unfortunately, politics moves slowly and rarely in the direction towards fish and river health. The river doesn't vote or contribute to politician's campaigns so it has little pull with the powers that be. I regretfully anticipate that the river will have low flows for a long time- or at least as long as the parties with vested interest and control say it will. Because of this, I have taken this opportunity to spend time on the river in different ways.
Sometimes I take my rod out and practice my casting. I have rigged up a little spey rod and have found some spots where I have room to work on my spey cast timing and form. Luckily these spots are rather secluded so no one sees my feeble attempts at this new-to-me casting strategy. Other days I work on my roll cast or play around with different set ups to see how they behave in the water.
The low flows have made the river super wadable. I have been able to venture and cross in areas I have struggled to access in the past. Even though I have spent numerous days on this river, there are still places I haven't explored. I have taken this opportunity to go where I haven't gone before. I am spending time moving through the water. I am seeing the river as more than a place that holds fish. I am learning her curves and valleys. I am seeing the impacts of other creatures. I explored a giant beaver dam that I can barely believe was made by such a small creature. I am picking up trash that I see. I am talking to hikers and other fishermen. I am exploring this beloved place. I am breathing it in deeply and exhaling a new familiarity of it. There are times that I find a spot and just sit down. I close my eyes and listen to the water. I inhale the smells of foliage. I feel far away- lighter almost. Other times I just stand in waist deep water and let my fingers trail along in the water until they get too cold to take anymore of the chill.
My heart aches for this waterway in her current condition. I want to go and pull the gates of the dam open- like giving a lifesaving breath to someone struggling to breath. I cannot. I know it doesn't matter to the river whether I am there with her or not but I do know that it matters to me that I am there. As fellow anglers work on her behalf, I will be there standing in her waters and doing what little I can to help- even if that means just being a witness to her condition.
Fly fishing has numerous subcultures. People often dabble in some and sometimes specialize in one. I love all things fly fishing so I dabble in all. I have become quite the consumer of tying, casting, fishing rods, reels and lines and all accutroment associated with fly fishing. However, I am the master of none- enjoying everything but specializing in nothing. As I have taken time to explore pieces and parts of fly fishing, I have met leaders in these subcultures. I have met Bud Heintz- our local fly tying master. I have watched Marty K. roll cast with delicate distance and accuracy. I have watched members explore the pro's and con's of rods, reels and lines with language I have to google to understand. I have spent time with Gary Turri, Sara Trenschel and Willy George marvelling at their line control during casting. As I have spent time with these leaders in their specialties, I have heard about special places and things in these subcultures. One of those places is the casting ponds at Golden Gate Park.
I have seen pictures and heard stories about the ponds. There have been movies and videos about casting days and competitions. I had never been there- mostly because I hate going to San Francisco. I only go there for work or to see my favorite band once or twice a year. I dread driving there and do whatever I can to avoid it. However, my friend Sara had offered to give me some pointers on my slowly developing spey cast and this was going to happen at the casting ponds. So I drove there this past Sunday.
I drove early into San Francisco hoping that the combination of COVID and an early morning arrival would alleviate traffic challenges. I arrived at a little parking lot hidden amongst the trees of Golden Gate Park. A short walk led me to the ponds. This classic and beautiful spot clearly had its draw. I wadered up, strung my rod and joined Sara in the pond.
Sara is a gifted caster and teacher. This is something she has worked hard at and nurtured over the course of several years of dedicated practice. It didn't take her long to teach me the spey basics and target gentle corrections on my movements. My cast was instantly transformed for the better. I practiced and watched people all around me working and practicing their casting. It was wonderful to watch.
I was particularly struck by Sara. She was the only woman in a group studying for their spey casting certification. Sara practiced, received feedback and performed right alongside of every person in the group. The ponds can be an intimidating place. Standing in the open in the water, your skills and habits are exposed to every person there. It is not easy to be publicly bad at something we generally do in the privacy of a river away from observing eyes. Putting yourself out there feels risky but has amazing benefits. Sara has become the caster and teacher she is through practice and feedback in this very public place over time. Sara epitomized what fly fishing can be for those who want to enjoy it- an opportunity to push yourself and develop skills in beautiful places. I am so very grateful to have joined her on this day. I can't wait for my next trip to the ponds!
When I take someone new fishing or fish a new water, I always say the same thing as I grab my net- "A net is sometimes a hopeful gesture." I think this is somewhat to dampen my expectations going into new waters or attempting to deal with the pressure of catching when taking someone fishing. Putting the net in my pack suggests that I expect to catch fish and saying my little saying lowers my expectations. I find that if and when we actually catch fish on that day, the lowered expectations result in increased joy at a catch and met expectations if we don't.
