Christmas Island 2013

I woke with a start. My heart was pounding and adrenaline was searing through my veins. The room was dark with a sliver of light from the city outside shining through the drapes. I rolled over and looked at the clock, it was 3:30am, I had only been asleep for 4 hours. “Jeez,” I whispered to myself. I couldn’t recall what I’d been dreaming but the thought of going back to sleep was vacant. I was in Honolulu and in roughly 8 hours, I’d be on my way to one of the most sought after bone fishing destinations on the planet. Sleep? Yeah, right. I bounced out of bed, grabbed my Simms Dry Creek duffel bag, pulled out 7 reels and started rigging them with leaders and checked the drag systems one more time. Once I finished with that, I moved on to sharpening hooks, then to organizing my fly boxes….again, then decided to look over my orientation notes. This was my first hosted trip and to say I was nervous would have been an understatement. I was hosting the trip through a travel agent called Fishing With Larry, based out of Columbus, Montana. I had two couples joining me on this trip, Jerry and Katherine and Nick and Maria. I wanted to be sure that I was prepared and ready to roll once we landed on the island. I glanced at the clock again, 4:30am. “Ugh, noon might as well be a year away. Guess I’ll re-organize my fly boxes again.”

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I stepped onto the Christmas Island tarmac and glanced around. A small white building with a couple small gates was all that consisted of the airport terminal. The wind carried a fresh saltwater perfume that whisped through my hair causing it to puff up into an afro. The humidity was definitely higher than in Montana and I quickly grabbed a hat to tame my rogue hair. Christmas Island is about 1300 miles South of Honolulu just North of the equator in the middle of the Pacific. It’s by far the remotest place I’ve ever been. I’d met up with the two couples in Honolulu so we made our way through customs and met up with Neemia, the head guide from The Villages Lodge which would be our home for the next 6 days. After the initial greetings, we loaded our gear into a truck that looked as old as King Tut then piled into an old hippie van with broken seats and no AC. It was nearly a 45 minute ride to the lodge and in those 45 minutes we got an up close look at the culture and living quarters for the locals on the island. The houses were not houses. Instead they were little shanteys built from palm tree leaves, sticks and old tin roof. I was amazed at how third world the culture was. I definitely wasn’t in Montana anymore. We arrived at the lodge, went through a quick orientation then began setting our gear up for the next day. Everyone was so jacked for the day ahead that I don’t think any of us could sleep. I woke up at 3:30am again, heart racing and adrenaline flowing. So I walked over to the lounge area where I found four others with the same problem. I sat there and listened to their stories of fighting 70lb GT’s and casting to 12lb bonefish for the next two hours. Talk about make a girl drool.

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The sun was just rising over the horizon. The sky was a crisp shade of orange with pink highlights decorating the edges. It was 5:30am, we had just eaten breakfast and were making our way towards our boat full of guides ready to take us out for the first day. Crabs skirted away as we walked down the path and I couldn’t help but feel like my exposed toes would be pinched at any moment. We climbed into our skiff and after a couple pull starts the motor fired up and we were off. The flats were calm and glistened with the coming sunrise. Manta Rays, a massive yet beautiful creature, finned their way along the surface engulfing small fish and plankton. The boat was buzzing with excitement. Jerry was squirming around like he had ants in his pants (as was I), Katherine was snapping pictures like a maniac, Maria was laughing all the time and I was frantically trying to figure out which flies to hand out to everyone. Nick was the only who seemed to be calm and collected. One by one, we each were dropped off on a flat with our guide where we spent the rest of the day walking and searching the water for bones and GT’s. The first day was a huge learning curve, which is typical. You can’t expect to be an expert your first time doing anything. We all caught fish, had a great time and had some great stories to tell. Maria and Katherine were beginner flyfisher(women) and despite the tough wind conditions they both hooked and landed their first bonefish. I could tell from the look in their eyes and the smiles on their faces that they were ready for more.

