The Doctor's Wife Who Refused to Fish
By Dennis Dickson
So I get a phone call from a long time fishing client. A good fly fisher by
passion, a doctor by trade. He tells me he wants something easy. Wants to
get his wife into fly fishing.
OK with me. Most guides will tell you they quite enjoy teaching lady
anglers. Why? No bad habits to overcome, and they listen. Can't tell you
the number of times, he brings her out to "Get her into fly fishing," and by
the end of the day, she is catching all the fish.
Anyway, so we choose the fall salmon for Pinks. Septembers are beautiful
on the Skagit, with warm dry days, trees turning color, and fish. . .lots of
The morning of our appointed day promises to be warm and sunny. The
Pink salmon are just showing up in good numbers. The guide has guarded
Harold drives up in his new Mercedes, and Sheila and he climb out for
introductions. Harold is doing all the talking.
Now I should tell you, the trademark of a good guide is two things; finding
fish that anglers can catch, and reading people. People have a vast arrays
of agendas when they come fishing. Sometimes it's to catch that first
steelhead, others it's to simply mellow out from the intensity of the
workplace. In this case, Dr. Harold had a mission. Hook his wife on
fly fishing trips, so he could spend more of his leisure time doing it, without
having to justify or feel bad about it. I mean, how many medical seminars
down in the Bahamas can you take? This woman didn't marry him by
Sometimes the new angler looks anxious, others excited, and others,
"well, I am here, I might as well try it." Not Sheila. Her eyes told me "Under
no uncertain circumstances, will you get me to participate. . .don't even
try." I swallowed hard.
We ended up at the mouth of a Skagit tributary. Salmon were rolling like
popcorn. Harold points outs the fish excitedly. Sheila's eyes were dead. I
will tell you that was the only thing dead about her. She was medium
height and by the way she carried herself, she worked out. In a nut shell,
she wasn't pretty, she was stunning.
Her fishing apparel consisted of Danner wading shoes and socks, little
Bermuda shorts, and a halter top, that was. . . borderline small. You get the
My suspicions were confirmed when Harold brought out two rods, Sheila
took the second rod apart and put it back in the trunk. Harold stared at her.
She stared right back. Dennis is reaching for a Tums.
While the doctor is stringing up his rod, I busied myself by doing the same
with one of mine. Harold begins fishing. After demonstrating presentation
and technique to him, it isn't long before he is into his first fish. His
thoughts are long past Sheila, he is fishing.
I walk back up to the shore where Mrs. doctor is standing. We just watched
him fishing in silence.
I think she was a little surprised that I didn't try to at least attempt to get
her fishing. Surely this guide would at least strike up a conversation.
Nothing. We just stood there watching. Harold is really starting to get the
hang of catching these Pinks on a floating line. Sheila doesn't even flinch
as he chases down another fish on his four weight.
I am not sure what I was thinking. I walked over to the rod I had leaning up
against a tree. Sheila is watching me through the back of my head. I can
feel her. I waded out a short distance from shore and a few casts later,
salmon rises up and takes the fly. I set the hook as he boars away. The
little 5 weight is in full flex. As the fish starts to settle down into the fight, I
back pedal towards shore. In a few moments I am standing right next to
Sheila, while my little Hardy is cranking off every time the fish takes line. I
know she is watching, but you wouldn't know it. I finally turn to her and
very nonchalantly say "Could you take this for a moment, I have to pee."
With that, I put the rod in hers hands, and walk off. At first she
is all thumbs trying to figure out this bucking and throbbing flyrod,
but it isn't long before she is back under control. She gives
line when the salmon takes it. She reels it in when it doesn't.
Sheila suddenly realizes I am watching her, whiling standing ten feet to her
rear. She has been duped. She doesn't care, this is fun! Was that a faint of
a smile? I showed her how to land the Pink salmon. She admired and
I didn't say a word but put the fly back on the keeper and leaned the rod
back up against the tree. We went back to silently watching. Harold doesn't
even know about his wife and the fish, he is into another one.
I noticed Sheila watching her hubby but every once in a while, she would
glance at the rod at the tree. After a few minutes I turned to her and said
simply, "Want to try it?"
She turned and said. "Yes."
I showed her the cast and presentation. She obviously knew more about
this fly fishing then she let on, because she picked it right up. Before long,
she was playing her first fish. She almost squealed as the salmon powered
"Does this reel have to be so loud?" She questioned.
"Oh, you will learn to love that sound." I said.
She shook her head and said. "Men."
Anyway, she is smiling, Harold is busy, and life is good...for a while,
Sheila was starting to get a little more courageous in her wading, and it
wasn't long before the river currents were tugging at her Bermudas.
Everything was going OK until she hooked this really bright strong fish on
short cast. As she set the hook, the humpy shot straight out into the
currents, turned abruptly, and ran right back her.
"Look out!" I laughed.
The salmon didn't hear, and went right between her legs. Before Sheila
could even react. The salmon had hit the shallows, realized this is wrong,
shot back out in the river again. Unfortunately, Sheila knew that slack line
meant lost fish so she had been reeling like mad, not knowing that the line
was actually between her legs. When the line came up tight, the line was
wrapped around her leg only she was wading so deep, there was no way
she could clear it. The spunky fish tethered on this human pole ( her leg)
did the only thing it could do, Ran around and around. Only, as he wasn't
strong enough to break the tippet, the round and round, was around her
Now, I should tell you, all salmoides carry a protective coating on their
bodies we call slime. To say the Humpy salmon has this membrane is an
understatement. They are more like the aqua equivalent of a giant under
water slug. You get the picture.
So Sheila is now hog tied and slimed in mid current by this bucking and
thrashing water slug.
She screams and bolts for shore, breaking the line, relieving herself and
Sheila must have washed her legs for twenty minutes.
I would love to tell you she went back out fishing. . .she didn't. I would
love to tell you Dr. Harold came back to fish with me again. . .He hasn't.
Oh well, it was worth a shot.
Best of fishing, ~ Dennis
Dennis is a native of the Pacific Northwest, has lived in Arlington, WA, his entire life,
except for two year while attending the University of Washington and another two
years in Hawaii. Growing up near the North Fork of the Stilly, he has fly fished his
He graduated with a BS in the college of Fisheries and worked for the next eight
years as a fisheries biologist, on the Stillaguamish system. Dennis left this field
and began guiding fly fishers full time in the early 80's. After six years of guiding up
to 200 days a year, Dennis hit burn out and went back to Fisheries working as a
consultant. After two years Dennis realized he missed fishing too much and
decided to branch out. He now spends half his time guiding in places like the
Sauk, Stilly, Grande Ronde, south east Alaska for steelhead, and Bluewater
flyfishing in Mexico. His other half of the year is interspersed with fisheries work,
saving spawning streams, and building private lakes throughout the state.
He is married with three kids (two in college) and enjoys working in his community
and church, (when he is in town). He likes people and loves fish. Watching anglers
catch their first steelhead on a fly is a thrill that never goes away. You can reach
Dennis by email at: DDDicksons@aol.com
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