I will always remember the first time I caught a fish. It was a beautiful yellow perch about twelve inches long. I was eight years old, fishing with my parents, aunt, uncle and cousins at Oxbow Lake near Defiance, Ohio. It was one of the proudest moments of my childhood. Back then, we used to fish to actually take the fish back home to eat. While my family enjoyed fishing for food, I always viewed fishing more as a way for me to connect with nature, as well as enjoy some peace and quiet. Once I turned 14, my interests began to diverge, and I began spending less and less time fishing.
A few years ago, my daughter Ella asked me if I would take her fishing. I was really excited that she wanted to try fishing. At first, we went spin fishing with a lure and bait, but very quickly stepped up our techniques and decided to give fly fishing a try.
I have a really close friend from college, Steve Avril, who is an expert at fly fishing. He was one of the only people I knew who had the passion and a lot of experience with fly fishing. After having a super inspiring conversation with Steve about fly fishing, I was motivated to level up on our pursuit of the sport. I decided to accept a travel writing assignment with Cumberland Valley, Pennsylvania last fall and take our first official fly fishing lesson.
At age 12, Ella is a natural. She loves spending time outdoors and enjoys the serenity that fishing provides her. I’ve never seen her more at-one with her surroundings than when she’s on the water. She’s been fishing traditionally for three years now, but fly fishing has grown to be an area of interest since last year. Since lessons were available through TCO Outfitters and fly fishing company Relentless Fly Fishing, I knew signing my family up for lessons at Yellow Breeches Creek would be the perfect segue for her; the sparks of interest were already there.
While we were at Yellow Breeches Creek, I didn’t catch anything. However, that same tranquility overcame my mind, body, and spirt and the time on the water from when I was a child came flooding back memory over memory. I was so happy that fly fishing was becoming an activity that Ella and I could fully immerse ourselves in (literally). Unless you’re on a boat, fly fishing usually requires participants to physically be in the water, a lot of times with waders on. Consequently, if you’re already close to an area in the water where there are more fish -in our region, that’s trout, musky, and smallmouth bass- it makes the ability to catch something much more likely by standing in the water; hence, the waders.
Fly fishing lines are weighted since they use artificial flies which are much lighter than bait spinning lures or worms. Waders aren’t super-stylish (which is actually something a lot of my non-fishing friends were surprised to see me wearing), but then again, fishing isn’t about fashion - it is about spending quality time with my loved ones in the great outdoors.
Whenever I’m fly fishing with Ella, I feel like I am that young girl again—full of energy, passion, courage and love for the body of water we are fishing, a love for the great outdoors, and most importantly a love and a certain respect for all of the fish we catch. All of my anxiety as a busy mompreneur slowly seeps out of my body. I feel a sense of calm that I don’t experience in my day to day life. Fly fishing is more of a “quiet sport,” and I like it for exactly that reason.
Fly fishing puts me in a mindset where everything around me - the stresses of everyday life fade into the background. The only thing that matters is the amazing feeling of being knee-deep in flowing water and the rush of the hunt. Although fishing is more of a catch-and-release activity for species like trout; it feels more primal, vulnerable, and simplistic, and I feel closer to the landscape and natural food chain than I have in years. The thrill of being in nature makes people feel more alive than many of our day-to-day modern surroundings, and we become more in-tune with our humanity.
I also love that, as a woman, Ella and I were able to find a sport that’s more individualized and not totally male-dominated. I haven’t seen many women of color represented in the fly fishing world, and I really want to change that. Growing up in a small town in Ohio, I was surrounded by people that didn’t look like me - and subsequently feel like representation is essential to everyone. Girls are influenced by so many social factors, now more than ever, and shouldn’t feel under-represented in areas of interest - especially activities that are meant to be enjoyable and open to anyone. I want everyone to see themselves represented in fly fishing, and I’d love to create more of a community where all women and young girls can feel welcome.
Angelica Talan is a mom, DC-based blogger and new fly angler. You can follow Angelica's journeys in DC here or on Instagram @angelicatalan