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Bonefish are literally like ghosts. One minute they are there then the next they are gone. I’m happy we each had our own guide because I know for a fact I wouldn’t have seen 70% of the fish myself. However, after the second day I started figuring out what to look for. My most memorable fish of the trip happened to be one I spotted. My guide that day was Shimano (Katherine and I called him our “reel” man) and we were dropped off on a flat called Texas. The sun was harsh and I could feel the sting of the sun baring down on my exposed arms and face. I quickly rolled down the sleeves of my Simms SolarFlex shirt and pulled a buff over my face, I was thankful to be wearing my Simms Flyte pants otherwise my legs would have been cooked well done. We walked slow, scanning the water, searching for movement. A small Puffer fish nonchalantly swam by seemingly un-concerned about our intentions. We had seen and hooked into a couple small bones but the coral surrounding us made it impossible to keep the fish on. Once a fish went around a coral head, the 15lb test tippet was no match and I’d loose both the fish and fly. It was a very frustrating yet unavoidable situation. We had been walking for nearly an hour when I saw it. My heart immediately went into panic mode, this was a big fish and the odds of me screwing this up were all too good. I pointed it out to Shimano who told me to, “Cast.” I made two quick false casts and laid the fly about 4 feet to his right. “Wait.” said Shimano. I waited. Then he started making the strip motion with his hand, so I started to mimic him. The bone turned and made a bee-line for my fly, I felt a slight tug and that’s when I set. Nothing. I took it right out of his mouth. My heart sank and my only thought was, “I screwed it up.” but Shimano tells me to cast again. So I laid the fly in nearly the exact same spot. I didn’t even have time to strip the fly before I felt a strong tug. I set the hook once more and this time things connected. The bone took off like a rocket, taking line from my Allen reel as if it was a drag free spool. Finally after several big runs, I was able to bring the fish in and marvel at it’s perfect beauty. It’s easy to understand why these fish are so difficult to see once you get an up close look at them. Their scales have an iridescent shimmer that when turned to the sun mirror the shine of water, causing them to blend in perfectly with their environment. An amazing and beautiful creature. We snapped a few photos then I gently released it and watched it swim away. “About 6 pounds, I’d say.” says Shimano. I’ll agree with that.

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The evenings on Christmas Island are nothing short of perfect. We were greeted with happy smiles from the staff and questions from fellow anglers about our day. After a cool shower we’d all meet at the lounge for drinks and sushi which was as fresh as fresh could get. Giovanni, an Italian fisherman and fellow guest, was the supplier of fresh tuna and wahoo each day. He loved his blue water fishing and I think he took pride in bringing home the bacon. One evening we were treated to a barbecue and special performance by the island locals. One thing that really struck me about this place was it’s simplicity. The people there barely have enough to afford shoes, yet they’re some of the happiest people I’ve been around. They don’t have internet, cell phones, computers, fancy clothes, cars or any of the other unnecessary things we have back at home. I found myself suddenly feeling embarrassed that I live a life where I don’t have to worry about when my next meal will be or if I’ll be able to provide for my family. In our society we have so much, yet take it for granted. These people live a beautiful life even if we may think it’s poverty stricken. I can’t help but feel as though they could teach us more than we could them.

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Our last day on the island came in the blink of an eye. It happens like this all the time. You get so caught up in the fun, adrenaline, excitement and drama of things that the time just flies by. That’s exactly what happened to us. Our plan for that day was different from the previous 5 days. Instead of going out on the flats as a group we decided to split up. Gerry and Katherine decided to spend the day at the lodge, Maria wanted to fish for a half day then partake in a culture demonstration at the lodge and Nick and I decided to hit the blue water with another angler. Blue water fishing is when you leave the lagoon of the island and go outside the surf. Instead of fishing 3 feet of water like on the flats, you’re fishing depths up to 300 feet. Tuna, Wahoo, Barracuda, Sailfish, Trevally and sharks are all considered to be “big game” and steel leaders, 80lb test braided line and massive stainless steel hooks are a requirement.

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I’ve never been deep sea fishing before and neither had Nick, so this was an experience far beyond anything we had been apart of before. Glenn, the fellow fisherman from the lodge, was an expert and graciously set everything up for us. I just watched, not understanding any of the equipment and contemplated on what we had gotten ourselves into. From what I was looking at, the gear we’d be using looked as though it could bring a sunken ship up from the bottom. We rounded the corner to the open ocean, the swells had started getting fairly large and I couldn’t help but beg myself not to get seasick (which I didn’t). The thought quickly disappeared when I saw a dolphin swimming beside the boat. It glided effortlessly through the water, surfacing to breath then diving under the bow pacing the boat perfectly then angling off and disappearing into the deep blue. About 30 minutes later we reached our fishing area and it was time to get our lines in the water. Birds were flying everywhere which was apparently good because that meant fish were around. It wasn’t long before I was hooked into my first Tuna then soon after that, a big Wahoo.