Recently, I have been fishing pretty well. My net has been getting a workout and it has been great. I haven't just been imitating the examples that served as the cornerstone of my early fishing days. I am exploring and trying new things. I have been having a blast and growing in confidence. Where I loved being on the water before, I feel so at home now that I find myself in a bubble of contentment and happiness that I could never even adequately describe with words. Catching fish and using my net has been a wonderful aspect of the experience that I have become accustomed to- I have come to almost expect it recently. Yeah- it has been a bit since I have been skunked!
I have tried a number of nets and net attachments. They have all been adequate but none have felt right. If I hang the net on my back, it catches on branches as I hike. If I hang it from my hip pack, I am so short it drags and hits my lower legs. If I tuck it in my pack, I can't reach it when I need it. I have tried all sorts of nets- short and long, retractible and loose. Recently I came upon a foldable net and thought I would give it a try. Maybe this would accommodate some of my net challenges. It could sit on my side- easy to grab. It would be folded up so it wouldn't catch on brush and trees. I received it last week. I practiced folding it- which actually took me some time to figure out and I put it on my hip pack, ready to get it wet and put that first fish in it.
I went to where I have been catching fish regularly. For several weeks I have caught fish consistently here. I was brimming with confidence as I set out on the water. That confidence slowly eroded as the day passed without so much a a bump. How could this happen? Here? What happened?
As joyful as fishing is, it can also be humbling. On this day I was appropriately humbled. My new net remained dry and clean. There was no need to pull it out and have it snap open. There was no need to fold it up and put it away. On this day- my first day using my new net, it turned out to be just a hopeful gesture attached to my hip pack. No worries. Eventually it will hold a fish- just not today...
I am going to be honest with you all. I take horrible pictures and videos on the water. I blame my really short arms. They make it hard to get focus... Just kidding! Often it is because I feel rushed to get the fish released healthy and as unstressed as possible. I use a net and keep the fish in the water as much as possible to mitigate the negative. I try to take a photo pretty quickly and don't always stop and check before releasing the fish.
Oh yeah- the "release" of the fish. I am really bad at that too! I specialize in unintentional releases quite often. The fish wiggle out of my hand before I get a picture. Usually this only happens if the fish is exceptionally beautiful or large or the only fish I catch that day! Today I was fishing and I caught a little fish. He was cute and I snapped a picture. Then I caught a beautiful 12 inch fish on a little river. That is pretty big for this river. I thought it would be cool to get a release video of him swimming away to share on these musings. I held him in the net while I pulled my camera out and set it to video. I bent over the net and pushed the start button on the camera. I reached down to gra the fish, saw his beautiful image on my screen and released him back into the water. Perfect! I was glowing with pride. Beautiful footage of a beautiful fish to commemorate my beautiful day. I decided to sit and relax and pulled up the video I had just taken. All there was was 2 seconds of video that showed my net and the water. No fish. No release. Nothing. What a bummer! I set off to fish again to see if I could have another go at my goal.
I fished a bit more and caught another sizeable fish for this tiny river. I got a picture and footage of this one. It was one of my classic fish in my net picture and fish leaving my hand videos. As I often fish alone, I have lots of pictures of fish in my hand, fish in my net, fish swimming out of my hand. You get the picture! Not too many pictures of much but the fish. This is cool with me as fish are incredibly beautiful. They have a casual beauty that makes me catch my breath as they move in the water and the light. Without even trying, they glimmer and shine as they gracefully move until they disappear into the water. I am grateful for their beauty as they look amazing in the pictures that even I take- at least the fish I get in the frame!
A few years ago Dena and I attended the Women's Angle in Redding. This was the first time that I attended a women's focused fly fishing gathering. I was blown away by the number of women anglers there. I was overwhelmed by the fact that women were the instructors of all the classes. There was a bunch of fly fishing knowledge, empowerment and passion present that day. While they didn't repeat the event the next year, I found it to be a transformational experience for me in believing that fly fishing really is open to women. Special acknowledgement to The Fly Shop in Redding for putting on this event!
Fast forward to an email letting me know that the women leaders in the fly fishing industry were forging new ground by putting on the first virtual fly fishing expo and the target audience was women. "Celebrating Women in Fly Fishing" promised women presenters, women focused presentations and access to companies owned and developed with women anglers in mind. They did not disappoint! There were presentations on self defense and empowering other anglers. There were presentations and interviews about the historical figures in women's fly fishing including current and local female pioneers. Women specific waders and gear were presented. Starting small businesses was highlighted. Inclusion in fly fishing was discussed. In addition to these topics, fly fishing skills were presented, casting tips shared and angling skills developed in this virtua setting.
