The first time I went out into the ocean to fish, I had a treble hook embedded in my scalp within the first 15 minutes. The captain said if the cork went down, set the hook! So I did.
As if I was reeling in Moby Dick.
Who knew? I remember watching blood drip off the end of my nose as we held a can of Budweiser on my head to numb it up. The captain wanted to head in to the nearest clinic to have it removed. I refused. This was my first off shore fishing experience and I wasn’t going to let a hook determine the direction of our day.
So after some discussion, my dad went ahead and pushed the hook through. There was quite a bit of tugging and pushing and pulling, quite a bit of cussing from me, and a comment from my dad that I will never forget – your scalp is a lot tougher than I thought it would be! Once he finally pushed it through, the captain provided a pair of rusty wire clippers that my dad snipped the end of the hook off with and pulled it back out. Two puncture wounds remained, and we fished the rest of the day.
This was three years ago, and I was hoping we would avoid a similar situation this year as I loaded my kids onto the boat. This would be Lilli and Lane’s first offshore fishing experience and I was hoping to have a great day. Captain Andy has been with us for the last couple of years and he is much more detailed in his direction and coaching. Plus he is great with kids.
While the beach and ocean are one of my favorite places to spend time, I do not enjoy going into the ocean. The water bothers me…I can’t see what is beneath the surface…and the power and energy of the ocean overwhelms me. I just can’t bring myself to venture out into its’ expanse. So heading out on a boat with my kids on board, while exciting, gave me that same overwhelmed and anxious feeling. My imagination ran wild with what was under the surface. It’s so deep. And dark. And unending.
The deepness is what I was thinking of as I watched my daughter begin casting at the bow, standing at the edge of the deck. She was the first one to haul in the fish. She actually out-fished all of us that day. And I caught my first fish of March! We limited out on Sheepshead and then headed out to deeper water to fish for Speckled Trout and Red Drum. We fished with live shrimp all day and my fingers were sore from pushing the hook through their hard shells.
It was a great day and nobody met the end of a hook!
And, as we climbed off the boat at day’s end, I realized we also safely navigated those deep, dark waters.
What’s it like to trust someone to take your children out into the great expanse of the ocean? It’s like holding your heart cupped in your hands, offering it to the captain of the boat. It is that battle between your level of trust and your desire for adventure. And what would have happened if we had played it safe and stayed on shore? Nothing. And we would have missed out on the experience. The experience of learning and growing together. Facing a few fears together. Putting food on the table. Understanding that sometimes, we are ready to face the deep, dark waters. Maybe we are braver and more prepared and we don’t have to have it all figured out…we can just trust.
The next few months are going to be like those deep waters. We have crazy schedules with three kids in spring sports, graduation, selling (and hopefully buying) a house, getting ready to send Lucie to college, and the end of the school year. I may be uncertain how to navigate these waters, but I have strength and I can be brave. And I trust that everything will be just as it is supposed to be. Even in the deep.
Jon Cook is a self taught angler here in my hometown. Often times, you will find that someone who is self taught has a different understanding of the skill and concept…because they have learned from many, many mistakes and different approaches. And before you get your waders in a bunch…I have talked to new guides, old guides, new anglers, experienced anglers…and the one consistent thing is that everyone has their own, unique way.
I love it. The guides actually tend to have their go-to flies that seem to be relatively the same. But when you think about it, they are fishing the same water over and over again and they are being paid to get their guests on the fish. Of course they are going to use their tried and true. They want to pull fish out of the water.
Recreational anglers – no matter if they are experienced or novice – tend to have their tried and true but it seems as if they like to color outside the box a little more. Is it because for them it is the challenge of catching something on a new fly? Or maybe just the fascination of trying different patterns? Taking a chance to see what happens? Maybe.
But the difference in each approach is as unique as the difference in each angler. And it works! And that is the beautiful part…everyone has that one thing that they rely on or have confidence in. That’s what works for them.
This month, we talk memorable fishing trips, night fishing, bucket lists, and tying flies. And the patterns that Jon has confidence in. And this fella is a fountain of information when it comes to fly fishing. Perhaps I was profiling a bit based on Jon’s occupation as a science teacher, but he seems to approach fly fishing in the same way as a science teacher would be expected to approach anything he encounters. He wanted to learn more, so he researched, hypothesized, experimented, observed, and drew a conclusion. And we were lucky enough to be in the position to learn from his findings. Join us on this podcast as he shares what he has learned about fly fishing over the last 15 years.
