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Rods are for fly fishing. Poles are for dancing.

13 things women should know before their first fly fishing trip.

The first time I learned about fly fishing, I was sipping a cocktail in a dark bougie bar in Des Moines, Iowa, with a man I was falling for. He shared stories from his more than 25 years of fly fishing in Montana…the persistent rhythm of the mighty Missouri River, bluebird skies, rugged mountains that surrender to sweeping plains; the artful fly-fishing cast, subtle loading of the rod, release, mend, strip, and startling set when a big brown trout eats your homemade fly.

I cried. Granted, my tears were mostly inspired by visions of soul-stirring wilderness and splendid isolation, but still, fly fishing was more than a mere sidebar.

Eventually this man took me to Montana to fly fish for the first time. When the plane touched down in Missoula, I cried again. Full of hope about the relationship, but also a whole lot of anxiety and uncertainty about the fly fishing. My usual curiosity was stunted by my utter lack of angling knowledge. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

Most women I know like to embark on a new endeavor with some basic knowledge. And there’s a lot to know about fly fishing…a good deal of it has nothing to do with the actual fishing. I’m here to remove the mystery and enlighten first-time female fly fishers so they know what they don’t know when they show up for their first guided fly-fishing trip.

Channel Outfitters client and guide with a big brown trout on the Missouri River.
Lindsey Channel of Channel Outfitters modeling typical fly fishing fashion and demonstrating how to properly hold a fish for the photo.

Here are 13 things I wish I had known before my maiden fly-fishing excursion and/or things that other women have asked me about when it comes to fly fishing. Disclaimer – There are many places and ways to fly fish. My perspective comes almost entirely from more than a decade of fishing from a drift boat on a river in Montana.

1. Old, white guys everywhere.

Izaak Walton’s “The Compleat Angler,” published more than 350 years ago, was dominated by men and fish assigned only male pronouns. Today, the sport remains dominated by mature, affluent, white guys, indistinguishable from each other with their fishing hats, sunglasses, khaki pants, and well-groomed gray facial hair. Increasingly, though, there is a younger nature-loving, hippy-ish contingent. And women. I recently found a statistic reporting that 30 percent of fly-fishing enthusiasts are women…leading to more and more female fishing guides. I’m happy to report the sport is evolving, but just know that, as a woman, you will be in the minority on the river and in the bar, post-fishing.

2. Drift boats drift.

3. Essential fishy fashion.

4. The never-ending beginning.

5. Fundamental fishy behavior.

6. Bugs are not gross.

7. Learn to squat.

8. Rods, reels, and flies, oh, my!

9. Your guide is always right.

10. Don't be helpful.

11. Lies, lies, lies.

12. Fly fishing is kinda hard.

13. Not fishing while fishing.

Guest blogger and long-time Channel Outfitters client Eva Sweet retired from the corporate hairball in 2019. She now resides in Montana where she cooks too much, doesn't write enough, and she and her husband, Steve Pattee, fly fish just the right amount. Follow her on Instagram @prettydamnsweeteva.

There's plenty more to know about fly fishing - like proper handling of a fish for a photo, fly fishing colloquialisms that make trout seem sexy...I could go on and on.

Regardless of what I didn't know then, that conversation about fly fishing over a cocktail in a dark bar in Des Moines, Iowa, changed my life. I married that man. We retired, sold all our belongings in the Midwest, and built a house a few steps from the Missouri River in Montana, where we enjoy soul-stirring wilderness and splendid isolation every single day. And we fly fish. It never gets old.


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