A Girl's Life

Thoughts on Being a Female Angler: Alaska Angling
By Courtney Klein
  |  Gorp.com
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Bristol Bay Lodge, in Dillingham, Alaska, is set on a hill overlooking an immense lake and surrounded by snow-topped mountains. Every morning the guides and pilots congregate down at the dock, hands stuck in the front of their waders to keep them warm against the early morning frost, waiting for their guests to join them. The humming of the boat motors and the sputtering of the plane propellers tell everyone the day is beginning and get most of us moving. Everyone hurries to finish that last piece of toast or drink that last drop of coffee, sometimes forgetting to put fishing vests on over waders.

So another day begins in Alaska. The people flying to the Togiak or Agulawok Rivers get into a Beaver plane. Those who choose to stay local get into boats with their respective guides. Every person who leaves the lodge has a different mission. Some fish nymphs with trailers, hoping to attract a grayling or two. Others fish rainbows with a white or black woolly bugger. No matter what the day holds, everyone comes back with a story, whether it's about a special fish caught or the shore lunch.

My day begins like anyone else's here at the lodge. I am prepared to catch fish, absorb the scenery, and even fight a stereotype or two along the way.

As a female angler, I love proving people wrong, and when I fish I get the chance to do just that. Sometimes things don't always go the way you expect them to, but if you can get yourself out of trouble, you'll earn respect. At times I've wandered too far from my fishing partners and ended up in deep water or stuck on a rock, but instead of calling out for someone to help me, I pull myself out of the water or off the rock and continue on with my fishing adventure. My rule: If no one witnesses my little problem, then no one needs to know about it.

The guides, other guests in our group, my dad, and myself gorge on fish for our shore lunch, relaxing at the river's edge, feeling the heat of the sun on our backs. Everyone is reluctant to return to the river when the sun is this warm, but the sight of a recent hatch motivates us to buckle up our waders and head back into the river (although some guests have been known to take a nap in the boat instead). Those who do fish keep at it until the day comes to an end and we return to the lodge.

The day's experiences are shared around the fire as we all await dinner, everyone making their fish bigger each time they tell their story. I am guilty of this also, but as I said before... I am earning respect. And people who catch big fish get respect. Female anglers have to work harder to earn respect, so I make my fish sound as big as possible. At the same time I am hoping that I don't sound stupid to these men who surround me. There is no shame, though, in sharing stories that might or might not be true. So I join in with these men, telling my stories as vigorously as they tell their own.

After dinner some men smoke cigars out on the porch, while others read books in the living room. I might read alone, or even enjoy a cigar with the men outside. The smell of smoke mingles with the cold air coming through the sliding doors. The guests digest the dinner they have just eaten, and the guides come around and talk about the upcoming day. Some guests who have been to certain rivers share tips with those who haven't been yet. One thing binds us all together... a love of fishing.

What is it that brings me here? I know I am here for the fishing, but there's more to it than that. These trips are a chance to find respect and a sense of myself. Am I a fisherman? Heck yeah, I am. I've also realized—for what it's worth—that my quest for respect has brought me at least one answer. A girl who flyfishes must have a sense of respect for herself before she can gain it from others.

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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