"Fishing! I thought this was a climbing blog!" I hear ya, and let me explain. A few years ago I bailed on my husband for a long holiday weekend to go climbing. I felt kinda bad, so I booked him a fly fishing guide for while I was gone - he'd been saying how he wanted to try, but didn't know where to start. Fast forward a year or two, and he's hooked, and convinces me to try it. My line isn't in the water more than 15 seconds when SLAM! a trout sucked down my fly and I caught my first real fish.
Fly Fishing is such a great compliment to climbing. Many of the areas I climb in are along rivers full of rainbows and browns. It's easy to fish at sunrise, go climb your face off, then cool down with an evening session back down in the river.
Funny thing is, I probably put off fishing because it seemed damn hard with one hand. I tangle ropes that are on the ground, how the hell do I manage a reel with a line I'm supposed to be stripping while a fish is doing his damndest to muck it all up, and try to look as good as Brad Pitt while doing it? Learning to fly fish with one hand was MUCH HARDER than learning to climb. Hopefully, I can share some of my stump hacks so that others can enjoy.
STEP 1: TENKARA
I was first introduced to Tenkara style of fishing by a friend who was working for Tenkara USA. 'Worried about managing a reel? Just skip it!' he said. So, skip it I did. Tenkara was pitched at me as beginner and one hand friendly. It was, and now that it's been 4+ years, it's actually still my go to set up. When bringing in a big fish I’ll still (sometimes) need help netting it, but then again, people with two hands are also often using a buddy system to land the big one. There’s not much else to say about this style as it truly is simple, and it’s wonderful because I can fish the exact same as the two hander next to me.
STEP 2: WESTERN
First, let me be clear: I still kind of suck at Western. My tenkara practice has been very deep, and I feel like that motion and pole are just an extension of my body. There are some waters, though, that dictate needing the reach of a Western rod. My technique is still…experimental, to say the least, and is quite noisy in the way of rod movement through the cast. That said, I catch a lot of fish on it, so they don’t seem to mind?
I pinch the leader with my finger when the rod is forward and create a loop of locked of leader. On the back cast, I put my stump through that loop and pull against it, making the loop bigger. At the apex of my back cast I release the loop, sending the excess line shooting out behind me, ready to be rolled forward. Stripping line is a bit tricky and does involve a lot of noise on the rod as I use my stump to pinch the line on my hip then slide the rod forward on the line. Bringing in a fish is easy once I switch to the reel, I just hook my stump under the knob and spin.
STEP 3: ACCESSORIZE
Foam Tie Blocks: These are usually used for winding leaders with flies on so you can have your rig ready to go when you’re in the field. I mostly use them as my ‘hand’ when I’m tying my flies on to line - I’ll squeeze the foam between more knees or hold against my chest with the fly in it, and that will hold the fly stable while I tie it on. These are easy to lose, so snag a couple.
Chest Pack (Ditch The Vest): I never went for a vest, and went with a hip bag instead. Being able to spin the bag around and use it as a shelf to tie on flies was huge. Since then I’ve switch to a chest pack that I wear as a sling bag, specifically, I’m using the Fishpond Cerveza because…beer coozie. Tenkara fishing emphasizes minimalism, and not having a ton of shit is something I try to practice when western fishing, too. If I can’t get it to fit in that pack, odds are I don’t need it.
Stump Tape - Not Just For Climbing: A thick layer of stump tape allows me to hook a fly through the tape, if I’m too deep in a river or can’t use the foam block for another reason.
Whistle: For when I hook a big guy and need help with a net, or when I can’t manage the fish on my own to get out a swallowed or overset hook. Also for general safety, when I crank on that sucker everyone for miles can here me say ‘HALP!’
Boa Boots (Korkers Darkhorse for Women) - Boa lacing systems have been an incredible find for me, especially for cold and wet environs where I don’t want to have my bare stump out collecting ice. I’ve loved them on snowboarding boots, ice climbing boots, and now Korkers has made the first pair of women’s Boa boots. Not only are these a major upgrade from the shitty clearance beginners boots I had before, these are quick and easy to lace with one hand - I’m now beating my hubby out of the car and to the river even faster.