Val Walsh – Val is short for Valerie. My friends call me Valerina.
Where are you at in the world? Where will you be fishing this year?
I’m in Anchorage, Alaska. For this year I have planned fishing trips around Alaska and Montana. Last year I fly fished Alaska, Oregon and Florida.
A little over a year ago I started my own communications company, Valpine Creative, and my first client was FisheWear, a company that makes functional fishing fashion. I manage their social media, website and events. In October, I ran FisheWear’s successful Kickstarter campaign. All while having other clients, too! Running my own business gives me flexibility to fit in some really fun fishing trips.
I like fishing for grayling on the Clearwater River in Delta Junction, Alaska. With a cabin in the area, I make it up there at least three times each summer. In Anchorage, my husband and I live near a lake stocked with rainbows, grayling and char. It’s not uncommon to find us fly fishing from our canoe until nearly midnight on most weeknights during the summer (remember, the sun doesn’t set here). And of course, being in Anchorage means easy access to fly fishing the Kenai.
How long have you been fly fishing?
I’ve been fly fishing for about five years. Growing up in Alaska, I’ve been fishing for salmon my whole life (just not with a fly).
What got you into fly fishing? When did you start?
It started with my younger brother’s obsession with fly fishing. For my wedding, he gave both me and my husband a full set-up! Before that, we had been borrowing gear when we went out with friends. There’s been no looking back since we got our own gear. I am lucky to have a lot of friends that are patient and invite me out with them. I’ve learned a lot about the art of fly fishing from my friends and spending time with FisheWear.
It’s definitely not for solitude. Most of my fly fishing involves a heavy dose of adventure with a great group of friends. Just thinking about fly fishing conjures up memories of all the laughter and joy that comes from spending a weekend (or week!) camping, fishing and smack-talking with friends.
For example: This past Thanksgiving seven of us flew to Yakutat and had reserved the Forest Service cabins along the Situk River. The plan was to packraft about four river miles to the cabins during the day light hours. This alone would have been quite the adventure. Well, our flight was cancelled and we ended up in Yakutat late at night. We ended up hiking three snowy and icy miles in the dark to the cabins. The next day we got a good look at the huge bear tracks on the trail we used. I live for those types of trips.
As a woman angler, you’re definitely in the minority. What made you decide to be an angler?
I think in Alaska the perspective on women fishing is different. Nearly everyone fishes here: men, women and children (I even grew up with a dog that caught salmon). I’ve learned in recent years how different that perspective is outside of Alaska. It’s pretty interesting. Really, there was no decision, it was just part of my lifestyle, from a very young age.
Has the fact you’re a female ever been an issue with another angler (such as them maybe talking down to you?) If so, how did you manage it/them?
I haven’t experienced this before. I’ve heard from women guides and gals that work in fly shops about what they have experienced and I understand it is a real thing. I wish it wasn’t. Just last weekend I was in a fly shop that a young gal works in. A well-meaning woman came in shopping for her fly fishing Valentine. She took one look around and asked the only guy (also a customer) to help her. Unfortunately, the stereotype that fly fishing is a “man’s sport” does not stop with how some men view women, it can be women, too.
Yes. Just when it comes to gearing up for a trip. Many of the gear options for women are not practical or comfortable (thank goodness FisheWear came around!). Being uncomfortable can impact confidence and put a dark mark on a trip. But, if you follow my advice below, you can’t have a bad time!
What is a piece of advice you want to give to other anglers or a tip/trick that has helped you grow as an angler?
Ask lots of questions
Don’t take yourself too seriously
Half the battle is having the confidence to gear up and get outside. My trick in the past has been to dress up silly. Bringing along a flower crown, dressing like a mermaid or wearing crazy fun leggings are all ways I take the pressure off worrying about how my cast looks, etc. If you don’t catch any fish, at least you still had fun in the great outdoors!
I still think of myself as a newbie to fly fishing. Having zero ego makes walking into the fly shop with questions a lot easier. The professionals are there to help. There’s no such thing as a bad question.
Tough question – I have so many! I’m excited to try the Tippetac! I’m looking forward to FisheWear’s Kickstarter rewards to roll in. Their new trucker hats and dry bags are AMAZING. And their merino wool collection is so soft and warm. I got a 9 wt. Streem rod recently through Kickstarter that I am excited to use this year. Okay, one more thing: Alaska-based company, Groove, makes colorful and comfortable silicone rings that are perfect for my active lifestyle. Bonus: Based in Alaska, I get to support a local business!
Best catch of all time?
I’m still working on this. I caught a nice rainbow on the Kenai last fall. I have unfinished business on the Situk. I had a nice steelhead on the line for a couple minutes before the line broke (rookie mistake?).
Too many to list! I would love to do some more warm weather fly fishing. The photos I see coming out of Christmas Island and Tabasco look amazing.
What are some of the best places you’ve been fishing?
I love fishing Alaska. Fishing the Situk was a lot of fun this past winter. Every other year I try to get to Florida for catch-and-release shark fishing (not on the fly, but still one of my faves).
How do people follow you on social media or reach you?
Instagram: @wvalsh / @fishewear
Twitter: @fishewear / @valpinecreative
Website: www.FisheWear.com / www.valpinecreative.com