In this episode, I am on the other side of the interview! WY on the Fly Producer, Peter Blomberg, sits down to chat with me about February fishing. We talk about fishing, explore the challenges I faced this month, and discuss what I discovered while making it through the shortest month of the year. #wyonthefly
I blinked and February was nearly over. Vince was right earlier this month when he told me that the challenge wasn’t catching a fish each and every month this year…the challenge was going to be finding the time to go.
Between kids’ sports and activities and the hurricane force wind and the temps fluctuating between mid 50’s to -30 degrees…February really threw me for a loop. I was legitimately worried that I was going to fail at my own challenge on the second month in!
Then I decided it was the perfect time to get married. Whaaa?! I threw a wedding together in 5 days and married my betrothed. I was tempted to use the opportunity to declare him as my February catch. But decided it would be offensive to confine his greatness to just February…..after all he is the catch of my life.
So I pushed through and tried to find spare moments to get on some water.
What ended up happening however, was finding better luck on the ice. After checking the forecast, I was excited to see that there was a beautiful day in my sights. Little wind and low 50’s. We planned an ice fishing expedition.
Now, I was raised in Wyoming. I know to the depths of my soul that you don’t go anywhere or do anything in the winter without coats, hats, gloves, boots, all the things. But it has been an unseasonably warm winter, the temp was right, and I didn’t want to hike across the frozen lake and be sweating and irritated. So, I dressed in my favorite light hunting pant, an insulated jacket, wool socks and boots, and….that’s it. No gloves, no hat, no buff.
I froze my tail off. The wind picked up and was a steady 25-30 mph with gusts reaching about 45 mph. The temp was nowhere near the 50’s and with the wind chill we were looking at about 15 degrees. We started fishing as the sun’s light started to peek over the hills and inched over the ice. We fished for 5 hours. I can honestly say that nothing pisses me off more than the wind. I know what you’re thinking – buuut, you live in Wyoming. Yes, I am aware. But, man, the unrelenting wind that is blowing so hard that you can feel it permeating the fabric of your insulated jacket, sweatshirt, and skin right down to your bones….that flips my switch.
Needless to say, I probably wasn’t the best company that day. I was cold, windblown, and had to pee but refused to try and accomplish the feat in that kind of wind. It is the kind of wind that doesn’t matter what direction you are facing…when the pee stream hits the air stream it sprays in every direction. Don’t ask me how I know.
But the fish. THE FISH!! They were plump and heavy and happy…beautiful rainbows and cutthroats. I got it done in February, with the help and support of some good friends.
Reflecting back on this month’s experience, I felt a twinge of disappointment in how I approached this challenge. Because I wasn’t able to get it done at the beginning of the month, I let the challenge kind of get to me and I started to feel stressed and burdened. Discomfort.
The whole point of doing this is to make the time to do the thing I used to love so much. Casting, tying knots, marveling at the beauty found in nature, spending time with friends. Practicing, learning, growing. That’s the point. And although I had many enjoyable moments fishing during February – one of which was my bachelorette party – I let it become something that caused stress and anxiety.
But in discomfort, there is growth. Giving yourself grace is one of the most powerful things you can do for yourself. Recognizing that while I’m not where I wanted to be, I am a lot farther than I ever thought I would be…I needed that acknowledgement from myself.
I have fished more in the last 53 days than I have in the previous 365. And that is heading in the right direction. I am learning and I know more now than when I started. I am gathering all these moments while I’m out on the water.
And they are being compiled in my heart. The laughter from my friend downstream, the way the light dances on the water, the infinite shades of pink and orange as the sun sets, watching a fish break the surface to sip flies, the oakey spicy bite of whiskey straight from the bottle.
These are the stories that shape my experience. This is why I wanted to challenge myself to catch a fish every month. It guarantees that I will have more sunsets, more laughter, more rivers. So I breathe. I extend myself grace and accept that I am where I am. And there’s more. I just have to keep going. I’ve already made it farther than I ever thought I would.
And next time I’ll bring gloves.
