A mom who fell in love with fly fishing
Tell us about yourself: Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
I grew up in southeastern Wisconsin until age 18 and then moved to Salt Lake City, Utah. My dad was a charter fisherman on Lake Michigan, as was his father. My lineage goes back to Washington Island, Wisconsin and beyond to Norway, so I feel that fishing is in my genes. It is truly a part of me and my family's history, and I have been catching fish since I was 2 years old.
I currently work for our family business with my husband. When I'm not working, I'm caring for two teenage daughters and three active dogs (my favorite job). I've volunteered as a Trout Unlimited council member for many years, and I also started a women's fishing group — Utah Women Flyfishers — in 2013. It's not as active as I want it to be at the moment, but kids don't stay kids forever, and I'll have more time to get meetings going again in the near future.
My river time is sacred to me, and I try to fish at least once a week. I have gone fly fishing that much, if not more, religiously since 2012 when I started my fishing journey. Since then, it has become part of my routine! I make sure to fit in fishing for many reasons. It's not "just" fishing for me.
I have a few published flyfishing article that I've written over the years and also podcasts I've done at https://linktr.ee/heidiaqua.
Why do you fish, and how did you get into it?
There are so many reasons why I fish. It's a complex answer, and some days have different intentions. It often depends on where I am, who I am with and maybe even the time of year as to why I fish.
In 2012, I went to a fly fishing film tour with my husband. At the time, my youngest daughter was 2½ years old. I had been thinking of what I could do with myself away from the house for some "me time." That film tour lit me up! It was exciting to watch, and I knew from that moment that flyfishing was the thing I wanted to learn to get me outdoors for some quality "me time."
I called up my local fly shop (Western Rivers) and learned they had a women's class that was meeting the next month — and they only had one spot left! During the actual fishing component of that class, I caught my first fish on a fly on the Middle Provo. The rest is history!
Over the next year, I took every one of my instructor's fly fishing classes and went fly fishing once a week on my own to dive into the sport head first. I would go back to the fly shop and review my fishing trips with the crew there, picking their brains on what I saw, how I failed and what tips I could implement for the next time I went. Over that first year of fly fishing, I experienced every season of the Provo River, learned how the fish behave and what bugs hatch there during different times of the year.
I have continued fishing year round since then and continue to learn from my successes and failures. Even now, I learn something new every time I fish because no day on the water is the same. I think that's one of the most exciting parts of fly fishing.
While the initial reason I got into fishing was a way to get out of the house, my motivations for fishing have evolved since then. It's a time to clock out mentally from the daily grind, and it serves as a meditative mindful reset. I am so in the moment on the water that everything else fades away. I often have to set an alarm if I have to go at a certain time because I will completely lose track of time. Being able to do something with your mind and body that requires you to be completely present is the ultimate reset.
I also fly fish because it's a fun challenge. There are so many pieces to the puzzle, and figuring out how they need to be put together on that day to have success catching a fish requires patience, overcoming failure and being willing to try new things. You also have to learn a variety of skills, including navigating flows and river systems, how to observe bug and bird activity and how to fish in different weather patterns.
What is your favorite part of fishing?
I have met so many interesting people across the country through the fly fishing community, especially women. Knowing other female anglers in a male dominated sport is special, and I now travel and hang out with many of those women on and off the water.
Fly fishing is the whole package for the mind, body and soul. It's challenging, it's therapeutic and it's also a great social activity. I can enjoy fishing alone and also with others. I also enjoy the physical exercise of fishing. I try to get as much exercise as I can when I fish — walking against the water current and hiking the trails to get to the river feels great!
Ultimately, fly fishing requires me to be fully present in the moment. That's truly the best part.
What are some tips you would offer someone who is interested in learning to fish?
If you are a woman looking to get into the sport, know that there is room for you on the water and you belong — even if you don't see other women out there. We are here, and we support you! Don't be intimidated to stop into your local fly shop and ask them what classes they offer for beginners. Supporting your local fishing shops will benefit you. Having more women involved helps normalize women in fly fishing.
Learning how to cast a fly rod and line is the key to your success. I suggest doing this off the water (or at least not while trying to catch a fish). You can hire an instructor to help you learn the basics. And then make sure to practice a lot! There are different casts for different conditions and knowing how to do those will make your day that much better when trying to catch a fish.
Most importantly, spending time on the water will make the biggest difference. You have to spend the time and make some mistakes to learn how to fly fish. What works for someone else, may not work for you. It's important to know that there are many ways to catch a fish with a fly!