You may have noticed more women getting into the sport of fly fishing as of late, which, in the past, has been male-dominated. Companies are now targeting women in their advertising to encourage them to get into the sport. There is now a new fly fishing mag, Dun Magazine, FOR women BY women. Last year, Orvis launched their "5050 on the Water" campaign. With this increased focus I have been getting more and more women asking if I would be able to take them out on the water, solo.
Being in the fly fishing business and married to Mr. Guide Extraordinaire (aka, Jamie Rouse), I am on the water a lot. On my own I wade, and when I go out with the boys, I put my time in on the oars. I also run shuttles and pull the boat when we travel (so far, I had successfully managed to avoid going in reverse). But, to do an entire float solo-- from hooking the boat to backing it in at the end of the day-- is a different animal. So, I decided to do my first solo float test with my best girl, Allie, age 10.
The day of our float, I loaded everything up and Allie and I headed to the boat ramp. I detoured for some gas, still not yet having to go in reverse. I knew it was coming, my first big hurdle, the RAMP. This wider driftboat is a little more tricky than other river boats and it doesn’t take much to get it off course. After backing and pulling forward and backing and pulling forward again and again, Jamie offered to step in. I have seen worse at the ramp, but this is an area where I may need a little work. Duly noted.
My next hurdle was to navigate through a shoal. Jamie said there is no shame if I had to walk. Challenge accepted. I was not about to have to walk, and I nailed it. Feeling pretty good at this point, Allie then asked if I had downloaded Spotify. Yes I did. This is going to be the perfect day. However, I had not logged in and we were in an area with no wifi or service. Fail. I normally crave these off the grid places as they are getting harder to find, but today not so much. My girl loves her music and if this gets her excited about the outdoors, then I will listen to Taylor Swift all day. There was maybe a little frowny face from her for a moment, but we powered through it.
There we were, floating along totally by ourselves off the grid. It was beautiful. That moment for me was invigorating. I was really doing it. I spotted some really nice trout. I pulled to the bank to rig the rod. Allie reminded me that Dad had said to not dilly dally. I wasn’t really paying attention when he had said it at the time— preoccupied with making sure I had thought of everything before we went different ways. What did he mean?? I had never paid attention to how long it takes me to row. We always do different drifts, so couldn’t gauge how far we had to go. Did he mean it was going to get dark before I could get to the takeout if I took too long? Was the water going to catch us? Who says dilly dally?! I became a little preoccupied with not "dilly dallying," and quickly rowed through one of the primo fishing spots.
Allie and I continued to drift. She hasn’t fished much on our family trips. Little Man is all about fishing and may or may not dominate the trip a little. Allie is a lot like me-- she gets frustrated if she can’t do something perfectly the first time. As I have grown (and it took awhile), I have come to accept the fact that a lot of things take a lot of work to get to the level where you want to be. It is so rewarding though when you do get there. She will learn.
Her cast was a little rusty at first, but as we kept going and with some encouragement and instruction, she was getting her line a good 15 feet further. I didn’t put on anything sophisticated. We tried a simple egg pattern. I had her on a decent drift. It takes a little finesse to get it just right. Her line got hung a time or two. I was able to row upriver and save the fly. Winning! I anchored a few times to fish a section. The ANCHOR. Is. really. heavy. There is a foot pedal in the drifter to let it down in the water. Then with every muscle in my body, I pulled on the rope to raise it. Days later, I am still sore, and I love it. Still, no fish. She was starting to get a little frustrated. I wanted so badly for her to catch at least one. I switched her to a sow bug in keeping with my non-sophisticated fly selection. No luck there either so we moved along.
I was trying to think of what I should change to get her on some fish. I was seeing not a lot of rises, but a few. They were there. I changed the depth of her sowbug. Still no takes and she was getting more frustrated. We started to drift through a less fishy area and our chances were dwindling. She was hot and thirsty, so we enjoyed a couple of warm Gatorades. I had not remembered to get ice. However, I did put ice in our water bottles. It had melted, but possibly made the Gatorades less warm. Not bad when you are really thirsty.
We drifted along further. I knew we were getting closer to take out. I switched the fly one last time to an olive jig. I was really not seeing any rises at this time, but didn’t want to give up. As the sun was getting lower, Allie was getting cold and hungry and was sad about no music and frustrated about no fish. I was hot and unable to peel off any layers and getting frustrated that we hadn’t caught at least one. Allie was done. She didn’t want to fish anymore. Not ready to throw the towel in and accept my goose egg, I stood while rowing and cast in a last ditch effort to bring our count to one. It did not happen. We arrived at the ramp. The sun was going down.
Jamie stood on the banks as I get the boat on the trailer for the first time. I had hoped to write about a perfect float on the Little Red with my favorite girl. It was far from perfect, but maybe perfectly imperfect. I successfully navigated the river for my first solo trip. I did not hit any rocks, lose any oars or the incredibly heavy anchor, and I came back with all passengers safely in one piece. My daughter got to see me flounder but not give up. I will take her again and we will catch fish. And it will be so much sweeter because we will appreciate even more how much work it takes after going on our first solo trek together.