KW Morrow, White River

July 2nd, 2007

Beginning Again
By Ken Morrow

Back when I was younger and dumber I did something really, really stupid. A couple of weeks after first meeting my wife, I knew I wanted to marry her. I often joke about the three reasons why I proposed to her: she hates to shop, she loves to fish, and she makes the best darned peach cobbler you ever tasted. But there is more than a little truth in that statement. I discovered all three of those things right away and they did, in fact, play a key role in my decision. But they are more accurately stated thus: she's frugal and doesn't shop for recreation, she loves outdoor recreation including fishing (but not hunting), and she is a fabulous cook.


But by the time we had been married for a year or so, I had spoiled fishing for her. We went fishing a few times with mixed results and then one day I threw a huge fit while we were fishing when a large bass cleaved my favorite rod smooth in twain and took my last "hot" lure of the trip. I tossed about three rods in the lake, dumped a tackle box, and just basically lost my religion for about fifteen minutes. I don't know what came over me, but I assure you it had nothing to with my wife or fishing. But I scared the crap out of her and she never fished with me again. That was stupid – really, really stupid.

Occasionally, life offers us a chance or two to redeem ourselves. When these jewels drop like pennies from Heaven, I try like heck to take advantage of them. We don't get many do-overs in life. Such was the case when back in mid-May my lovely wife of over 12 years told me that she wanted to learn to fly fish so that we could fish together. So I calmed myself, concealed my elation and panic, and determined to get it right this time. I resolved to bring everything we had learned about one another in the intervening decade along with all of my contacts and affiliations in fly fishing to make it right – to get it right this time – to get her started fly fishing without turning her off to it in the process.

This isn't really easy for me, you see. Many of my readers know I am disabled. But, until now, almost none know WHY. I suffer from bipolar and post traumatic stress disorder. To make matters worse, my father was bipolar and most of my experience teaching people to do things came from the military…which was much kinder and gentler than my dad ever was. I can be a very effective teacher if you have a really thick skin and are highly motivated to learn. But I sometimes lapse into those old sadistic and tyrannical models I was raised on when I get frustrated. It's a hard thing for me to guard against and control. So my first decision was that I would NOT be teaching her the fundamentals.

It just so happens that I was on the planning committee for our FFF club's first ever mini-conclave the first weekend in June, and we were having Dave and Emily Whitlock in for a weekend seminar at Jolly Mill Park. Now, who better to introduce someone to the wonders of fly fishing than Dave and Emily? I sure couldn't think of anyone! And this event was free to club members and their immediate family members. Talk about serendipity! I told my lovely bride to mark it on her calendar. And I scheduled her into a women's only beginner's class with IWFF board member and River Run Outfitters owner Carolyn Parker for the following Saturday. My luck with this double shot of good timing could not have been better. My wife would have two Saturdays with two of the top women professionals in the business and the charming and gentle Dave Whitlock to get her started off on the right foot. Carolyn's class in Branson is $75. Believe me, that is a serious bargain for a full day of instruction from the Industry Committee Chairperson of the IWFF, graduate of the Joan Wulff Fly Casting Instructors Course, and owner of the Orvis-endorsed Outfitter of the Year for 2006 in a small group class setting…I don't care who you are! So my total outlay for what I imagine is the best beginner training in fly fishing was $75 and half a tank of gas. I thought that was a pretty good deal.

Someone suggested to me that this whole thing might make for a great series of articles about women in fly fishing. Frankly, it had not dawned on me, but they were right. So I began doing a lot of research and arranged to photograph the training sessions. Of course, one of the other main tasks was equipping my wife for fly fishing. So what all gear was out there for women was one of the subjects to be researched. My early focus was on apparel, equipment, and training because my wife would need all three right out of the starting gate.

Over the next few months, I will be writing a series of articles on women in fly fishing. They will all be based upon my observations and experiences with my own wife, Wilma, as she progresses through the beginner steps of fly angling. Wilma is from Germany. And she has a degree in graphic arts, photography, and printmaking. She worked for almost a decade as a professional artist before becoming a REALTOR. Nowadays, she is a successful artist AND an award-winning real estate agent. She is one of four girls and her father died when she was a child. She grew up in Munich, Augsburg, and Ulm, Germany... large European cities. Her mother's idea of outdoor recreation was hiking, road biking, and picnics in the country. And Wilma first had an opportunity to fish when she moved to the United States in 1991. She was in her early 20s. Her outdoor sports passions in Europe were biking and cross-country skiing. She also studied Kung Fu, was a certified rescue swimmer, and worked out in the gym with a trainer who was a successful professional body-builder. So she had a very active lifestyle and an athletic awareness of her own mind and body. She is now 40 years old and in good physical condition. That's the biographical information that may become pertinent to the topics of future articles.

Smoky Joe

Wilma and I hope that my readers will find this series both entertaining and informative. Perhaps they will inspire someone who has been on the fence to take up the pursuit of fish on the fly. Maybe they will help some women who have been struggling with some aspect of fly fishing to overcome an obstacle. But most of all, we hope that they encourage couples with an interest to fly fish together. There will be one other character in our story who has not been introduced yet. He is a 7 year old Weimaraner named, Cave Creek's Smoky Joe. He's our dog. We have no children. And Smoky Joe is as much a part of our little family as most people's children are. And he goes almost everywhere with us. ~ Ken

About Ken:

Ken graduated from Southern Methodist University in 1988, and spent the next several years serving in the United States Navy as an intelligence analyst and Russian Language translator. He is a veteran of Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Leaving the nation's service in 1993.

Ken is also a published outdoor writer and historian, having penned articles and stories that have appeared in several national hunting publications like North American Hunter magazine, on, in regional and local newspapers, and historical and literary journals. He has also provided hunting and dog training seminars for Bass Pro Shops and other sporting goods retailers nationwide. He volunteers his time to Ducks Unlimited and Trout Unlimited, as well as several local charitable organizations. He is also a REALTOR with Coldwell Banker in Springfield, Missouri; where he lives with his wife, Wilma, and their Weimaraner, Smoky Joe.

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