bugs and fly fishing

Mrs. Unaccomplished Angler

Teaching one’s wife or significant other to cast a fly line is something no doubt many a husband angler has decided to do. After all, if we anglers love the game so much why not share our passion with those we love, right? I’m not sure what the statistics are, but I hope fly fishing together has forged the bond of matrimony rather than led its demise.  Relationships are complex though, and while I’m certainly no expert on teaching anyone to cast a fly line, I am even less qualified to give martial advice. After nearly 21 years of marriage to the same person, I’m still learning that I know very little.

A good article to read before deciding to teach your spouse to can be found over at Midcurrent where “Dr. Phil” Monahan offers some sage advice for those wading into the potentially perilous waters. It’s worth the read, so click here for the article.

For years I’ve pondered what it might be like to go fishing with my wife but it never got beyond the pondering stage because she never expressed an interest in learning. And honestly I never made the effort to push the issue.  If I can gently transform her into even just an occasional angler, it may save me the pain of having to go on cruise ship vacations or take up lawn bowling or shuffleboard as we grow old. I doubt she’ll ever become a hardcore fly fishing frauleine, and that is not my intent. My hope is that she’ll enjoy it enough to let me get a drift boat occasionally join me during the nice summer months on gentle rivers like the Yakima. Afterall, she grew up in the town of Yakima and was a regular participant in the Yakima River “rubber hatch” that comes off each summer. Ask her about the time she and a friend had to hitch-hike in their bikinis to their car after a day of floating the Lower Canyon in their Walmart rafts – back before there was such a thing as Walmart.

A few months ago I decided to be proactive about this whole matter and booked a float trip with Derek Young of Emerging Rivers Guide Services.  Our Anniversary is August 12th, and being the hopeless romantic that I am I was hard pressed to think of a better way Mrs. UA and I could spend our anniversary than fly fishing together on the Yakima River (we were married in nearby Yakima, afterall). But forging ahead into this delicate proposition of fishing with Mrs. Unaccomplished Angler is much like intentionally going steelhead fishing equipped with a 3 wt rod, a dragless reel and 6X tippet: it’s probably not the smartest thing to do. To use another metaphor I must exercise the same caution as if wading on the slippery, slime covered rocks of summer while wearing cowboy boots. Again, not something one should probably do. I face somewhat daunting odds, and honestly the chips are stacked against me ever turning her into a hardcore angler. The reasons are many:

First, she hates bugs. I have to admit, this is perhaps the biggest obstacle.  She absolutely abhors insects in a manner that strikes me as being completely irrational. To her, however, the fear is very real and I must try to honor that fear while at the same time attempting to diminish it. At the top of her fear factor list are spiders. Even though technically spiders are not insects, they do fall under the general classification of “bugs” by her definition. Luckily spiders are fairly uncommon when fly fishing. I showed her a photo in a magazine of a 3-inch salmonfly perched atop an angler’s hat. I casually inquired as to if seeing something like this in person would be a deal breaker.  Turns out it would be.  I assured her that we will not be seeing any salmon flies on our inaugural trip. Honestly I am not sure how she feels about grasshoppers, which we will be seeing. I’m inclined to believe hope that hoppers may be an easy bug to not be afraid of, and I’m also  hoping that won’t cause a problem since we’ll be fishing the peak hopper season. She assured me that as long as nothing is present in grotesque overabundance she should be fine. I didn’t point out to her that hoppers are supposed to be thick this year all across the West. What I am a little apprehensive about is her ability to withstand the possibility of a sitting calmly amidst an evening caddis hatch. A panic reaction could result in a rod being  being dropped overboard (I may have to put a tether on her gear). But caddis are benign little fliers. I’d go so far as to say they are the least “disgusting” of all bugs, and are even “cute”.  Right?  Please chime in with your support and agreement here, folks.  Please.

Another thing she has an aversion to is the texture of slime, and trout are slimy. True that. But she may never have to get over that fear because in all likelihood she’ll be lucky if she gets the chance to even touch a fish. Odds are, if she sets the hook on a fish, she’ll experience a Long Distance Release before getting the fish anywhere near her hands. And if she does land a fish, there’s no reason she has to even touch it because that can be delegated as part of a guide’s duty. Or I’ll convince her that fish slime is a natural hand moisturizer. Personally I think the beauty of catching a wild rainbow or cutthroat trout will thrill her to the point where she’ll forget that it’s a slimy thing altogether.  Yeah, riiiight.