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The line from the reel was literally “singing” as the fish took off. I immediately had this feeling of “Oh crap, what did I get myself into? The Tuna was easy but this is something else.” as I felt the weight of the fish. This was serious business and I was the one who had to reel this thing in. “Time to put your big girl pants on, Camille. There’s no way I’m letting someone else reel this thing in for me!” I whispered under my breath. I gritted my teeth and bore down. Pumping the rod up and reeling down, over and over and over. Only to have the fish make another run taking twice as much line out. In my mind I was seriously sending out every obscenity I could think of to that fish. My arms were burning, sweat was dripping into my eyes and my will was depleting. Nick and Glenn were behind me, cheering me on. I never thought I need moral support to fight a fish, but I was glad for it. Finally, after what seemed to be an eternity, I started making some serious headway and before too long I could see a bright blue torpedo shaped object beneath the boat. “WAHOO!” yells the guides. I raise the fish’s head and bring it into the boat. I was in absolute awe. It was about 40lbs, solid muscle and had teeth like a saw. My first Wahoo and I was both exhausted and exhilarated. “Nice job, Camille!” says Nick. “Thanks.” I reply. “Now it’s your turn.”

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The rest of the day was unbelievable. Nick caught the monster of the day with a 100lb Mako shark. I was happy to be the observer when I saw how strained and tired he was while fighting that thing, but he was a trooper and conquered the beast. I’ve always been a catch and release fisher(woman) with the exception of keeping a walleye or salmon on occasion. Killing fish has never been something I cared to do. However, this was different. All the Wahoo, Tuna and the shark we caught we kept and took back to the village to feed the families in need. After seeing how little they have and how virtually nonexistent the natural resources were on the island, I was more than happy to keep these fish and give them away. We brought back 11 Wahoo, 2 Tuna, 1 Barracuda and 1 shark for the community and I felt not a single shred of remorse for it.

Feeding hungry families.

Feeding hungry families.

Our week on Christmas Island was unreal and I’ll never forget it. The people, fishing and entire experience was extraordinarily special and I can guarantee I’ll be going back. The folks I had the pleasure of fishing with were fantastic and I couldn’t have asked for a better group for my first hosted trip. I was so proud to see the ladies get out there and get with it in the tough conditions and literally kick butt. Maria was an all-star when she hooked and landed the Ryan Gosling of fish. A 40lb Giant Trevally! The only one of the trip at that. I have so many more stories I wish to share about this place but my space on this blog is limited. To anyone who is interested in visiting Christmas Island, I highly recommend it. It’s a magical place full of life and is a fisherman’s dream. I’d like to thank Simms for supplying me with gear that I can trust in any weather condition. They kept me safe from harsh sun rays and allowed me to keep my gear dry while out wading waist deep on the flats. The world of fishing truly would not be the same without them. I’m back in Montana where it’s just started snowing and my thoughts turn back to the light blue flats and the bonefish occupying them on an island out in the Pacific. There’s no doubt in my mind that I’ll be going back. Until next time, tight lines. -Camille

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Maria with a very large GT.

Maria with a very large GT.

Step back to Alaska cont.

It’s the second to last week. It’s September, the sky is a crisp blue and the willows are dressed with a faint yellow as the wind wisps through their leaves. A bull moose free of his velvet saunters across the river in front of camp, probably in search of a lonely cow, as I take a sip of my hot chocolate/coffee mixture. Fall in Alaska has definitely arrived. Today is change day, which means last week’s clients are flying out and a new group is being brought in. Every Thursday we do the swap, but this time it’s a little different. Instead of having a new group come in we won’t have anyone so we’ll have an empty camp for a week. I’ll be honest, I’m looking forward to a little down time to catch up on sleep and log in some greatly needed fishing time.

