I can vividly remember the moment I fell in love with fly fishing. My Dad and I were standing side by side in a small creek in California, the beautiful blue water slowly moving in front of us. I was so young my head was only able to reach his hips. He was tying a new fly onto his line, and I was standing there, anxious to catch a fish. I was tired of waiting so I said, “Dad, let me fish. I can do it.” He looked at me, and I’m sure his mind was racing. Do I let her go? Let her just cast? She's seven years old. She’s capable right? I’m sure the conclusion was, what’s the worst that can happen, because I heard, “Ok. But keep the rod tip high when you’re casting like I taught you.”
It was a new feeling. A feeling where I was alone in the world with this fly rod. Dad was nearby, but wasn’t guiding my hands and arms to cast the rod. He wasn't giving me step-by-step instructions, and he wasn’t telling me which seam to cast into. I simply used everything he had taught me over the past three years and let my muscle memory take over. I casted into the water in front of us and patiently waited. I was always a rambunctious kid, but fishing taught me composure and serenity. While on the water, I always felt calm. After only two or three casts, I pulled out a nice little rainbow trout. The expression on Dad’s face is a look I have never forgotten. He held a look of pride, but also one of sadness. I had reached a milestone he was sad to see me obtain. I had done it without his help. In his mind, I didn't need him anymore. I was my own angler.
This was a pivotal moment for me because of the independence I felt. I had caught this fish all on my own. Ok, sure. My Dad had picked the spot, the rod, the tippet, and the fly. But in my seven year-old mind, it was all me. I had done what my Dad did: catch fish. He was my idol and I was becoming more like him.
We still have that picture framed in our living room. Dad and I standing in the river, me holding a fly rod that towered over my small head. I have a huge smile. It sits next to a photo of me holding my first ever IGFA world record fish, a bull trout from the rivers of British Colombia. All my skills and years of hard work had paid off, and at the age of 14, I was ready to enter the realm of world record fly fishing.
Dad doesn’t fish for world records. It’s not that he doesn’t catch big fish; he’s just not competitive like I am. He doesn't strive to make every little thing a competition. One person who does catch world record fish though is Bo Nelson, a close friend of my Dad’s. When Bo invited us on a fly fishing trip to British Colombia to chase world record bull trout, I was honored.
When we first arrived in Fernie, I had no idea what to expect. The first morning, we woke up at around 4 am, and loaded into the guide’s truck. We set out onto a dirty, bumpy logging trail, occasionally pulling off to the side of the road to avoid logging trucks. After about an hour of driving, we reached the end of the road. We grabbed everything we would need for the rest of the day: fishing rods, backpacks full of gear and a shotgun in case a grizzly decided he was hungry. We set out on an hour long journey with only the moonlight to guide our walk down a dirt hill. By the time we reached the bottom, the sun had just started to rise.
That day, I caught three potential world record bull trout. It was the start of a successful career chasing world record fish from Mexico, to Canada, to all over the US. Since my first three world record bull trout from British Colombia, Canada, I have caught world record Pacific Barracuda, Largemouth Bass, Peacock Bass, Northern Pike, Cutthroat Trout, Walleye, Bowfin, Mountain Whitefish, and Lake Trout. In the future, I hope to reach 100 world records and earn my lifetime achievement award through the IGFA. But until then, I will continue searching for the biggest, coolest fish I can find.