By Kascie Herron
I never look forward to the first day of the fishing season. I know, I know, call me crazy, but hear me out. It’s usually a $&*t show and I’m a hot mess. I’m not a super proficient angler as it is, but on the first day out I’m pretty rusty and the whole experience only highlights my status as an amateur. My line gets tangled; I lose about a dozen flies and a few feet of line; I break off nearly every fish that bites (if any bite); maybe a rod gets broken. By the end of the day some tears have been shed and my boyfriend and I pretty much want to kill each other. The first day out fishing is just one we must get through in order to move on and enjoy the rest of the season together.
But this year things went a little differently. First of all we had a friend visiting, so there was an instant buffer for our jabs and a deflector from any harsh words that might come out due to high tensions. I was to remain in the back of the boat, where presumably I could do the least amount of damage, which ended up being a pretty great idea.
My sweetheart set me up with a stonefly with rubber legs and a bright pink worm dropped below that. I was ready to take on the Blackfoot River and its reputation as the “river that snags you to it.” This was no joke. Within a few casts I had already snagged the bottom and a couple of trees on the bank, but managed to pull off my flies without breaking. Whew.
After a few more casts, I had a fish on! Me! The girl, sitting in the back! First fish on! Woo Hoo! It fought hard and it didn’t take long to see it was a bull trout. First fish of the day, my first of the season, and it happened to be an elusive, endangered fish. With the first fish of the season out of the way, I was immediately relaxed. We happened to be out on this particular day because our friend had not caught a fish in nearly a month. He was certain that he had been cursed with some bad mojo, so we were determined to help him break the spell, and perhaps our own. With a bull trout caught in the first half hour, and by yours truly, we were all sure it would be the day to lift all curses.
As we continued down the river my luck continued. I caught a whitefish next, a rainbow after that. The boys were having worse luck, only able to catch bottom or riparian vegetation. Then our friend Jack got a hit. This one was big. He fought and reeled, fought some more, until we realized he was reeling in a huge tree branch that had been submerged. His disappointment was uncontainable, but so my laughter. I couldn’t believe what was happening before my eyes. The men were breaking off flies left and right, lines were tangling, a fly rod was broken. No amount of beer could make this better. I had pulled in more fish, a cutthroat, another whitey. None of these fish were huge, but at least I wasn’t getting skunked.
Usually in between lost flies, my sweetheart will tie on new ones for me. Not today. And not because he refused, but because I felt empowered enough that I didn’t ask for help. For one of the first times out with other men, I had a level of confidence not present before. I didn’t ask which flies to tie, I didn’t ask which weight of line to use. After two years of struggling, feeling like a feeble child without the help of a man, I was finally making my own choices and they were WORKING.
By the end of the day spirits were mixed. Here I was celebrating one of my best days of fishing, and certainly my best first day of the season, while the men were mourning their defeat. The best part of all: my honey and I had no reason to be mad at one another. I killed it, and he got to watch. I know that it doesn’t matter who catches the most fish or the biggest. What matters is getting out on a beautiful body of water, feeling the breeze on my face and a tug on the line; the exhilaration of that direct connection to the river’s wildlife. As far as out fishing a couple of men? Well, it never hurts.
Kascie Herron is not a writer by trade, but a lover of all things river related. River conservation work with American Rivers is what keeps a roof over her head and supports her recreation habits.
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