All of this was wonderful. I walked away with more knowledge, more connections and some new ideas. However, the most pivotal moment for me personally was during the opening session on Friday night. I was late to the party because of family responsibilities but when I joined in and got settled, I looked to the participants' section on my Zoom window. I saw that there were 205 participants. 205 women anglers from all over the world were tuning in on a Friday evening. I could see that there were women like me who were making dinner while we watched. There were women of all shapes, styles, and colors on the screen. I got a little teary eyed. When I looked at the screen of participants, I saw aspects of myself in some form or another in the participants on the screen where I had not really seen this from the fly fishing industry itself. Don't get me wrong, I know the hot woman holding the fish sells magazines and gear, but I don't see myself in her. Yet, I saw myself in the participants on Zoom. We are out there. We are all over the globe. We are not alone!
As a female angler, I feel that I joined fly fishing at the beginning of an incredible movement in support of women anglers. Orvis started its 50/50 on the water while I was learning to fish. Seeing a woman at the club meetings was a joy. DFF had about 5 women members when I joined. Now we have over a dozen just a few years later. We would always greet and support each other at the meetings and on the water but DFF is super special because I have always felt supported as an angler. But, seeing a woman on the water was noteworthy due to its rarity. I often wondered if seeing another woman angler would become so commonplace that I would fail to note the angler's gender. Then something super cool happened today...
I was looking for the perfect gift for an angler in my life. With Christmas fast approaching, I was engaged in furious google searches for the perfect gift. If you know me at all, you know I love giving gifts. In fact, I love giving the perfect gifts. I will spend crazy amounts of time searching for, making or procuring the perfect gift for someone in my life. This day, my search for the perfect gift was a real struggle. I found something like what I was looking for but not exactly what I was looking for. Then I found exactly what I was looking for but it was not available. Then I watched about 18 YouTube videos about the topic. I had an idea but it needed some fine tuning. When I looked up about 90 minutes later, I decided to call Mad River Outfitters who had created several of the videos I watched.
I called and spoke to a highly knowledgeable worker at the shop. We talked back and forth about options, anticipated arrival dates, Christmas ordering deadlines and fly fishing in general. It was a great interaction with someone who was clearly informed and passionate about fly fishing. Needless to say, I dig their shop based upon that solitary conversation with its employee's knowledge and level of customer service.
It was only after I hung up that I realized my conversation partner was also a woman. I had initially failed to note the gender of the voice as I was so wrapped up in the conversation. She was awesome and she was not awesome because she was female. She was just plain awesome. I love that. Fly fishing passion should transcend characteristics like gender, weight, race and I believe it does with most people. This individual was a great example of just plain fly fishing awesomeness. When I started fishing, the odds of a woman calling a shop and speaking to a woman would have been pretty rare. I love that just a few years later, it feels so natural that it is barely even noteworthy. Here is to the day when I see a woman on the water and think- "Wow- there's a great angler." instead of "Wow- there is another woman angler." If this morning's phone conversation is any indication, it may be closer than we think!
Life is funny. In some ways it just repeats itself over and over until a period is finally put at the end of a sentence. The simple act of putting a final punctuation on something can lift a great weight off of one's shoulders. So many things can be left unsaid once that period is written. Life can shift to a new trajectory when the soul is unencumbered by anchors of the past.
As a period has been put on a long, beautiful and torturous sentence in my life, I am curious to see how it impacts my memories and thoughts. So often when I am on the water, my mind goes back to times of joy and sorrow. I can find myself laughing and smiling at the past. I can also break into tears remembering broken promises and sadness. The banks of the river always seem to hold me close but never hold me back from feeling these feelings fully and deeply. There is nothing more healing than standing in the current, feeling the water wash by my legs and hands with a cleansing hope and acceptance. The ability to work through things on the water is one of the reasons I love fishing alone. I feel most alive alone in the river. I feel my feelings so clearly and experience my memories so vividly.
I am eager to get on the water and see how this newly added punctuation will treat my memories. I wonder if I will smile more and cry less or the opposite. All I know is that when I am on the water, I get closer and closer to loving exactly where I am at in my life. I am eager to write the next sentences in my story and I am equally eager to flesh through the new and old lines of the story of my life while standing in a river...