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Our season in Alaska has been a great one. The fishing has been spectacular and the weather has been fairly reasonable. It’s hard to imagine that we’re nearly done with a four month season and will be back home in less than three weeks. A harrowsome yet uplifting thought. Going home is always comforting especially because you see family and friends however, the thought of going back to society is cumbersome and bleak. I always go into a meager stage of culture shock when I set foot into the Anchorage airport.

Spring came early this year. Alaska had some of the hottest spring temperatures I’d ever seen. 80 degrees in early June is an accident in Alaska but none-the-less I was enjoying it because I knew we’d pay for it down the road. The Nushagak river has been at it’s lowest in nearly 5 years. Running jet boats has been both fun and nail-biting, I’ve hit bottom more times this year than I have in the past 5. Even though boat driving was tough, the fishing has been great. We’ve been able to wade to areas we normally couldn’t and the fish have been more concentrated, making them easier to find.

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In August we had a huge float trip that started about a mile downriver from camp. It was a family of 11: 4 teenage boys, a teenage girl, a 12 yr old girl, an 80 yr old grandma, and 2 couples. My dad brought in a whole separate crew for the float. All of which had worked for my dad as guides as far back as ten years ago. I wasn’t sure what to expect being this was the first float trip I’ve guided but even though it rained the entire trip (paying for that 80 degree weather), it was an absolute blast. The clients were troopers. I never heard a negative comment about the weather, they drank beer like it was water (we had over 600lbs of beer on the trip) and loved to play drinking games. Nearly every night we’d play a game of Slaps (college drinking game) next to the campfire. I woke up one morning to find a campsite that looked like a frat house. I think we had a stack of beers cans 3 feet high by 4 feet wide, things were a little hazy for me that morning too.

Once the float trip finished, things really slowed down. Our busy weeks were behind us and we began thinking about the end of the season. A couple of our guides went home and the number of clients in camp went from 8 to 5. So things in camp have been quiet. The salmon have reached the end of their spawn and their bodies are decorating the gravel bars permeating the air with a fowl stench. We’ve been seeing some great rainbows caught however the rainbow fishery has had better years. For some reason it was difficult to find our prized leopard bows. We’ve come up with several reasons that may be the cause like angler skill, parasites, low king numbers and even low river conditions. But none are a comfort and we can only hope that next year is better. Until then we have two more weeks before we pack the camp up and head home.

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Hope everyone back in the lower 48 is having a great summer and are catching some big fish. Cheers and see you next month. -Camille

Step back to Alaska

I’ve been back in Montana for two months and I already find myself drifting back to my recent summer in Alaska. After sifting through some photos, I came across a couple little rambles I wrote while in camp. Figured I’d share them with the rest of the world. Enjoy!

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Photo: Pat Clayton, Fish Eye Guy Photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m sitting next to the fire, listening to it crackle and pop, reminding me of Rice Crispies as you pour milk into your bowl. I’m back in Alaska and pondering on the day of guiding I have ahead of me. Kemuk, our 100lb yellow lab is prodding at my hand in an effort to get a pat on the head. I delightfully oblige and take another sip of coffee.

We’re two weeks into our season here in the remote wilds of Alaska. The weather has been hot (for Alaska standards) with the fishing not far behind. With the warmer weather the water levels in the river are on a steady drop, 1 foot per every 4 days to be exact: makes boat driving fun.

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Photo: Camille Egdorf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m living in a camp full of men and I find myself surrounded by testosterone, f-bombs and beards. Being a female in a man’s world, numerous friends ask me what it’s like living in a remote camp with a bunch of dudes. To be honest, it’s not half bad. It’s more like living with four brothers, which of course it has down sides like being crop dusted and teased with “girl talk” being non-existent. But it’s a drama free world and whenever I can’t finish my dinner, I can always pawn it off on one of them. It’s a good system.

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I know of a couple female guides in Alaska but have met even fewer. I’m not sure if it’s because of the unforgiving terrain, weather and bugs or if has something to do with the stereotype that “the final frontier is for the adventuresome 20 something dude”. I know that’s how it was back in the good ole days. Women going to Alaska alone was a rare thing 30 years ago. My mom was 21 when she left Idaho Falls for Bristol Bay, Alaska to cook at a lodge. My grandparents thought she went off the deep-end, and so did everyone else.

