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The annual Sisterhood of the Outdoors fly fishing trip with Cowboy Drifters is a weekend I look forward to all year! Seriously…the day after I get home I’m already thinking, “362 more days…” It is such a fulfilling and enriching weekend on so many different levels.

For those who have never been around women on a weekend when they have been set free of responsibilities and kids and spouses…well, you might be surprised. We aren’t the stereotypical damsel in distress, waiting for someone to tie the “bait” on our “pole”. We let go and refresh our souls…complete with dares, dancing, laughing, jokes and songs, brews, tips to rehydrate, and good food. In my experience, we are invested in being around an expert for the day and we are soaking up as much as we can in the short amount of time we have.

During our weekend I saw women taking pictures of the setup their guides talked to them about, asking questions about the flies they tied on, taking notes on their phones about the weight and depth, and discussing different rods. Thankfully Cowboy Drifters has a shop full of flies that we used on the water and the ladies left with fly boxes full of flies they successfully caught fish with. Many of the flies are unique to Cowboy Drifters and developed by the owner, Jason Hamrick, based on the research he does on the river each day.

I also saw women make valuable connections and friendships over the few short days we were together. Every year the vibe is a little different depending on the personalities of the group. Some years they come to party and some years there is a more serious tone to the group. Every year, we get to know each other on a deeper level. We talk about family, health, life experiences. Some of the conversations bring us to tears and some of them have us laughing uncontrollably.

Our weekend starts off by meeting at a local restaurant for supper. Friday night was spent getting to know each other and sharing the connections that some of us had already made. This year we were joined by Misty, my friend since 7th Grade! Another local friend, Tanya, who I met through hunting and Tammi from Michigan, whom I had met hunting a few years ago as well. The other two women were from Montana, Kara and Rachel, and not only had they grown up together…they are now living in the same town and raising their own two kids as best friends! The conversation bounced around from childhood memories to Kara and Rachel’s adventurous drive to the wild state of Wyoming! After exhausting happy hour and enjoying salmon salads, burgers, and the famous Montana Ale Works Pizza (haha) we headed out to the lodge to settle in for the night.

Saturday morning came early, as we were fishing the Miracle Mile and had a bit of a drive ahead of us. We met our guides at the shop, grabbed our sack lunches, and hit the road. After dropping the boats, getting the rods set up and a few practice casts….we were on the water. I have been waiting years to fish the Miracle Mile, so I was beside myself with excitement.

And the day didn’t fail to deliver. In true Miracle Mile fashion…it wasn’t about getting the fish to hit your fly – it was about getting them to the boat. Time and time again I had a beautiful trout on the end of my line, just to have them throw the hook a few feet from the net. They gave glimpses of their color as they rolled just under the surface and my goal for the day was to land a Miracle Mile Brown.

The first trout I brought to net was a gorgeous, fat, healthy Rainbow. I released it back to the water, more determined than ever to find my Brown Trout. We hooked into a few more, but couldn’t land them, as Miracle Mile trout play a different game than your typical North Platte catch. It was a fantastically hot day and we spent our time cooling off with beverages and wading and floating into the river during our lunch break. So, near the end of the day, when I finally scooped up my last catch and it was a gorgeous 21 inch Brown, you better believe I joined that beaut in the water. I held her up as I knelt in the water and smiled so big. I did it! As I climbed back in the boat I said, “There’s just something about a person’s smile when they are holding a fish…you can just FEEL it.” Lenny, my guide, commented,”Yeah I never thought about it…but you’re right!”

My boat mate was anxious to land one last catch and threw her line in the water. All of a sudden we hear, “My phone!” Her line wound around her phone and launched it to the water and we watched it sink to the bottom of the Miracle Mile. We jumped in and tried to find it, got pretty close to snagging it up, but the current was just too strong to hold steady and keep ahold of it. Fortunately she had everything saved to the cloud and it was just a matter of buying a replacement phone. Unfortunately, all the pictures and videos of my catch hadn’t yet made it to the cloud, so they are still sitting at the bottom of the Platte. And somehow, it kind of makes the experience of catching my Brown even more valuable because it will always only be shared between myself, my friend, and our guide Lenny. We wrapped up our amazing day of fishing with steaks on the grill, cooling off at the cabin, and exchanging stories from the day.

