50/50 on the water

Behind every good man is a woman, right? At least in my case it seems to be true. However, woman in fly fishing seems to be a hotly debated topic, with negativity among men running high. They see a woman who fly fishes as merely a model trying to pose as a true fisherman. I mean, there are the few women who are in the fly fishing game for the fame but the majority of women do it for the same reason men do, the love of the sport. 

I, myself, am lucky to be attached to an idiot like me. Someone who freezes her butt off in January to chase the cutthroat trout between the barely thawed river flows. She will hike kilometer upon kilometer of river to try and find that elusive giant bull trout high in the river valley. I can’t believe there is someone who is willing to follow me through thick and thin while putting up with my strange obsession. Plus, now it seems like the obsession is slowly infecting her body, cell by cell.

I’ve watched her on countless nights, meticulously tying flies that only someone with a high level of OCD could complete. Every feather, wire wrap, and piece of tinsel must be put in the perfect spot. Otherwise, that fly gets tossed out into the weird metal garbage can on our tying desk. I sometimes hear the, “Sigh,” from the other room, indicating she had broken a thread or part of the fly is unravelled. At this point, I am surprised I haven’t heard the uncanny bang of the bobbin being thrown against the wall, at least once or twice now. 

She got into fly fishing the way most women seem to. Their significant other is obsessed with fly fishing and they humor their addiction in order to spend time with them. When she told me she wanted to learn fly fishing, I knew it was a ploy to spend some more time together. Otherwise, when else was she supposed to see me in the summer. Never, that’s when. When she asked me, I said to her, “you can learn to fly fish, or you can learn to catch fish. The choice is yours.” She said she wanted to catch fish, and I warned her that she was going to spend countless times untangling lines, re-tying on flies, an cursing herself for even being on the water. However, I also promised her she would catch fish. I stood true to my word, and our very fish outing she caught 7 fish. She was hooked.

However, there was a moment on the water with her that almost stopped her from fishing with me all together. We were out on the river and she was having a most miserable day. It seemed that every cast she had a tangle, and casts that didn’t get tangled were snagged by the fist of the fishing gods, pulling directly on her line and never letting go. She became ever so frustrated, as I blissfully caught fish after fish. I could tell she wasn’t happy, but fly fishing is my happy place and I don’t do it to appease others. We had traveled a long way and hiked a good amount to be here. I had enough with the complaining, her frustrated grunts and sounds of, “uhhhhhh!” Her sour mood had been passed onto me and I no longer was enjoying myself. In a single moment of frustration I told her to grab her gear and we were leaving. I said not a word on the way back to truck as she tried to apologize. I told her that fly fishing is a time where you need to enjoy yourself, and if you aren’t enjoying yourself then I don’t want you to come along anymore. She explained that her frustrations were from not fishing but being upset at something unrelated and that all the fishing issues only compounded her problems. In that moment I said I understood where she was coming from but we are not allowed up bring our problems on the river, only forget about them. 

Subsequently, she was never upset like that again on the river. When she isn’t in the mood to fish, she doesn’t come. Yet, it seems like those days are few and far between. Fly fishing has become a way for us to bond, brought us ever closer. We spend our summers camping along the river banks hoping to hook into fish of a lifetime. She’s already caught bigger fish than most of the fella’s I hang out with, all because of her perseverance. Together, we have begun to raise a little fisher woman too. Our daughter ties flies, asks to come along for trips, and can’t wait for a rod of her own. It’s a special moment having your whole family submerge themselves into your hobby. I am a lucky guy to have someone that cares enough about me to understand the sport I love with such enthusiasm. 

Like I said, women get a bad wrap when it comes to male dominated sports. We look at them like outsiders, like they don’t belong. This is very much the same in fly fishing. However, women have every single right to do everything a guy does. Heck, half the time they do it much better than we do. I know that jealousy runs deep of the attention female anglers get, but remember, we don’t fish for likes but because we love what we do. Most women do the same.