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Photo: Pat Clayton, Fish Eye Guy Photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

However in my opinion, Alaska is an excellent place for young women (or any age woman) to experience something that used to be a fantasy back 30+ years. With the increase of female anglers/guides, Alaska is a paradise with major opportunities for any lady wishing to experience the Alaska guide life. It’s the foundation for my love of fly fishing and has opened doors I never thought would be within my grasp. To any woman out there who is hardworking, tough and willing to live with a couple stinky men, Alaska is a bounty of opportunity. I wouldn’t be where I am today without it!

 

Pesky Vacuums

This little story has nothing to do with fishing. I know, you’re probably wondering why I’m even bothering with telling it if it doesn’t involve big fish or some adventurous place. Well, I’m telling it because it’s funny and it’s at my own expense.

To me there’s nothing more embarrassing than having a room where you can’t even see your own carpet. With that said, my room is usually kept up nice and tidy. I had just finished up with a two week fishing spree where I basically just slept in my bed then left early in the morning; leaving my clothes, fishing gear and other things on the floor. My room was a disaster and it was driving me stark raving mad. I finally got to the point where I had to do something about this mess that I always tried so hard to avoid. I picked everything up, threw clothes in the washer, made my bed, dusted my dresser and desk, I even windexed my windows. Then to top it off, I walked downstairs and grabbed my vacuum.

After a long day of fishing, I tend to be lazy and won’t break my rods completely down. I’ll just break them in half with the leader and flies still attached (which also makes it easier to put everything back together again) then put them in a corner of my room where I feel they’ll be safe from any harm. I vacuumed the stairs, hallway and made my way into my room, sucking up grit, rocks and who knows what else along the way. I gradually worked my way closer to the corner where I had my rods leaning against the wall. At about 4 feet away, this little voice popped into my head saying, “Don’t go any further, Camille.” To my regret and annoyance I ignored it. I pushed the vacuum about a foot further and all of a sudden this awful squealing noise came from the power-head as the top section of my 4wt was sucked into the vortex of my vacuum.

I frantically turned it off, knowing full well that my rod was in pieces and shards. After reviewing the crime scene, I found that there was a 3ft section of leader that was laying out on the carpet, which was sucked up, dragging my rod with it. I felt so stupid, I couldn’t even be mad. I just shook my head in disbelief that I had managed to break a rod with a flippin vacuum. I guess that’s what I get for being a clean freak.

So the lesson learned here was, fly rods are not vacuum proof. Remember this when you vacuum around any of yours.

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Photo: Ian Majszak Detonation Studios

The Female Angle

Ever since I was a small girl, I’ve been told I’d make a good guide. I have great memories of showing guests how to fish when they stayed at my parent’s lodge on the Bighorn River in Montana. I’d always strap on my fishing boots, grab my rod and a few grasshoppers (live ones) and escort the newbie to the river.

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“Evenings are the best time to fish and you have to cast into the foam line,” I would say in my most professional 7 yr old voice. When they asked me to show them where to go, I always took them to the one place I knew was fool-proof. An eddy that was full of bright shiners called Goldeneyes that would eat just about anything. It never failed me.

 

Even in Alaska, clients always asked if I had any intentions of becoming a guide. I always replied that it was something I’d given thought to, but deep down, I honestly didn’t think I would be capable of it. Lugging around 16ft jet boats, lifting heavy boat motors, dealing with bears and coping with copious amounts of different personalities while trying to catch a fish didn’t seem like something I’d be very good at. It was a daunting and scary thing for an 18 year old fresh out of high school, not to mention the fact that I was a girl. Despite my concerns and doubts, I gave it a try anyway.

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Now at the age of 24, I’ve been guiding for 6 years and it has been one of the most impacting experiences of my life. While that first year was challenging and frustrating for me, I learned things that have shaped me into the person I am today. It allowed me to step into the shoes of a responsible, capable, strong (mentally and physically) and confident young woman; traits that I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life. Many folks have asked me if I ever run into any discrimination being a female guide and the answer is unfortunately, yes. In the 6 years that I’ve been guiding I’ve only had one client make a fuss and surprisingly, that client was another woman.