Sunday brought another sunny day and we hit the shop to stock up on flies to fish Grey Reef. We enjoyed a day of wading into the North Platte and fishing different spots along Grey Reef, sometimes relaxing in the grass on the side of the river while we worked on a tan and napped. We hit up a local dive bar at lunch to escape the heat and cool off. Nothing but fun was on the menu as we enjoyed Rocky Mountain oysters and the best burgers in the area. We fired up the juke box and danced to our favorite tunes and sang at the top of our lungs while the locals joined in and escalated our good time.

Our group hugged through goodbye’s and see you soon’s. Some of us needed to be heading home and some of us went back to the river. We waded deep to avoid the heat and ended up back floating in the cool water. Every once in awhile a boat would float by and ask how our fishing went yesterday…recognizing us from the Mile the day before. We ran into another friend of mine who is a guide and he brought his boat to shore while we chatted with his anglers. Before they loaded up he shared several flies with us that they were having success with that day. Never have I met friendlier folks than the ones I have met on the North Platte. As the afternoon continued on, we decided it was time to pack it up. We were all reluctant to leave, because it meant our weekend was over.

Keeping in touch on social media is one of my most favorite parts and after effects of a Sisterhood fly fishing weekend. I see posts of their kids and family or life accomplishments and I am filled with excitement or pride right along with them! I love seeing other women who were with us for the weekend commenting on their pictures and supporting them online.

One of the most important things you can do for your mental health is have a network or connection of people in your life. That feeling of community and family helps you feel celebrated during the good times and supported during the tough times. And I see that over and over again through my Sisterhood fly fishing trips. These are the connections and friendships that will last the rest of my life.

If you haven’t signed up for a Sisterhood fly fishing trip, now is the time to invest in yourself and get signed up at https://www.sisterhoodoutdoors.com! Also, one of our guest anglers this summer is a guide and owns her own fly fishing apparel business, Yellow Sally…she has generously shared a discount code with us! My favorite prints are She’s So Fly, Lady Trout Wrangler, and Trout Party!! Don’t sit on this deal! Use the code FISHING15 at https://www.yellowsallyfishing.com to snag your discount, or click on the link below!

https://www.yellowsallyfishing.com/discount/Fishing15

The Beauty of Letting Go…

I started this project because originally I wanted to get back to me. I wanted to find fulfillment in something I had once loved to do, that had gotten away from me.

Throughout this first month, I was surprised in how this project affected my wellbeing. I have been able to meet and work with some pretty neat people. All these people are living their own lives and are on their own journey to pursuing happiness and finding meaning in what they are doing.

There were days when I wanted to go fishing and days when I wanted to stay at home. Regardless of how the day started, I found that I never regretted getting out on the water. It brought this “alive-ness” back that was exciting and fun. I liken it to the feeling you get when you have anticipation for an exciting trip or meeting with a friend or going to a concert or road trip. 

You never know what the water will bring you that day. The casting may be difficult due to brush or the bank behind you or the wind, but then you get that perfect cast laid out on the water and you see a ripple as a fish swims by under the surface. Or you catch a fin break the surface out of the corner of your eye. The feeling of “what if” or “just one more cast”…I just come alive.

That is one piece that I love so much about fly fishing. It brings me to life. I don’t have to anticipate a big trip or something overly exciting…because the feeling I get when I very hopefully send my line out onto the water and anticipate the tug and the shake and the fight, well it is the same feeling all in a place that is fully accessible to me at any time. It doesn’t have to be an extravagant event to bring me to life – it is any river or stream or pond in this beautiful place I live.

One weekend, my son Lane and I went to a river that we drive by all the time. Driving in and seeing a couple other trucks parked there I was thinking, this isn’t going to work. There are other people here. There are always people here. It is right off the road, we have been here before. It isn’t anything extraordinary. It was heavy, I was already expecting disappointment. But as soon as we started to pick our way down the trail and saw all the things you tend to discover when you’re in nature, everything else just melted away. 

I received that place differently than I ever had before. It was beautiful, the sun was warm, we shed our coats. We laughed as my dog Berty drug a rotting deer leg out of the trees. I didn’t even mind when she raced in circles around us and ran right through the hole I was wanting to fish. We simply enjoyed that moment. We soaked up the sun. We listened to the water. We watched the geese. We followed animal tracks. It was the ordinary and we felt alive. 

We didn’t catch any fish that day. But we were filled with joy from our time together and the potential to catch fish. It was the same old place we had been to before, we had driven by and explored several times. But this time I saw it differently because I felt like I was growing and moving forward. Maybe that is why I love being near this moving water so much. It’s rushing reminds me of movement and growth and alive-ness. 