If you haven’t yet caught a fish in 2022, you can still join us! Whether you have gotten skunked for two months in a row…or just heard about this challenge, jump on board! Pick up the challenge regardless of the month and finish out the year! And if you’d like to do 12 months in a row, start now and finish up with the January/February podcasts. The more the merrier! #wyonthefly
This month we sit down with Vince Haukereid. At the young age of 21, Vince has already invested a good amount of time adventuring in the wilds of Wyoming. This ambitious young man is driven to help others be successful in their outdoor endeavors. He chats fly fishing in February…and ice fishing!
While Vince is navigating the tricky waters of building a lifestyle that includes guiding, he thrives on mentoring friends and family in the outdoors. His positive nature leaves no room for consideration that he won’t be successful at following his dreams. I’ve known Vince since he was a boy….my favorite part of this conversation was realizing that he has already reached a perspective that many of us work towards our entire lives; creating opportunities for people to connect with each other and the outdoors. Whether he knows it yet or not, these opportunities help create a sense of belonging and togetherness that will undoubtedly direct the journey of others. And that, is guiding on an entirely different level.
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.
This month we sit down with Tony English, a guide on the North Platte River. He shares with us information about flies, reading the water, and winter fishing tips.
This episode encompasses so many different levels of learning for me. Recording a podcast proved to be a challenge in and of itself, and I am learning as I go. Be gentle. Sitting down with someone I had never met before (that I can remember anyway…I have been on enough float trips that the names have begun to run together, which illustrates my confusion on the recording) presents a challenge and certain level of anxiety for this introvert. I learned that I say, “um” and “so” entirely too much and I hope to grow in that area.
Looking past these rocks in the road, I thoroughly enjoyed learning about this new person and his journey in fly fishing. I enjoyed learning about bugs and being able to dig up some information that I did, in fact, already know and understand.
In this episode, Tony summarizes how so many of us feel about fly fishing and spending time in Wyoming’s great outdoors. While it is a place that keeps us on our toes, Wyoming feeds our infatuation with trout and our passion for fly fishing. #WYONTHEFLY
How does fly fishing help you find fulfillment, strength….and you? We are going to fish our way through 2022 and focus on getting back to the things that fulfill our lives. Follow our journey or join us in this challenge of catching a fish every month for the year 2022. At the beginning of each month, we will hear from folks who actually know what they are doing…and then it will be up to us to land the fish. At the end of the month, we will again connect to share what we learned and to share stories of success and challenge.
As we move through the challenge use the #wyonthefly when you share about your journey through pictures or story. We will find each other in the hashtags! Please share any questions through email or on Twitter – we will answer questions on the podcast!
Anyone who has ever had any interaction with a teacher, knows that there are three times of the year that you engage in survival behavior. Beginning of the school year…brain is transitioning out of summer, meeting dozens of new kids and parents, a to-do list a mile long, little sleep, much caffeine. Christmas…uh, no explanation needed. End of the school year…brain is fried from testing, students are checked out, running on empty, the to-do list mentioned earlier is even longer now.
Teacher interaction during these times require only one response. Smile and nod. And maybe a cup of hot coffee. Or a bottle of wine. Follow those simple survival techniques and you will come out of these seasons unscathed, and your teacher friend will keep her sanity.
So it comes as no surprise, that one evening as my head was spinning and I was overwhelmed with the beginning of the school year and trying to put on a very fake front for my kids, my son said….So, Momma, what’s your plan??
What’s my plan? Wha? Like dinner? First day of school clothes? Laundry? Dishes? First day of school lunches? Cleaning up the puddle of pee from the puppy? Chiseling off the dried milk and cereal from two days ago on the dining room table? There is a plan?! He obviously hasn’t learned the above mentioned norms, as he dares to ask a question that involves actual brain power. Poor little guy. He doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell.
As I descend upon my unsuspecting victim, eyes ablaze, fire exploding out of my mouth, smoke streaming from my ears…Plan? PLAN?! What are you TALKING about?! I don’t have time for a PLAN! The PLAN is to SURVIVE! Plan for WHAT??
He looks up and me and says, “Your fishing plan, Momma. What’s your plan for fishing?”
Oh. My heart.
Everything slipped away. My heart softened. My eyes teared.
This little seven year old boy. He knows how I best deal with stress. He recognized that I needed time. Time away. Time alone. Time outside. And he loves me enough to think of how to fix everything. Fishing.
Oh, my love, keep this tender heart of yours, it will come in handy when you grow up.