I never push off the put-in ramp without my fishing gear stashed around my yellow boat. The next six days on the water are trout rising, dry-fly casting, heavy-fish-in-a-net bliss. “Idaho is the best state in the union!” I shout as I reel in another cutthroat trout. “Don’t tell the dudes in Montana…” I mutter as a follow-up.
As we float the river, however, I always notice women aren’t fishing. We pass trips full of men on boats with their male guides steering. Women on our trips are more hesitant to fish, some even passing up buying a license all together in favor of “just enjoying the scenery.” Ladies, here’s the thing: the scenery is beautiful, but you are not allowed to go on a Middle Fork of the Salmon trip without a fly rod. No, that’s not in the O.A.R.S. handbook or the Forest Service regulations, but it’s my rule because fly fishing is for women too—and a guided river trip is the best place to start. Here’s why:
Lower Testosterone = Easier Learning
Multiple fly fishing guides have told me they prefer to teach women to fly fish. Fly fishing requires finesse; you can’t muscle a two ounce piece of feathers and beads into the mouth of a fish and then rip it out of the water with thread-thin line. Fly fishing also involves listening and watching the river. The best fishermen and fisher-women I know are those who can imagine what a fish is thinking—which takes patience, empathy and big picture awareness—all of which ladies innately possess.
Laugh It Off
Sometimes your line will get tangled into such a mess that there’s only one thing to do, laugh. On a previous fishing trip a gal hooked a great trout, but as she was releasing the hook, her rod fell into the water and spooled out all of her tippet, leader, line and backing. When she finally got her rod back into the boat, the line could’ve made a great eagles nest. Instead of throwing the whole tangle into the bottom of the boat, however, she laughed—took the next hour to untangle the (approximately) 2,300 knots—and continued fishing.
It’s Okay to Take a Break
“My wife HATES fly fishing,” I hear often. When I inquire into how these husbands structure their fishing day, I hear this: “We get up at 6 a.m., hit the river by 7 a.m., start drinking beer at 10 a.m., don’t eat any food all day and come home at nightfall.” When you begin to think, “IhatethisIhatethisIhatethis” it’s time to put the rod down, eat a snack, read your book, or yes, enjoy the scenery. You don’t have to fish twelve hours a day to be a fisher-woman.
Find a Role Model
Often times fly fishing media excludes women, or only includes them as bikini-clad eye candy. Having a good running list of kick-butt female fly fishing inspirations has helped keep me excited about the sport. I’d recommend googling or adding to your Instagram feed April Vokey (@aprilvokey), Maddie Brenneman (@maddiebrenneman), and Abbie Schuster (@abbie.on.the.fly).
Don’t try to learn to fish from your significant other (really, stop, I mean it!). Consider taking a female-only fly fishing clinic in your area before your trip. Find some great gals to hit the water with. And never, ever feel bad about squealing, screaming, giggling or talking sweetly to that giant cutthroat trout you’re going to land.