My first official fly-casting and fishing lessons for trout
occurred sixteen years ago, when Jorge, my husband, booked
us for a trip to a fly-fishing school in upstate Pennsylvania.
I have been fly-fishing for panfish, bass, chain pickerels and
carps many times before, but taking lessons in a fly-fishing
school was a new adventure for me. Up to this point, I had
learned from Jorge all I knew about fly-fishing. He was my
first instructor! The second one, although he doesn't know
it, was David Whitlock. I became acquainted with Mr. Whitlock's
fly-casting and fly-fishing techniques through an L. L. Bean
fly-fishing video for beginners, which we have at home. Thus,
I was looking forward to my time at the school, where I was
hoping to improve my casting techniques and learn how to fly
fish for trout.
By the end of May, our bearings led us to Hancock, New York,
close to the Pennsylvania state line. We left Philadelphia
midmorning Thursday and arrived at the school in the early
evening. After getting our luggage and fishing gear into a
small but comfortable room, we decided to go out for dinner.
Before we left, and I guess just in case we were going to stay
out late, a staff member told us, "Breakfast is served from
8:00-9:00 a.m. and classes begin immediately after." Upon
our return from dinner, we set our fly rods and left them
ready for the next day.
For this trip I had brought the only rod I had at the time: a
2-piece 6W 8 1/2 foot fly rod that we bought from the same L.
L. Bean catalog from which we got Whitlock's fly-fishing video.
I didn't have any idea of the rod's performance when I first
got it, but I had used it many times prior to this trip and
it had turned out to be a good rod. Waders and fly-fishing
vests with a woman's body in mind were not yet available.
Thus, a small size of men's waders and a youth vest completed
my fly-fishing outfit. It was not a particularly attractive
outfit, but I was sure the trout wouldn't mind it. As for me,
all I wanted to do was to catch a nice Delaware rainbow trout!
My sexy waders!
The next day, classes were divided into two groups, basic and
advanced, and our schedule was quite hectic and intense. We
began our day with breakfast at 8:00 a.m. and ended it with
dinner from 7:30-9:00 p.m. Between these hours, some of us
attended a class for either basic or advanced fly-casting
techniques as well as participating in seminars related to
entomology, reading the water, nymphing, and fly-tying. We
also spent time fishing in some sections of the river. By
the time dinner was over, I was more than ready for a good
Through my years as a fly angler I have gotten accustomed to
the stare of other fishermen and the words "Look, there's a
woman fly-fishing!" Once at the school I couldn't avoid
feeling some apprehension. Not only was I the only woman
in the class, but this was my first attempt at trout fishing.
Some of my classmates, including Jorge, had been trout fishing
for a while and their casting techniques were far more advanced
than mine. When the time to practice our fly cast came, I couldn't
help but feel nervous. Following the instructions given to me
by Jim (our fly-fishing instructor), I began to cast. While
doing so, I could feel the eyes of my classmates on me. But
despite feeling nervous, I managed to exercise some pretty good
casts. Jim, Jorge, and other classmates gave me positive feedback
about my casts, and this helped me relax. As I continued to
practice, my feelings of nervousness abandoned my body and mind.
My thoughts shifted from, "I'm the only woman here" to "Enjoy
what you are doing." And that was precisely what I did. I began
to enjoy my time at the school and was eager to catch and land my
first Delaware trout.
Practicing my fly casting
Our "in vivo" fly-fishing experiences began during the early
evening hours. We walked with our instructor to one section
of the river, where Jorge and I were expected to put into
practice what we had learned in the morning (Jorge his advanced
fly-fishing techniques for trout, and me, my basic ones).
With rod in hand, we followed Jim to one section of the
The view was spectacular, and so were the rising trout.
Taking a look at the hatch, Jim selected its match from
his fly box. He selected a beautiful mayfly that would
do us the honor of possibly catching and landing a trout!
However, at that moment, I felt that my probability of
landing a trout was almost zero! Having myopia, and
wearing glasses since my early twenties, my vision isn't
exactly 20/20 any more. At times, and even with my glasses
on, it is hard for me to see what is in front of me. I
wasn't sure I could see a tiny dry fly floating downstream.
Jorge and I get ready for our fishing adventure in the West Delaware Branch River.
Looking at the beautiful scenario around me, I set myself
in a comfortable position and began to cast. Jim corrected
my casting and mending techniques, again and again. He gave
me simple instructions to follow, but I felt that they included
too many details. "Lift your rod, cast about 5 feet forward,
follow the fly, mend now, and mend again". Trying to do as
I was told, I couldn't help but think, "Well, one thing is
the theory and another the practice." Just imagine me, trying
not to slip into the stream while presenting a tiny fly in a
manner that seemed attractive to a rising trout. It was like
trying to cross the street while chewing gum at the same time!
I cast and cast, but the trout didn't seem interested in my fly
presentations. "You got a strike," I heard Jim say. With an
expression of disbelief on my face I asked, "Did I? How come
I didn't feel anything?" Being accustomed to using bigger flies
when fishing for pan fish, bass, chain pickerels and carps, I
found it amazing to catch a trout with a size fourteen hook or
a smaller one. Jim encouraged me try again, and so I did.
Occasionally my fly presentations were pretty decent, but I
could hardly see the fly floating downstream. I was basically
fishing by instincts (sort of like Zen). The moment a trout
took my fly, I didn't know where it was. This delayed my
reaction in setting the hook and, by the time I did, it was
too late. The trout, being so smart, spit the fly in a matter
of seconds; better say, microseconds.
Time passed and my fly rod didn't show any action whatsoever.
Jim encouraged me to keep on casting while he went upstream
to check up on Jorge, who had a rainbow at the end of his
line and was working to land it. My interest in seeing the
rainbow was stronger than my willingness to stay casting.
So, upstream I went, towards where the action was. Jorge was
doing a pretty good job working the trout. I felt happy for
him, but as soon as he landed the rainbow, "el gusano de la
envidia" bit me (envy overcame me). I definitely wanted to
land a trout. The size didn't matter, just the joyful feeling
of catching and releasing at least one. Motivated by this
thought (and by my being gritty at the moment), I continued
to practice my fishing techniques and fly presentations. I
kept on casting and casting, but the trout, with their
continuing smarts, were able to resist the temptation of
swallowing my fly.
Jorge's fly presentations and casting experience rose up to
the trouts' challenge. In two days at the school, he managed
to land a couple more rainbows. As for me, looking at Jorge's
trout was the closest I got to landing this beautiful fish.
Nonetheless, the time spent at the school was the prelude to
my trout fishing experiences. Trying to catch a trout with a
tiny fly became an obsession to me. I sure felt challenged
by these beautiful creatures and was determined to land one.
Eventually I would, but that is part of another story.
The one thing that added some excitement to my experience at
the school was getting my first custom-made fly rod. It so
happened that Jim (in addition to being a great fly angler
instructor and guide) was also a rod builder. We asked him
to build us two 4-piece fly rods. Both of them were 7W 8 1/2
feet long and built on a Sage blank. At present, I don't use
this rod as much, but it has a special place in my heart because
it was my first and only custom-made fly rod. As for my 6W
8 1/2 foot L. L. Bean fly rod, it is now in Germany, a gift
to a friend of ours, who hopefully is catching some good trout
there. ~ Marta E. Rivas-Olmeda