That is the perfect word to describe how I feel when I fish- joyful. I was able to go fishing on a new waterway with a new friend who guided me to fishing success. I learned so much from him and eagerly thought of when and where I could apply what I had learned on other waters. I had a realization that this was the first time for me that I looked at a new waterway through the lens of my previous experiences on rivers. So many times over my fishing years, I would walk up to new waters and stare with a blank look at the unfamiliar water- unsure of how and where to start.
Today, I saw the beautiful structure of the river. Runs, riffles, deep pockets and bends all beckoned to me to place my fly in them. I recognized my familiar waters in this unfamiliar river. This was huge for me... I fished with a comfort that I normally only feel on my favorite home waters.
Now I don't assume that I can walk up to any waterway and catch fish now that I have had this realization. However, I do feel that I have the confidence now to walk up to an unfamiliar water and try to fish it. That the "deer in the headlights" look that I get when I freeze in overthinking what I should do is hopefully a thing of the past. I now see structure and familiar rhythms of the river where before I was too overwhelmed to move.
There is only one way to see if my new-found confidence is established. I need to find some new waters and walk up to the bank. Only then will I know if I see the river and grin in anticipation or freeze like a deer in front of an oncoming car!
there is nothing like homewaters. I know I have written numerous times about this waterway. Each time I hope I convey how special it is and how it makes me feel every time I get to venture there. I write about it often because I get to go there often. In fact, I was corresponding with a dear angling friend and he shared this amazing list of places he has and is going to fish. It reads like an angler's dream. I shared with him that I am feeling as though my son is reaching an age where I am not eager to leave him for length of time. He is getting onto the teenage years and time seems to be flying. I don't want to miss a moment and I also don't want him to feel like he isn't my number one priority. As I shared this realization with my friend, I wrote that I would be completely satisfied if I could only fish this one waterway for the rest of my angling days. This place is that special to me.Today I was able to go there- to my favorite place in the entire world. It is a small, local river. Many club members will know what river I am talking about immediately. Some will not. I refuse to advertise it's name on social media. It is where I learned to fly fish rivers. It is close to my home. Most of the time I am the only one there. It has fish and I love it there. Being there feeds my soul.
Everytime I drive to this spot, my level of relaxation increases. As each landmark comes into view and the familiar bends in the road arrive in front of me and disappear behind me, I am mixed with anticipation and impending calmness. When I finally get to the river, a sense of returning home permeates my being. Stepping into the water is like breathing a sigh of relief. I find myself drawn to this place when my life is stressful as well as when it is blissful. It is like my beacon home. I never tire of being there. It fills my soul and washes me clean.
It is my hope that everyone has something in their life that serves them as this river serves me. Someplace or someone that grounds and elevates them at the same time. A place of such familiarity that they never tire of being in its presence.
I was introduced to spey casting this last year. I took a lesson and then put my blooming skill to work on the Klamath fishing for steelhead. It just goes to show that just when you think you are gaining mastery of fly fishing, you realize that you have just scratched the surface. So, in effort to work on my spey casting skills, I took a small fiberglass spey rod out to my favorite local river to throw a few casts. I should probably mention that this river is a pretty small river. I usually fish it easily with an 8 foot 4 weight rod. However, there is a section that is wider and flat- not really an area that I would normally fish but something that would be good for practicing my cast.
I started casting and worked on my technique. As I ironed out some problems, the length of my cast increased. I went from just casting the shooting head to feeding line until I was easily casting 20 more feet than when I began. Feeling good about my fledgling skills, I moved into an area that I knew held fish.
I began casting, marvelling at the distance I was able to cast. I was casting into areas that I had never been able to reach before. However, I wasn’t catching fish. I wasn’t even getting bumps. This was strange as this place was one of my go-to fish catching spots. I thought for sure that a longer cast would put me in places to catch fish I just couldn’t reach otherwise.
Just then, I flubbed my cast. It fell short of any cast I had done- by quite a bit. And then I felt it- a fish bumped the fly. I cast short again and felt another fish. Again and again this happened. In my effort to cast farther and force that technique into this spot on the river, I had spent all of my time fishing over the fish. While I was out there to work on a skill, I wasn’t disappointed. My spey cast was better than when I had started that day. But, it was a good reminder to myself that farther isn’t always better. Casting for distance has its place. But, often we are tempted to display our casting skills and this results in missing opportunities to catch fish that are literally right in front of us. I know for me, I learned more than how to spey cast a little better that day- I was reminded that an effective angler adapts to the river and looks close before looking far. It is funny how the river will teach us these skills if we just let it…
I am always a little jealous of my son around this time of year. Every year to celebrate his adoption day, I give him a Lego advent calendar. As the gift that keeps on giving, starting December 1st, he opens a door on the box and finds a little Lego treat every day. Sometimes a little figure. Sometimes a small item to build. The advent calendars have a theme. Some years it is the holidays. Some years it is Star Wars. He loves it and looks forward to it every year.
