What is an Angling Artist?
Years ago on a sunny November day, I perched on a stone pier off of E55th in Cleveland, Ohio and caught my first Steelhead Trout. I will never forget that moment and neither will the people fishing next to me because I screamed like an obnoxious girl. I still cannot comprehend how much that moment has continued to change my life.
At that time, I was working a warehouse job which was easily compared to the feeling of prison. I would spend everyday at that mindless job thinking about what I really wanted in life. Fly fishing and painting filled my head. Fishing after work was my only release. I actually started to like waking up early to race to my favorite private fishing spot in the inclement weather consistently presented by Northeastern Ohio’s winter season.
Through fly fishing I also found inspiration that fueled my master plan of graduate school. One of my more recent fishing trips was to Costa Rica while conducting research for my masters. I flew there alone and rented a car that I drove 3 hours southwest to the pacific coast. Even though I could not land the multiple Rooster Fish I hooked into off the coast of Quepos, I got to see Humpback Whales and caught a strangely large amount of electric eels, bait fish, a buzz and a wicked sunburn.
After completing a Masters of Arts in Biology: “ Engaging Angling Communities with Conservation Messages and Solutions through Artistic Expression” I finally knew how to incorporate my passion for art and fly fishing together to create a career tailored to me.
But after two Steelhead Seasons I clearly needed something more.
In the Pursuit of Trout, I quit my corporate job. The last thing I wrote on my exit interview paperwork was “ thank you for this difficult experience”. April 2017 I jumped in my newly obtained rig with a huge list of fishing and camping gear and one main goal: Find somewhere I could live that would allow me to scout trout all year long. Many people asked me if I was scared or out of my mind to drive across the country all alone. I was scared, but that was the point. I have learned there is nothing worse than to not do something you want to do because you are scared.You never have enough money or say enough goodbyes to feel comfortable leaving your home indefinitely.. you just have to keep driving and don’t look back. When you get where you are going.. you know it.
I had a general idea of where I wanted to go; south then west! I knew that this journey had to be done alone because I wanted to experience everything my way. Solo travel forces you to see things differently and allows you to really connect with all of your surroundings.. just like fly fishing. Every town I stopped in, I would seek out an interesting individual (almost always at a bar) and ask them the same question: If you were me and could drive anywhere tomorrow.. where would you go? These characters genuinely took the time to contemplate their answer and I like to think that I had an influence on what they did the following weekend. I let these strangers, that I now call friends, guide me and my FJ over sketchy mountain passes, across rivers, over white sand deserts and even through a redwood tree. Each one of those people helped me find my way on a journey that I was destined to take. Life is most definitely all about the small things.
I traveled for about three months and added 8,000 miles to my odometer. I never hit a toll road, elluded a speeding ticket and somehow avoided an accident. Naturally, many stories can be told from this trip but these are some of my favorite fishing experiences: 1. Landing countless wild Browns in Valles Caldera NP, New Mexico. Yes… in an old volcano.
2. Sleeping in my truck somewhere along scenic route 12 and then hiking miles alone in bear country to catch small Brookies and my first alpine Cutthroats in Utah. That experience I like to call “fly fishing over fear”.
3. Chasing Stripers on the Sonoma River with an old friend severely hung over. 4. Spending hours casting my 5 weight at The Golden Gate Angling & Casting Club in San Francisco. 5. Somehow conveniently hitting the Rogue River for the Salmonfly hatch while passing through Shady Cove, Oregon. 6. Volunteering at the Leadville National Fish Hatchery with the annual spawning of endangered Greenback Cutthroat. There were countless places I did not stop but they have been noted for future adventures.
For many reasons, I found myself in Denver, Colorado and knew I needed to pump the brakes. I have been in Denver since June and have fished as much as possible. Telluride, Crested Butte, Gunnison, Dream Stream, Deckers are a couple of places I have fished… But there are many other secret places I continue to frequent. I have been lucky enough to float places like the Bighorn River in Montana with my new Denver Outfitters fishing crew as well.
I have always wanted to float the Amazon, wade Christmas Island and I keep seeing visions of Washington State’s Hoh River in my head. I will have to return to Costa Rica not only to land those fighting roosters I left behind, but also catch cloudforest Rainbows, fig eating Machaca and of course.. Tarpon.
You can see more angling art on my personal website: