It hasn't been much of a summer for fishing. Yes, the water was high and the temperatures perfect, but with a new baby and pretty much zero time to myself, I just didn't get out as much as I'd hoped. I made it to La Garita a few times and had a blast fishing that little stream while wearing Torin -- even caught one monster brookie in the hole right across from the cabin -- but generally speaking, this was not a summer of fishing.
But fall is here now and the river has been calling my name every day as I drive across the bridge on my way home or walk my usual river route with Torin in-tow in his little Chariot. The water just. Looks. Perfect. So today I finally made it happen. I left Torin with Davie for a couple hours and walked down to fish our little gem of a stretch of river.
But as I strung up my rod and began hunting for what fly to tie on the end of my line, I was overcome with doubt. What should I fish? I know what generally works on this river, but I suddenly couldn't make a decision. Streamer? Can I even remember how to fish a streamer? I was never that good at it... Hopper? No - too chilly, too early in the day. Nymph rig? What nymphs? The ones I always fish? Am I just fishing them out of habit? Are they really the right ones? I felt so unsure. Like I hadn't done this a million times before. Like I didn't go to guide school. Like I don't know what I'm doing and have no business calling myself an angler.
I tied on a streamer and walked downriver. I put few dozen casts through my favorite deep run, crossed back and forth through the current and generally felt lost. I'd been gone an hour. Maybe I should just give up and go home and take care of Torin. Or maybe just try one other thing. So I re-rigged my rod with a go-to double nymph combination and tried again. Four casts in - boom. I hooked into one of those big, beautiful Rio Grande Browns that makes this river so famous, and makes fall one of the best times of the year to cast a fly line.
Guess what, Amy? You DO know what you're doing. Imagine that.
I'm generally a pretty confident person. I don't usually doubt my abilities as a writer, or a rider (horse or snowboard), or, I'm discovering, as a parent. But when it comes to fishing and hunting, and other more traditionally "male" sports, I am often less sure. Despite the fact that I've been doing these activities for nearly half my life, despite going to guide school and actually working as a fishing guide, despite really not caring how many fish I catch or birds or elk I shoot... despite all of it, I so often find myself standing in a river, or on a mountainside or in a field thinking, "you don't know what you're doing." And that's ridiculous.
I think it's because in these activities it's easy for me to demure. I don't need or want to be guided, but so often the men I fish and hunt with would very much like to guide me. And they do. And I just let them. It's the sporting equivalent of mansplaining - something we all get used to enduring in the workplace, but perhaps hope we don't have to deal with in our free time. But we do. Active women know what I'm talking about. Sporting women? Even more so. It's well meaning, but it's also obnoxious. And insidious... because it makes us doubt ourselves and our abilities.
So I made a pact with myself today. I am not going to endure the well-meaning guiding anymore. I am nearly 40 years old and I enjoy these sports for myself in my own way. I know what I'm doing and I don't need my hand held. I will fish for myself, hunt for myself (and my dogs), and spend the next 40 years (I hope) not caring if I have the perfect fly on or if I made the perfect cow call. And if I need to brush up on my skills I will hire a guide. Hopefully another woman.