My sister in law did a grown up version for my brother. She made a box with 25 spots and in each one she put a beer. He got a different beer each day for the month of December. I am sure he appreciated this as he works for UPS and the month of December is soul-crushingly intense and busy there.
I was looking for a gift for a fly fishing friend and thought that a fly fishing themed advent calendar would be a fun item. Not finding anything like it online, I tried my hand at making one. I downloaded a do-it-yourself advent calendar pattern and attached a fly behind each door. After some problem solving to keep the flies from falling or being crushed, I was pretty happy with the outcome. I ended up making a few for anglers in my life. I found it a little embarrassing that I could put together 5 advent calendars containing 25 flies each without putting a dent into my fly collection… I may have a problem!
I can hardly wait for Thanksgiving to hand them out. I hope that the recipients open a door each day with the anticipation similar to my son. I hope the flies they find under the doors get fished and catch fish for them. I can’t think of a better present this holiday season!
When I first began fishing, I used to hate the fact that I had to take put my rod together, run the line and build my rig. I equally dreaded taking apart my rod, take off the reel and put everything in its place. I envied the gear fishermen who grabbed their rods and set off to fishing so quickly and threw their short little rods into their backseat and headed off after fishing. I would look for some way to avoid this preparation ritual every time I fished. I would feed my flies through the ferrules in my rod to avoid taking them off of the line. I would try to take my rod apart without taking the line off. Veteran fly fishermen would laugh at me and tell me that I was going to break my rod because of my laziness. They were right. It wasn’t long before I snapped the tip off of my favorite rod for this very reason.
I am sure part of this was a personal worry that I wouldn’t be able to replicate my set ups with any accuracy as a newer angler. I also tie terrible knots and, to this day, I still don’t tie knots I trust fully. Getting ready to fish used to be torture to me. It was something that I rushed through in my eagerness to step into the water.
As I got ready to fish the other day, I realized that the preparation for fishing has become a treasured ritual for me. It has shifted from a necessary torture to a calming and focusing process that helps me set my mind for my time on the water. The process of putting my rod together, setting the reel and feeding my line serve as steps in setting up my gear for success. I no longer wonder if my rig is set up correctly as I now have more trust in my ability to adjust depth style and flies on the water. Now, when I complete the ritual of preparation that is fly fishing, I am ready to fish. And when I take everything apart at the end of my fishing day, it puts the perfect seal on my experience. Everything goes in its place. As I take the flies off, I think about the choices I made during fishing. As I take the line and reel off, I think about casting and drifts. As I take my rod apart, I think about how lucky I am to get to fly fish. I jot my experience in my journal. I also start to think about when I can next go fishing.
The steps of preparation have become a valued process of focusing and decompression for me. It has shifted as I have spent time on the water and embraced the challenges and joys of fishing. I feel like a true angler in a way I didn't before. When I struggled to embrace the process, I felt like a fly fishing imposter. Now I feel like my passion and enjoyment of all things fly fishing have given me validity in the art and experience of fly fishing. Now, I relish the steps of getting ready to fly fish- every single step!
Today I went to the spot where I first fished on my own. I mean really fished by myself. I had fished here with others and had it dialed in. The rod, the fly, the line, the spots to cast from. Where the fish were and how the current and seasons impacted the fishing on this section of the river had become a part of me. It is my favorite spot on earth. I want my body's ashes dropped in the big hole at the base of my favorite run when I depart this earth. I fell in love at this spot. I had my heart broken at this spot. I came here and healed myself at this spot. I have spent beautiful days here with family and old friends. I have made new friends here. Anytime my soul is heavy or my mind is cluttered, I can come here. The waters wash away all of life's troubles. All becomes right with my soul again.
Having a chance to take my nephew Bowen fishing is an unanticipated highlight of being an angler. I started fishing because I was hoping for a way to connect with his older brother, Robert. Robert was at the age between teenager and adult and we would sit in awkward silence when we were together. He had 3 interests at the time- his girlfriend (now wife), cycling and fly fishing. I tried the cycling and found that I had little talent or ability to safely maneuver a bike- well, just about anywhere. I adored his now wife already. So that left fly fishing. So I took up the sport/art and immediately fell in love with every aspect of it.
