Over the past week my sister, Laura, and I have made our way from the mile-high city of Denver, to the Pacific Northwest for an epic road trip adventure.
While the trip provides an opportunity for a number of exciting activities, I had one in particular on my mind: FLY FISHING. Given that my sister is not an angler, and our two pups inevitably get bored with being stuck on a leash on the side of a river, I have to be cognizant about the amount of time I spend on the water. This is especially hard given that around almost every bend in the road I see a beautiful clear water stream or lake just begging to be waded in. The sheer amount of water, and quality of it, is enough to make any angler drool.
Laura and I stopped to hike two beautiful waterfalls along the McKenzie River Trail – one of which was featured in the movie “Homeward Bound.” (a popular animal adventure movie from the 1990’s in case you’re out of the loop) After the hike we were all tired, hungry, and needed to get on the road, but I begged Laura to let me fish for a little bit. We decided I could have an hour on the water while she napped and read in the car with the dogs.
Luckily I had my rod vault on the Outback (thanks Denver Outfitters!) so I pulled out my rod and threw on my stuff as quickly as possible and clambered down to the river in my big heavy boots. I saw two men fishing and given that I was short on time, decided to explain I had an hour to fish, and asked one of them what flies they were throwing. Sometimes anglers aren’t keen on sharing, but to my delight, the nicest guy named Rich shook my hand and said “March Browns!”. I knew I didn’t have any of those, but pulled out my box to show him all my dry fly patterns to see if I had anything close. He mentioned he had a bunch of them and offered to let me use one. He even tied it on for me and explained he was about to leave and I should take his spot. The sun was shining, the water was crystal clear, and the fish were rising.
Rich gave me a few pointers as far as places to cast and I explained that I have mostly used nymphs when fishing and I wasn’t the best dry fly caster in the world. He put down his rod, stood next to me and helped me with roll cast techniques, and showed me how to get more of a drag free drift. He had a calm excitement about him and was so nice and eager to share. Most importantly as a solo woman angler though, he made me feel safe. (Hint: women anglers still think about safety on the river even if we’re thinking about trout too.)
After we bonded and chatted for a bit, I think Rich was just as invested in having me catch my first Oregon trout as I was. I had two fish rise to my fly, but as every newbie does from time to time, I tried to set the hook too soon and yanked it straight out of their mouths like a real rookie! Rich was more graceful about the missed opportunity than I was. I might have let out a few curse words while he was just smiling and laughing at my obvious anguish. We moved around a little bit and kept trying. Right as my hour was almost up I hooked a fish and all the anticipation that was in my bones finally released and was tugging at the other end of my line. I landed the fish in and it was about a ten inch rainbow. The smallest fish put up the biggest fight sometimes, it makes me happy and in a weird way, proud of them. (Can you be proud of a fish? I can be.) Shortly after, I caught another small rainbow and I let Rich cast my rod a few times so he could really show off his skills! He was taller than me so he could see all the really big fish in the water. I think he was hoping I would hook up with one of the larger fish, which I would not have been opposed to of course, but I was just happy to have caught a fish, learned something, and to have made a new friend.
So here’s to the Pacific Northwest and its seemingly endless waterways, to all the lady anglers new and experienced, and to the men we know or meet along the way who are willing to share what fly they are using when women like me are on a time crunch! Happy FLY GAL FRIDAY!
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