I love to fish because it gives back much more than the pure act of the catch. When I am on the river, using the lessons that have been passed on to me since I was a young girl, it’s like following a ritual… a ritual of repetition of all the great things that I have learned and experienced on the river.
I have been fortunate to have had many great influences on my love of fishing.
My dad is a great fisherman and also a great teacher. I now have two boys of my own and can appreciate the patience it takes to teach children to fish. Between him and my grandpa, I don’t know if they really ever got a chance to drop a line in the water when they took us fishing as kids, but I don’t think they minded. I think it’s been a great lesson for me and a testament to them. They prioritized teaching before their own wants. This has taught me that when you go fishing with children, you better not plan to catch your own fish. You’ll be too busy untangling their snags and re-baiting their hooks. If you’re not naturally patient, maybe bring a couple beers. It helps a lot.
My husband, Phil, took me fishing for catfish at a small pond at his grandpa’s house when we first got together. I couldn’t catch one, and he must have caught 20. I know he thought, “Silly girl…she just doesn’t know how to fish.” I was seething. Fortunately, I’ve reestablished my reputation with him, and I’ve out-fished him ever since.
My father, husband, and I, like many others, are motivated by the competition of the One Fly and the love of the sport. The first year I competed, I didn’t catch a fish the whole day. I did keep my fly, but I was so disappointed. I didn’t take the guide’s advice on which fly to use, and the one I picked didn’t get a look the whole day. My guide tried everything. He tried to weight it, color it a different color, and many other things. I know he was as disappointed as I was, but he kept a positive attitude the whole time and kept encouraging me. The next year I didn’t do much better, but I caught a few fish. This past year was my best year. I filled my card the first day, and on the second day I caught a few good measurable fish. I had a total of 630 points. My guides were amazing, and my boatmates also did really well.
I can’t say enough about the importance of our guides. They expertly navigate the rivers to find the biggest fish while balancing the experience of the angler. Although I know they feel the intensity the competition, they are always calm and supportive and value the camaraderie that’s inherent in fishing. They take the event seriously, and I know they feel a lot of pressure as well. The event wouldn’t be successful without their efforts and support.
With an event like this, it’s easy to get focused on the competition of fishing, but fortunately, once you’re on the river and see how beautiful the landscape is, you appreciate the purpose of the event. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve missed a fish because I was watching a bald eagle on the hunt, a moose munching on a willow, or any other natural sight that would only be likely on the Snake River. With young children of my own, now more than ever I appreciate the need to protect and preserve the fly fishing experiences I’ve had for my children.
In the few years that I’ve participated in the One Fly I’ve seen more female teams and younger teams participate, but it can still be intimidating to participate as a young woman. I grew up around a family manufacturing business which traditionally has more men, and I still work there today. I think that has helped me to be more comfortable in settings like this competition. Still, I often wonder what the guys think when they receive their assignment sheets and learn they’re going to share the boat with a female. That’s where my competitive side kicks in. I don’t want them to think I’m pretty good for a girl, but I want them to think that I’m on par with other guys at the competition. Whether we’re competing in the event, helping to organize the event, or sitting on the board, I think having women deeply involved is a good thing. I encourage other women to participate and have a good time. It’s no different advice than I would give a man participating. Be polite and don’t let the competition get in the way of enjoying the day with your boatmate and guide. And most of all, appreciate and protect the great environment that makes this wonderful experience possible.