Fast forward a few years and my other nephew Bowen expressed an interest in fly fishing. I had been fishing long enough that I was able to outfit him with some of the basics as he left for college in Arizona. Before he departed for school, I was able to take him fishing. I took him to one of my favorite places in the world. It is a spot of amazing beauty. I have fished here with friends. I have had long and meaningful conversations with people whom I respect and admire. I have even had my heart broken here. It is a sacred spot to me. And, did I mention, there are beautiful wild trout there? Putting Bowen on trout there was possibly the highlight of my year.
Bowen went off to school. He studied. He explored Arizona. He fished. Then the Corona Virus happened and he came home to do distance learning for his junior year of college.
For me, that meant that I would get to show him a few more fishing spots near us. We got to go last weekend after restrictions lifted and our schedules meshed. I took him to a beautiful little spot that usually produces at least a few fish. We explored. He got some bumps but didn’t convert any of these bumps to a fish to hand. I was becoming desperate to get him a fish and the fish seemed to know it. We came to the last hole. We came to the last cast. I gave him some instruction. “Cast it in there...let it drift. You aren’t fishing yet- let it get down to the bottom. You are fishing... now.” And wouldn’t you know it, a fish hit right when I said “now”. He landed it and we snapped a picture. He was all smiles and so was I.
That moment helped me realize that Bowen wasn’t the only one who had learned over the past year. A year ago, I wouldn’t have known what to tell him to do or be able to foretell the strike like that. Sometimes in life there are moments that serve as marker to help you measure your growth and progress and that was one for both of us. It was a great day fishing with my nephew.
Now if only I could get him and his brother out there at the same time, my Auntie heart would runneth over...
I am an obsessed angler. I try to fish twice a week as often as I can. I love fishing with new and old friends. It seems that fly fishing attracts some amazing people and, since trout live in beautiful places, this combination makes for wonderful days.
The one person who I wish I could get to fall in love with fishing but hasn't so far is my son Rocky. He hates fishing. He hates it when I go fishing. As a single mom, this leaves me in a bit of a jam. So I feel like I am forever in search of some sort of balance in my life.
An example is us going camping. As I type this, I am sitting next to a beautiful tributary of the North Fork of the North Fork of the American River. It is a pristine spot with the crystal clear water flowing-right past our campground. The sounds lulls me to sleep at night and the rising fish beckon me to the water all day long. But, As you heard, Rocky hates fishing. So I have to try and find some balance while the two of us are here. We play board games, make s'mores, build epic campfires and talk. Then, when the fish are rising to the point I can't resist, Rocky times me. I get 45 minutes to step into the water and fish. He lets me know when my time is up in this reversal of "You can have some time to play" parent-child dynamic. "Aww Rocky! Can I have a few more minutes?" I ask. "Just one more fish?" "Okay", he answers. One more fish and then back up to the campsite for another round of Uno. More time with my beloved son. Another amazing day of just trying to find some balance.
Topwater fishing, whether trout or bass, is based upon reaction. The fish emerges from below, most often unseen, and takes the fly. The angler has to react in time to set the hook. The set must be at the correct angle and speed. Too soon and the angler takes the fly away from the fish. Too late and the fish is onto the ruse and knows that that tasty morsel is just a trick of feather and fur.
As the angler, sitting and waiting for the take can be its own experience. Trying to maintain a ready status over time. Hunger, distractions and a million other things can dull the readiness and cause the angler to misreact at that moment.
Fish rarely give second chances. One miss step and the opportunity is unlikely to return. Humans can be this way too- easy to grasp at what they want in the moment and quick to turn away at the first sign of trouble.
Both the fish and the people are good teachers of life lessons. If you get a fish to give you a second chance, you had better be ready. If you get a person to give you a second chance, don't screw it up- life rarely gives you third chances.
Everyone has family on some level or another. At times it is family we are born to but do not choose. Other times it is family we choose but are not born into. Sometimes we are lucky and it is family we would choose that we are born into. I am incredibly fortunate that my life has many of these family members.
From my parents and sibling to my niece and nephews, I would choose each of them if I hadn't been lucky enough to be born into their family. My beloved son, the child of my heart, couldn't be more my family- even if he had been crafted of my body instead of from my heart and soul.
I have extended family that I hold dear too. Amazing people that have existed on the periphery of my life- providing me with roots, support and love in times of joy and times of need. Always a phone call, visit or celebration away, they add hues of love and support like a beautiful layered sunset.