Safety is a another big factor. She has done a remarkable job of keeping our children alive through their childhoods. We’ve encountered broken arms, cuts and scrapes and even a mild concussion, but nothing too serious. That relatively good safety record can be attributed to the fact that Mrs. Unaccomplished Angler has been somewhat of a worry wart, though to her credit she hasn’t been a Helicopter Mom prone to excessive coddling. Aside from being concerned for the welfare of her offspring, she’s also a bit cautious herself, and not one to run with scissors or color outside the lines. In fact, she was the obvious choice when the company she works for appointed her Safety Commissioner this past year (a proud moment). I just hope that she can relax and enjoy a day on the river without being fearful of falling overboard. But even if she does, she’ll probably be wearing an orange life jacket – you know the kind with the big collar?

Waders may present another problem when it comes to her fully embracing the fly fishing thing.  While she is not a slave to fashion, she is at least an indentured servant. Let’s be honest here: not many women don’t care how they look. And let’s face it – waders are not the most flattering of apparel and make even the narrowest of hips appear wider than they actually are.  I think we can avoid this altogether, at least on our initial outing because we’ll be fishing from a drift boat in August. It would be silly to wear anything other than shorts when it’s 90+ degrees out.  We won’t have to worry about waders until I take her steelheading in January, and it gives me a good idea for a Christmas present.

Indecision plagues Mrs. Unaccomplished Angler from time to time. She is above average when it comes to coordination and athletic ability, but the only difficulty she may have when learning to cast is determining which hand to use.  You see, she’s most right-handed but is nearly ambidextrous. And sometimes she forgets which hand she should throw a ball with. I’m serious. It’s actually quite an impressive ability, but because of the way her brain is wired she can be indecisive.  Will she naturally take to casting with the right, but also feeling inclined toward a right hand retrieve? (Marck does it this way, and it’s really annoying when I’ve had the occasion to use his rod).

Many women like to shop.  I did not say all women like to shop because I know there are those who do not. Thankfully I would not classify Mrs. UA as a hardcore shopper but she can, when she wants, flip through a wide variety of retail goods trying to decide if she likes this or that.  She’s been known on occasion to go shopping and return home with something she purchased, only then to determine that she doesn’t like it.  I’m a little apprehensive about what will happen when she opens a fly box, as she may have a hard time shopping for the right fly. Furthermore, the aforementioned indecision factor may serve to complicate this whole matter.

Patience is not a virtue.  Not of hers, but rather of mine. I am admittedly not the most patient person when it comes to sharing my infinite wisdom with my wife. Be it computer navigation and keyboard shortcuts, how to change the oil in a car, or how to cut-up a whole fryer chicken, I readily admit that I could learn to be less impatient.  While I accept my share of the blame, I would be remiss if I didn’t also state that Mrs. Unaccomplished Angler doesn’t exactly “empty her cup” when it comes to accepting certain helpful instruction from me.  Luckily, I’m placing her squarely in Derek’s hands when we go fishing. I’ll let him work with her while I sit quietly in the back of the boat, biting my tongue and trying to keep the laughter under my breath my mouth shut.

Snakes.  Let’s not go there, as her fear of snakes may be even worse than her fear of spiders.  Luckily if she’s in a drift boat and remains there, no snake will cross her path. I won’t even mention to her that snake-eye guides were used in the construction of the rod in her hand.

Hummingbirds.  It’s true, Mrs. Unaccomplished Angler hates hummingbirds and I am not referring the the brand of depth finders.  Actually, I think she thinks hummingbirds hate her because they often seem to seek her out and hover above her head.  I’ve assured her that the innocent little critters are merely curious and mean her no harm, and I don’t think she has to worry about hummingbirds while we’re fishing, Just for good measure I’ll suggest she not wear a red hat.

While it may require some time, nurturing and a few pitfalls, it will be worth the effort to turn Mrs. Unaccomplished Angler into a fly fishing enthusiast, or at least a willing participant in an occasional fly fishing excursion.  We’ve often discussed the need for a common interest once our kids leave the nest (which really isn’t that far into the future). She has suggested tennis and golf. I’ve suggested a compromise: fly fishing.

Wish us both luck.