A Fly Fishing Magazine Unlike Any Other
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photo by Bessie Bucholz

How long have you been in the industry?
I started fly fishing at a young-ish age, but didn’t officially get into the industry until 2011 when I joined the guide staff at the Old Baldy Club in Saratoga, Wyoming immediately after graduating from the University of Virginia. If ever there was a pivotal moment in my life, it was when I decided to resist the pull towards a life and career in the city and move back out west to try my hand at guiding. As an Art History major with no interest in working at a museum, I suppose I should have seen this coming.

Best guilty pleasure?
I love to draw and practice calligraphy, so I sometimes just can’t help but doodle in the middle of a meeting (I promise I can draw and listen at the same time). However, when I’m feeling especially naughty, I like to enjoy a shocking amount of cream in my coffee.

Best advice for traveling light?
Do you really need that electric toothbrush? How about that hair dryer? I have to ask myself these questions a lot.  Toiletries are one thing that can be easily down-sized or scaled back due to the fact that lots of lodges and hotels provide the basics anyhow and some non-essential items tend to be bulky (like that hair dryer that I probably don’t need). But I would be lying if I said I travel lightly in terms of the clothes I bring—as a fashion hound, I can’t help myself from over packing. My justification is that I would rather have something and not need it than need it and not have it. 

Best career advice?
How can I say “listen to your heart” without sounding trite and unoriginal? Ah, whatever, it’s the truth—you have to follow your intuition and  do what you think will truly make you happy (forsaking the opinions of others who may think they know your best interests better than you do). Indeed, my career at Yellow Dog would not have materialized had I not taken a huge leap of faith and left my job and life in New Zealand to approach this company about building the NZ program from the ground up. I did it because I knew that my heart yearned to be back out west and because I used to daydream about a job like this. While I loved my life there, a little voice in my head kept telling me to step away from the desk and get back into the fishing industry. The decision power I have granted to my heart is a little crazy to some, but it has always served me well in life. But really, every job I’ve held until today was initiated by a bit of gut instinct combined with sheer gutsiness. One of my favourite sayings is “you either make dust or you eat dust” – so to follow that, I’d say that you really can’t wait for something great to happen to you. You have to go out there and chase it!

Best fish ever caught?
I think the most incredulous I have ever felt upon landing a fish was when I caught an 11 pound brown (my personal best) in New Zealand late in the season last year. I was so surprised to have actually landed it, of course, and my hands were shaking for hours after I put her back into the river. But I will really never forget the rush of euphoria that came over me when it finally reached the net after the most dramatic and stress-inducing fight I’ve ever had with a fish. It was a great feeling and an unforgettable moment in my angling career.


If you could fish with one angler, past or present, who would it be?
Oh gosh, I hate to be trite again, but you totally set me up on this one. It’s gotta be Joan Wulff. She is really the one who paved the way for the rest of us ladies. But if I had to choose a man to fish with, it would be Ernest Hemingway—if for no other reason than for a great story! 


Best fly fishing adventure?
For sure, without question, Bolivia. The name of the country is synonymous with the word “adventure!” I’ve been enamoured with Amazonia since I was a little girl, so to finally be immersed in that primordial environment was truly incredible--breathing the heavy, humid air, hearing the thousands of insects sing from within the jungle and observing the magnificent flora and fauna that I only knew from pictures. But aside from the butterflies and the macaws and the lush natural beauty of the place, the fishing is something unto itself—especially for those who appreciate classic freshwater angling. To fish gin-clear, freestone rivers in the heart of the rainforest for exotic species that are known for their ferocity and size is really an adventure that can’t be beat. Whether it’s the aggressive Golden Dorado or the permit-like Pacu or even the mighty Yatorana, there is no shortage of diversity or excitement in the fisheries of Tsimane in Bolivia. But on top of everything else, the opportunity to encounter the native people of this remote part of the world is what truly completes the experience. Their gentle and curious personalities, their fascinating culture and their total mastery of jungle life is so cool to witness and it is the one detail of that trip that really stuck with me. I really can’t say enough about these beautiful and resourceful people and I have so much respect for the simple lives that they lead.


Best way to spend a day on the water?
Any time you can combine good company with a sensational insect hatch before other anglers are tuned in, it’s hard to go wrong.  Oh yeah, I am really big on making sure that lunch is above-average awesome where possible, so I make sure to have cherries, pickles, beef jerky, killer sandwiches (with chips layered in) and avocados in the cooler, along with plenty of beer and Fresca!


Best childhood memory?
When fishing? Or just in general? Ha—this is a tough one because I grew up on a ranch in rural Wyoming and therefore my childhood was extraordinary, unique and very fun as a result of my imaginative nature and wild surroundings. I’d have to say that looking for antler sheds on horseback was one of my favourite things to do. I did have to dismount one time to “water the bushes,” but I was too short to get back on the horse by myself afterwards, so I remember walking through sagebrush for what seemed like hours until I found a ‘stool’ to help me get back on my ride. I think I may have been crying at the time because I was alone and somewhat lost, but it is a precious memory nonetheless.


When did you first fall in love with fly fishing?
Probably on a horseback pack trip with my best friend in the Absaroka Mountain Range (in Wyoming) when we were still teenagers. The experience was so special as it combined many of my favourite hobbies: hiking, horseback riding, camping and fishing. We caught enough cutthroat to feed an army, yet we only filleted a few of them since we were already well-provisioned on the trip. It is so fun to catch beautiful trout who are feeding indiscriminately on little dries and catching large numbers of them in such a spectacular setting will make anyone a convert to the sport of fly fishing.


photo by - Bessie Bucholz

Bessie with a monster Golden Dorado form the Amazon Jungle.

When I have downtime, I ... ?
Downtime? I’m not sure what that means! I am planning a wedding (my own, which is in less than three months), going to my friends’ weddings, expanding my program and therefore traveling a lot for my job at Yellow Dog, keeping fit, acting as a landlord (landlady?), taking care of three dogs, and keeping up with a fiancé who shares my love for fishing and hunting, as well as gardening and a good cocktail. Having a busy social and professional life is what makes me tick and gives me fulfillment, but in the rare moments of calm, I really like to indulge my inner creative side through sketching and painting. I also love reading, but I usually devour books when I am traveling (my eyes are shut within three minutes of my head hitting the pillow each night when I am home). 


One product I never leave home without is?
Chapstick. I think the Simms chapstick is the best and I have three tubes of it on my desk right now, but I also love Lucas’ Papaw Ointment, which is a magical Australian ointment that I formed a cosmetic crush on during my New Zealand years.


Do you have any fishing superstitions?
I am not too terribly superstitious when it comes to fishing, as I’m a pretty big believer in the fact that you create your own luck out on the water. Most precautions I take before I go fishing are grounded in reason and knowledge of fish behaviour. Now, since that’s a boring answer, I will say that the “no bananas in the boat” rule is one I will abide by—mostly because other folks get legitimately freaked out when I don’t and so I’d rather just keep the peace and bring an apple instead.


What is the one bucket list fish you have never caught but want to?
Let’s see … probably an indo-pacific permit! Oh, but I’d really love to catch a GT on the fly. Or a milkfish. Or an arapaima. Or a redfish. Ugh, look what you’ve started!!

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