The only bummer to having all of these wonderful people in my life is that I don't get to see them as much as I would love. A great example of that is my cousins, Brett and Katie. They are amazing people- fun loving, kind, hardworking and loving. We have all experienced transitions in our lives that pull us in different directions pursuing our joys and life challenges.
You can imagine my excitement when my cousin Brett and I scheduled an evening fishing session amongst our busy lives. We set out with Captain Bryce on the Delta and the fun started instantly. Given the chance to reconnect, catch beautiful fish, be on the Delta and be cared for by our awesome guide made hanging out with family even better.
I am so lucky to have family that loves the outdoors. I am so lucky to have family I would choose. I am really lucky to share fishing with them.
I have been away from my home waters for a few weeks. While I have been fishing in beautiful and new places, there have been many moments in which I have yearned to be on my favorite home waters. It is like seeing a familiar person who brings you comfort and joy. I was ready for a homecoming. After settling in at home a few days, I took my nephew to my super secret fishing spot. As I entered the first pool, I didn't catch a fish. As I entered the second pool, I didn't catch a fish. And the third and fourth were the same. I couldn't believe it. I had brought my nephew because I can catch fish here- only I wasn't catching fish today. I felt terrible. We had a few bumps but didn't land anything until the 5th pool. At the 5th pool I got it right. I turned the rig over to my nephew and sat and watched him land about 5 fish. It was awesome to be home...
I had my first saltwater fishing experience while on vacation in Maui last week. I did my best to prepare by taking a special casting lesson and practicing my casting before I went. I am not sure anything could have prepared me for the actual experience.
First off, you need to know that I am terribly afraid of the ocean. I saw the movie Jaws at the age of 7. I used to get scared in my own pool at home when I was a child. My fear is irrational and I know it. Knowing it doesn't keep me from feeling the fear though. I think this is part of why I haven't fished in saltwater yet. That is, until last week.
We had arrived on Maui on Friday evening. My fishing guide was booked for Tuesday. Monday night he called and let me know that the winds were forecast to be too high for fly fishing so we rescheduled for Thursday. This gave me a chance to swim in the ocean a few times with my family.
Thursday came and I met my colorful guide at 7. Captain Jon Jon is a bit of a local celebrity. He is on kayak fishing shows and runs the only guide company on Maui.
Our session began with an assessment of my casting. After a brief beach casting session, we moved into the kayak and set out on the water.
Captain Jon Jon spotted fish and directed my casting. I did my best to get it out there where he said. We had a few chases but no takes. The reef we were fishing combined wading amongst rocks and on uneven ground with handling waves all while casting. Turtles swam around us. We explored chances for a few hours and the wind began picking up. The waves breaking around us began knocking me over. Jon Jon told me that we should head in- that the wind was too strong. He said to take one last cast and we would call it- even though we were empty handed.
While I was disappointed to be fishless, I was a bit relieved to be getting out of the water. I was exhausted from motoring the fishing kayak, dealing with the waves and my arm was sore from casting. I chucked the fly as far as a I could and was ready to call it a day- when the fish hit.
The fish ran me into the backing. Not just to the backing but almost through the backing. This was repeated another 5 times. We finally landed the bonefish and snapped a few pictures before high tailing it to shore. We rode the waves in the kayak like a surfboard. On the way in, Captain Jon Jon told me that half of the people he took surfing don't land a fish. While I would have been satisfied with the ocean experience, knowing that gave me further appreciation of the experience.
Great guides are magic. Fly fishing guides tend to be pretty amazing people. They are knowledgeable, kind, patient, funny and in tune with their environment. I am a bit addicted to guides and trips with guides. They help me become a better fisherman, a better steward of the waterways, and provide amazing experiences that I wouldn't have found on my own. I was looking forward to a McCloud experience like that when I booked Chuck from Wildwaters. Initially we had talked about fishing the Conservancy. However, when Chuck showed up that morning he asked if I would be open to a different adventure. He said he had a good feeling about the Upper McCloud and had his boat at the boat ramp in hopes I would be willing to go that direction with him that day.
Chuck is an amazing angler who has guided this water for a long time. If Chuck says we should go to the Upper McCloud, then we go to the Upper McCloud. So- we went.