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As everyone knows, the fly fishing industry is dominated by dudes. And that’s because it’s a dude sport, a dude thing to do. However, females are starting to come out of the wood work and are showing up in fly shops, magazines, television shows, competitions and most importantly, out on the rivers. In the past couple years, I’ve met several other women who guide in various parts of the world and it’s been like a breath of fresh air. “Girl talk” just isn’t the same when you have three fully bearded guys staring at you with lost, uninterested expressions. I always ask  these ladies about their experiences and if they’ve ever run across discrimination. Thankfully the answer is, “Not much” which brings me to believe that discrimination against female guides isn’t as prominent as many may believe. Nearly every client that has stepped into my boat was a joy to be around, courteous and gave me props for doing something many women wouldn’t.

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So with that being said, to any woman out there who has the desire to hit a river by herself or wishes to start guiding, just go for it and don’t worry about the guys. I’ve always taken pride in being a girl on the river and there’s no reason why anyone else shouldn’t. It’s a liberating and exhilarating experience that will stick with you for life. You’ll also be surprised by how many times a guy will walk up to you and ask, “What are they biting?”

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“Unbroken” Official Selection IF4 2014

My family has spent over 30 years sharing a way of life with anglers from around the globe. I spent my first summer in the wild’s of Alaska at 6 months old and have grown to love and appreciate it’s beauty. Here’s a sneak peak at a film I put my heart and soul into that depicts and shares a summer of family, friends and of course, fish. Enjoy!

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Happy Women

The other day I was chatting with a fellow fishing buddy and we stumbled onto the topic of introducing more women to the sport. We talked at length about clinics, casting instruction and many other ways to get women interested in picking up a fly rod. We both seemed to share the same beliefs and agreed upon nearly everything, but then he made a comment that I was hesitant to agree with. “We need to get the husbands and boyfriends to teach their girls how to fish.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I want to agree with this statement and there are circumstances where it works, however, I’ve had many women tell me that they’ll never go fishing with their significant other again. When I asked why, they simply said their man friend got frustrated with trying to teach them the basics of casting and turned a usually fun-filled day of fishing into a teeth gritting, uncomfortable and miserable  experience. It’s circumstances like this that will continue to keep women from getting back out on the water, which is why I’m not in full agreement with that comment.

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With that said, I have a couple suggestions for the fellas who want to get their girls on the river. First off, if you have a girlfriend or wife that enjoys to fish, by all means take her fishing! But if she starts to catch more or bigger fish than yourself, don’t get butt hurt and start pouting or complaining that you’re not catching fish. It not only annoys your guide but will make her feel bad and quit fishing. I’ve had several husband/wife anglers in my boat and there is nothing more disappointing then to see a husband inadvertently attack his wife because she’s simply out fishing him. Also, if you’re on a guided fishing trip and your wife/girlfriend has just learned how to cast, tie her knots, manage her line, etc. Don’t hover over and nag her about what she’s doing wrong. Just let her do her own thing and learn by trial and error. Besides, it’s the guide’s job to instruct and oversee her progress. If something needs to be fixed, the guide will do it.

The next tip I have is probably the most important. If you’re taking your wife/girlfriend out fishing for the first time, be unnecessarily patient with her. She’s out there with you because she wants to understand and be apart of what you love. There’s a good chance that if you hadn’t asked her to go in the first place, the thought wouldn’t have even crossed her mind. So she’s doing it for YOU! Respect that and take extra care to make sure she doesn’t feel as though she’s a burden or is holding you back. If she has a bad first time experience, good luck getting her back out there. I recently heard a story from a gentleman who took his wife on a float trip for the first time. She was interested in learning how to row but was having a difficult time coordinating the oars. They apparently came to a stretch of river that was more advanced than what she was capable of handling and as a result bounced off the bank a few times. He became so frustrated that he “yelled” at her which scared her to the point where she’ll never get back into a boat. A classic example of what not to do.

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Ultimately guys, be humble, kind and patient when you’re teaching a woman to fish. Fly fishing is tough and it’s even harder for us girls because it’s a male dominated sport. Just remember that you’re girlfriend/wife is out there for you because she cares about your interests and wants to be apart of it. Be excited for her when she catches the big one and be humble if she out fishes ya. It will only lead to a happy and healthy fishing relationship!