Over the past several years, I began to notice a trend, mostly on social media, but also on the pages of glossy outdoor magazines and popular digital publications that caught my eye: photos of women who fish, in rivers, on boats, and beaches decked out in waders, with fly fishing gear, casting fly rods, and grinning ear to ear as they held an iridescent fish up to the camera like it was the achievement of a lifetime. I won’t lie, they looked cool and seemed to possess a knowledge of these waters and fishing, an outdoor skill set I knew almost nothing about aside from the afternoons I’d spent idling away catching sunnies off the dock at my grandparents lake house as a kid. My interest was officially piqued and I wanted to learn more about how one fish could bring the kind of joy akin to my own when I catch a wave surfing my favorite beach break or ski through a wide open powder field with my best buds. As a lifelong lover of outdoor adventure sports, I knew there was a good reason those women had mile-wide smiles while clutching a slimy, bulgy-eyed fish in their hands, and I decided I wanted to find out why through fly fishing.
So, like any good journalist, I put myself directly in the path of one of the most accomplished local anglers and fly fishing guides I knew and successfully pitched a story to Maine Magazine on his conservation efforts. We spent a day in his skiff trolling the mouth of a gin-clear coastal river and briefly dipped into some open waters in an attempt to catch one of Maine’s most popular saltwater game fish, the striped bass. I’m not sure if I got a single bite that day, but I was happy to be on the water learning the graceful, slightly hypnotic act of fly casting. Yet, the adventure ended after I stepped off the boat and filed my story, not because I didn’t enjoy myself, but I just didn’t see a way into the sport. What’s more is that every angler I knew was male, and as much as we were all pals, I just didn’t feel super comfortable inserting myself into “their” situation, silly as it sounds.
Yet, one snowy day in Northern Vermont, I received an email from Take Me Fishing inviting me to join an all women crew to go fly fishing in Bozeman, Montana—no experience necessary. With barely any hesitation, I said yes. Two flights and one layover later, I found myself in the beautiful Gallatin River Lodge flanked by towering mountains and surrounded by women from all walks of life who were there to learn how to fly fish, catch a fish…or at least try.
Internally, I felt a bit shaky. It was my first time away from my 15-month-old daughter and husband who were miles away at home in Maine, not to mention it had been years since I held a rod in my hand and was clueless as to how I’d do on the river. Judging by the warm atmosphere and welcoming demeanor of the women around me, I knew I could count on them to help me feel at ease. No, this wasn’t a conscious decision or even some heartfelt conversation I’d had, it was simply intuition coupled with my past experiences learning new outdoor activities in the company of women. Some of my most cherished outdoor memories have been made alongside other ladies willing to make fools of themselves in the name of adventure, and because of that, I truly value opportunities like these in which the rest of the world slides away and something as simple as wading in a river together establishes a sense of trust, connection, and camaraderie.
I experienced this more times than I can count in Montana. After awkwardly stepping into my waders and boots to gear up for our first outing on the Gallatin River, Take Me Fishing ambassador, and luckily, my fishing buddy for the afternoon, Angelica Talan shared her story during our drive to the river. Based in Washington D.C., Talan, having grown up conventional fishing, got hooked on fly fishing after she joined her 11- year-old daughter, Ella, for an introductory class at Orvis. Besides tugging on my mama heart strings, her story of seeking under-the-radar adventure in an urban area mirrored my own upbringing in suburban New Jersey, where I grew up as an active, outdoorsy kid, just a stone’s throw from Manhattan.
Although I now live in the beautiful state of Maine, with wild waters, mountains, and backcountry destinations a quick drive from home, I still feel connected to the plights of urbanites who are committed to uncovering nature’s hidden gems within their concrete jungles, or must travel to get their adventure fix. Like women, city dwellers and suburban denizens can also struggle to find their place in the world of outdoor adventure sports, and until they see a way in, they might not even wade into these waters—let alone dip a toe. Yet, discovering and sustaining your connection to nature is an essential part of our holistic wellbeing, and it’s important to include others to help foster that relationship, no matter where you live. This is something I often take into consideration as a contributing writer for the NYC-based outdoor and design media company, Field Mag, who proudly represents a wide spectrum of outdoor lovers, which to me, has made the pursuit of adventure all the more fun.
As for me, it turns out I’m not that bad of an angler, and casting is still a whole lotta fun; I’m a happy camper whether I’m in or on the water, and am excited to join my local lady friends in some of Maine’s many coastal bays, inlets, and remote rivers up north. Despite having an adrenaline-fueled, seconds-long battle with a bigger fish, a large rainbow trout (claiming it as the one that got away!), I caught plenty of smaller fish as we floated down the Yellowstone River taking in the gorgeous scenery of Paradise Valley whenever I remembered to look up. It seemed like the best day to fish. And in case you were wondering, I did get my fish picture, and I think my smile says it all.