Chuck launched the boat into the emerald colored McCloud Reservoir. We jetted up the arm towards the Hearst property. We landed the boat just next to the spot where Mud Creek joins the Upper McCloud. Mud Creek is fed by glacial melt. This time of the year, the color of the water is an amazing turquoise because of the volcanic ash in the glacial water. That water meets the spring fed Upper McCloud to provide a 44 degree trout haven. Chuck had me walk and wade this section. Then he drifted the boat down the river-like arm of the reservoir while fish slammed my fly. When we got to the wider part of the water where the current disappeared, we fired up the engine and repeated the procedure for the entire day. I fished dries to risers, indicator fished in different spots and roped in amazing and beautiful fish over and over again.
This is an area that is only accessible by experienced jet boat operation. This is something that only an experienced guide can make happen. So grateful for Chuck and his guidance in making this amazing experience a reality.
When i fished the Upper McCloud with a guide, we were just moving towards the end of the day by finishing up a drift down the current of an arm of the McCloud Reservoir. We ended up along an inside bend of a wide swath of water. As we came around the bend, my indicator started taking a dive over and over. Fish after fish hit my flies in this honey hole. Mind you, this was after a wonderfully fun and successful day of fishing. We were ready to bring it in for the day but just couldn't tear ourselves away from this spot just quite yet.
The catching didn't take any necessary skill. The biggest challenge was not looking away from the indicator as it didn't sit for very long before a take. Fish after fish after fish after fish almost paid homage to our guide putting us in the right spot and the right time. It felt almost too easy.... That is not the norm in fly fishing.
As we motored home after my arm finally said enough and the sun began to disappear over the mountains, we talked about how rare it can be to have that experience. We also talked about how wonderful it was. While it didn't take any of my skill to catch all those fish, it did take skill and knowledge from my guide. I just got to feel what it was like to catch a ton of fish. Let me tell you, it felt good!
Being a fly fishing guide has to be a challenge. It is taking something you love and making it your work. It is easy to lose what you love by doing this. Something about it is tough for me to swallow. You literally take people to your favorite spots and show them how to catch fish there. Guiding a waterway you love probably feels like a bit of a betrayal. I imagine it is easy to get burnt out on the hard physical work, the challenge of getting people fish- especially if they don't listen, and the loss of hands on fishing as it becomes more of a spectator sport.
However, when I took my nephew fishing on the Truckee with one of my favorite guides, I was struck by the power of being a fly fishing guide. My nephew is new to fly fishing. He is smart and eager. He fishes wherever he can but is learning on his own. That is a tough way to learn. The learning curve is steep and guidance really helps make it more palatable. He has been doing it on his own for a year. So, for his birthday, I set up this guided fishing trip to give his skills and experience a boost. I was awestruck at the interaction between he and our guide, Matt. The impact that Matt had was profound. I realized that Matt did this all the time. He forged new anglers. He taught the large and small skills. He instilled the respect and care of the fishery. While he was giving away his experience and knowledge, he was also forging a legacy few of us could ever imagine.
I will be lucky to help a handful of people get started in fly fishing in my life. My son, my niece, a friend here or there- they will be my fly fishing legacy. For our guide Matt, his legacy will be far reaching. People will honor his experience and knowledge well into the future. I imagine that my nephew will hand much of it off to his future children. I am Matt's legacy. Everyone that fishes with him will move forward with a piece of him and his beloved river to fish forward into the future. What a legacy to leave!
I spend a lot of time on the water. I generally fish twice a week. You can set your clock by it. If I am not fishing twice a week, it is because I am fishing more often on a special trip. I have been putting a bit of time on the water. And yet, it still amazes me that I catch most of my fish by accident.
I go to fish a section or spot and the fish are not necessarily where I think they should be. Rather, I hook a fish when I am bringing my line in to recast, or sliding it along to check my flies, or taking line out to get ready to fish, or any other time I think I am not quite fishing- that is when I catch fish.
It is actually quite funny. I tend to laugh out loud when I realize the fish is on my line.
Given the amount of time I spend on the water, you would think I would be better at fishing than I am. But, I am not. Sometimes it feels as though every fish I catch is a fish of a thousand casts. I wonder if one day I will figure it out and catch fish with intention? I don't know. But, I do know that I catch more fish than I used to catch. I also know that if I just keep getting my line wet and getting out there, I am bound to learn lessons from when I catch fish- whether it is by accident or not!
I think getting trout to take a dry fly is the ultimate in fly fishing. Getting a fish to leave the safety and security under the water and expose themselves to increased danger by breaking the surface is amazing. Getting a wild trout to do this is even better. Getting a wild trout to rise when there is no hatch, no other fish rising and you don't have an exact match to the local bugs is epic. This is what happened at the Conservancy for me last Sunday. Nothing like a wild on the dry! #thatslomoletgothough #shastabows #natureconservancy