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!

 

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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!