Lane was patient and encouraging. And as soon as we got back to the truck, he suggested we stop at the gas station for ice cream sandwiches. He remembers me telling him that when I was a kid, every time I went hunting with my dad or we went and worked cows, we stopped for ice cream sandwiches on the way home. Even in the middle of nowhere. Even in the middle of winter. So we did! And with the heat on full blast we ate our ice cream sandwiches.

So you might be wondering if I caught my January fish! Well, there was one day I went out mid January. It was 28 degrees. No wind. I picked up my friend from Casper and we headed to a popular fishing spot west of town. We caught up on life during the drive and solved the world’s problems…as many people do on their way to go fishing. 

I had just gotten off a phone call that had left me emotional and upset. I was disappointed that I had started out anticipating having such a great day…and it spiraled quickly down the drain. It was a situation that I wasn’t able to control and left me feeling hurt and deceived. I had been betrayed by someone I trusted. I was so irritated that my day had been ruined, all I wanted to do was to just stop at the local dive bar, have a couple beers, and head home.

But we decided we would regret wasting a non-windy day, so we found a spot on the river and stepped out of the truck. The second my boots crunched in the snow, I knew it was the right decision. The air was the kind of crisp that makes the snow squeak and echo with every step. I took a deep breath simply so I could feel the coldness fill my chest. I heard the rushing water and was reminded of growth. I was alive. I could feel the coldness bite my cheeks. I watched as, what used to be cold air, was released as warm puffs of breath floating in front of me. 

I began to assemble my fly rod. With every section that was connected and lined up, I began to feel this release. Yes, my emotions were raw, but here they were flowing from me as I put my rod together piece by piece. They no longer consumed me and I began to feel a sense of peace as I finished attaching my reel. The incident that morning didn’t take away from who I am, didn’t make me less of a person. Didn’t take away from the growth I have experienced. Didn’t reflect my worth. It’s the beauty of just letting go.

By the time I had tied on my fly, and it took a few tries due to my cold stiff fingers, I had refocused for the day and was ready to catch my first fish of 2022. I stepped toward the river, determined to do what I came to do.

Now, it wasn’t an easy time down by the river. Although the sun was warm, it did nothing to hold back the cold. Casting, in the beginning, was difficult. I couldn’t find my rhythm. The balance between the end of my rod and the weight on my line didn’t feel right. I was getting caught up in the reeds. My guides were freezing up and the line just wouldn’t cast smoothly. I cleared my guides, and then I focused on the feel. I tried to find my rhythm. I relaxed and enjoyed the moment and let it come naturally. I eventually found the balance between my rod and the weight on my line. And it felt good. I found the sweet spot on my mend and watched the indicator float smoothly in the current.

And the fish hit…little fish sticks. Yearlings just hatched out last summer, it seems as if I had found the nursery. Feisty and aggressive. They were swimming in the shallow water to avoid the bigger fish in the deep runs. I couldn’t get my line out far enough to get to the bigger fish without getting snagged on my back cast. I considered getting my waders out and moving about 10 feet off shore, but I just didn’t want to stop! And thats okay because my cast felt good and the mending felt good. I started with a rockworm and caught my first trout of 2022. As I held him up for a quick photo, I laughed at the size of this little guy. I switched it out with a mayhem midge and caught four more. By then our fingers were frozen and we were ready to get some lunch. We hiked back to the truck and broke down our rods. We went to the nearest bar and ordered rocky mountain oysters, beer, and cheeseburgers. I couldn’t have asked for a better day.

I learned that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I have an entire row of midges and rock worms in my fly box. But I always choose one of the dozens of others I have, thinking – ooo this looks good! This one’s pretty! Tony said that they’d be hungry for whatever they find under the water year round…and he was right. I also learned a little about weights, which I rarely used before. I paid attention to when the fish hit my fly and it was usually right near the end of my drift. I got to where I almost anticipated that tug right as my indicator was nearing the end and it helped me get used to what it felt like.

Like I said before, I am doing this to find myself again…get back to me. Rediscover fulfillment in something I used to love. And literally wallow in the beauty of letting go. Well, I find it appropriate that I was given an opportunity that morning to put it into practice…on the same day I caught my first fish of the year. And the first fish I released in 2022, helped me learn again about the beauty of letting go.