There’s nothing quite like having your feet in the water of a rushing river and hearing nothing except the sounds of nature. Fishing is traditionally thought of as a sport for men. This is seen through popular culture on social media, in movies and TV shows (especially as a father/son bonding activity, for example), even on dating apps! Up until this summer, I agreed with this stereotype. Sure, I have fished before, joining my grandfather or brother whenever they would go, but I never found a passion for it until recently. And now, I will never go back.
This past summer, I was lucky enough to work and live on a ranch in rural Wyoming. Although I spent most of my time working as a waitress, in my off time, I was fishing at the river. Fly fishing, to be technical. My closest friend at the ranch was named Kate, and she happened to be the only female fly fishing guide that worked at the ranch. Kate is awesome.
At first, Kate and I would go to the river simply to work on my cast. Because, let me tell you, casting with a fly rod is an art. It’s all about timing, finesse, and patience … not to mention dealing with untangling your line every three minutes. It took me weeks to even get my cast to land in the right place. I’m still learning where I even want to be casting my line. Kate, along with many fishermen and fisherwomen, calls that “reading the water.” Reading the water has to do with the speed, depth, and topography of the water and the rocks beneath it. I’m still learning to read.
You wouldn’t expect fishing to be about reading, would you? Well, it’s not just reading. It’s also about observation and memorization. And by that, I mean observing the “fly hatch” on the water to decide what fly you should tie onto your line. Fly hatches change with the seasons, the temperature, the quality of the water, the ecology of the area you are fishing, and even the time of day! If you want to be a really good fly fisherman/woman, you should also memorize the jargon of fly names — like the parachute adams, the woolly bugger, the caddis pupa nymph, or the black stonefly, just to name a few.
So, there’s water reading, fly naming and identification, and casting. By the way, there are many different types of casts, like the roll cast, the tension cast, the bow and arrow cast, the traditional cast, etc. There’s also different types of knots used to tie flies onto your line. This is a skill in which I have very little knowledge and experience. I know one knot — the clinch knot. Depending on how you’d like your fly to move in the water (and what types and sizes of fish you’re trying to attract), there are a multitude of knots you could tie in order to accomplish this.
Speaking of fish, that’s another memorization opportunity! Fish types depend on the type of water (salt, fresh, brackish), the geographical location of the body of water in which you are fishing, the time of the year (for migratory and spawning purposes), and more. This summer, I was predominantly fishing in a river with Brown and Rainbow Trout. In neighboring streams and ponds around the ranch, you could find Brook Trout, Tiger Trout, and (rarely) Mountain Whitefish. All of these fish types have different appearances, mannerisms, and behaviors. Even further, there are mechanisms to identify sex within a fish species. For example, male Brook Trout tend to develop a brighter belly color compared to females during spawning season. I’m sure you all can imagine the biological reasons for this phenomenon.
Just from this brief introduction to fly fishing, you might be able to see how my passion was born and how it has grown since. I am now an active member of The Williams Fishing Club (follow us on Instagram @williamsfishingclub) and try to get out on the rivers around Williamstown at least once a week. So, if you’re looking for something new to try, try fishing! All you need is a fishing license in your respective state and an open mind. Before this summer, I thought fishing was a boring hobby mostly for men. I was wrong: fishing is a talent, a challenge, an art. Tight lines, everyone!