Public Lands 1

This article was first published in our Spring 2015 newsletter. 

by Mia Sheppard

Public land is a birthright and rightfully belongs to all Americans who depend on them for access, angling opportunity and economic security. In an increasingly crowded West where open space is rapidly becoming one of the rarest and most valuable assets of the Western lifestyle, ensuring that these lands stay in the public trust is more important now than ever before.

After the American Revolutionary War, Congress had spent all of its money and was in debt. The new federal government owned all the public land except that within the 13 original colonies and a few non-original states. The land owned by the government was called the Public Domain; our public land that our forefathers fought for and we are still fighting for today.

There’s a fever from anti government activist to eliminate the America public land system.  The most recent incarnation of the modern Sagebrush Rebellion originated in Utah, when the 2012 state legislature passed the “Transfer of Public Lands Act and Related Study” and demanded that 31 million acres of federal land be given to the state by December, 2014. If ownership of our public land was transferred to the states, the expense of managing them could be prohibitive, leading to their eventual sale to private interests. This scenario would likely result in the widespread loss of public access to the special places we like to hunt and fish.

Across the west some of the best fishing for steelhead and trout occurs on rivers and lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service where access is a given for anglers.

For example, nowhere in America is a strenuous outdoor life more available than in the heart of Oregon, in the Deschutes River country. This major tributary of the Columbia River on the east side of the Cascade Range wanders north through basalt cliff canyons and offers world-class fishing and great hunting to anyone wanting to access the river canyon through public land.

Anglers come here from all over the world to fish for the “redsides,” and steelhead. Steelheading doesn’t get much better than on the Deschutes. Managed by the BLM as a designated Wild and Scenic River, with multiple campgrounds for fishermen, whitewater rafters, and anyone else who wants to follow some very simple rules and experience the river.

 This is my backyard for me and a dozen other outfitters; we take pride in sharing this river with visitors and other anglers. People come to the local communities to fish; shop, stay in hotels and eat at local restaurants. Anglers are mesmerized by the rimrock canyons, smell of juniper and solitude experienced on a Deschutes River float. These experiences connect visitors with something greater than themselves while at the same time support a major component of Oregon’s rural economy.

As a professional guide and angler , I depend on my continued ability to share the beauty of our public lands with folks from across our great nation and use public access points for my angling enjoyment. These lands and other federal lands across Oregon provide wide-reaching economic benefits to individuals like me and other Oregonians who rely on outdoor opportunities for income. Public lands are a boon for those who travel from across the country to enjoy them, as well as those who call these places home.

 Public Lands 2

Public lands are our birthright. As an angler, outfitter and mother, I believe that one of the most important challenges of our time is to maintain public access to places we like to fish. As a public land user we need to stay involved to protect the transfer of our public lands. I want my daughter to enjoy the same experiences and opportunities that I have had.

Get involved with just a click. Support sportsmen’s access to our public lands, please visit www.sportsmensaccess.org and sign the petition.

Public Lands 3

IWFF member Mia Sheppard is the Oregon Field Representative for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and owns Little Creek Outfitters with her husband Marty, they are both Simms Ambassador. She lives and breathes being on the water and chukar hunting the breaks of desert rivers. When she isn’t working for the TRCP she can be found standing in a river with her husband or daughter chasing steelhead or planning the next adventure.

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IWFF’s founding member, Fanny Krieger, reminisces about the inception of the organization, and the events that led up to the creation of our club!

by Fanny Krieger

Thirty years ago, two couples met for dinner and while sipping a glass of wine, Susan (or it might have been Fanny) said wistfully, “It would be nice to know other women who fly fish…” This was the leading statement. Next, Fanny uttered (or it might have been Susan…), “Let’s find out who they are and start a club!” Husbands John and Mel wholeheartedly agreed.

Before actually starting Golden West Women Flyfishers (GWWF), I talked to some of the best known fly fishermen in the country: Mike Lawson, Mike Fong, Jack Dennis, and John Randolph were all enthusiastic about this new concept of a women’s fly fishing club.

We sent out 22 invitations to the first meeting, hoping for six women to come. About 20 came. That was it! We needed a name, a place to meet, a charter, and a set of rules and goals.

In 1983, Golden West Women Fly Fishers was founded – you should have seen and felt the excitement! With it came the acceptance, support and recognition of the entire fly fishing community.

We were one of the first women’s fly fishing clubs in the country but not the first women to fly fish.

In old English books, there are pictures of women in long black dresses wearing a hat standing in the river holding a fly rod. There have been women fly fishers long before we came along.

In 1486 Dame Juliana Berners published, The Treatyse of Fysshynge with an Angle in England. She was a prioress of the nunnery of Sopwell, a lady of a noble family and celebrated for her learning and accomplishment. That was years before Sir Isaac Walton.

During my early years of fly fishing, it was puzzling to me that not more women were into that sport. Back then, when a woman wanted to get what she needed for fishing, sometimes she could get her husband or boyfriend to give her waders, a vest, a rod and flies he no longer wanted. When she went into a fly shop to procure gear, she often was ignored by the salesmen who always took care of their male clients first. A woman often stood unseen. Then when she finally tried on men’s small waders and small wading shoes, she looked uncomfortable, and I must say not very attractive. There were no female sizes… you remember that, don’t you?

In 1996, 18 years ago, I had a vision of more and more women could and would get involved into fly fishing, perhaps even on a worldwide scope. So, with the backing of the GWWF, I formulated a Festival in San Francisco by inviting all the best known fly fishing women in all parts of the industry, including former First Lady, Rosalynn Carter, Joan Wulff, many of our well known writers, artists, instructors, lodge owners. Three hundred invitations were sent out, and close to 300 came, many hosted by members of the GWWF. It was a magic encounter of women from all walks of life, age, talents and the connection was incredibly powerful.

Fanny and Joan

Joan Wulff said: “I have waited all my life for this to happen!”

It was a most memorable encounter of women fly fishing who became inspired to start new women clubs, getting involved in CFR and other fly fishing activities such as Rendezvous.

In addition a combination of things happened. Catch and release became more accepted and the sport seemed less bloody. Women, perhaps somewhat empowered by the feminist movement, took up new sports like fly fishing, hunting, surfing, even boxing. They felt that macho sports were no longer exclusively for men.

About 30 years ago, the ratio of women attending fly fishing schools used to be about 1 woman to 10 men. About 20 years ago, it changed to 5 or 6 women to 10 men. Progress was being made.

Suddenly fly shops couldn’t do enough for their female clientele. They even hired saleswomen. The industry took the hint and appropriate female clothing appeared. Even rods were made “for women”. We had arrived and we loved it!

When IWFF was launched, there was (to the best of my knowledge) very few other fly fishing clubs in the country. There are now over 50 clubs all over the USA and new ones cropping up all the time. There are also many more clubs in the rest of the world, at least 10 in the UK, several in Scandinavia, and Japan, just to name a few of the countries.

When I first went to fish in Argentina in 1971, I encountered only one other woman fly-fisher. She was eager for female company on the river. There are now many women on rivers and lakes, female guides, instructors and even a women’s fly fishing club starting in Buenos Aires.

IWFF has had over the years over 300 members from the USA and abroad.

Who are the women who fly fish? All ages, from 8 to 80 and over and still going strong, all careers from the housewife whose husband does not care to fish, to the executive in high-powered jobs, to cosmetic company models, to Oprah, to Mrs Rosalynn Carter, wife of former President of the USA, Jimmy Carter – all walks of life, from struggling young women to those that are rich and famous.

They represent everything that men are: competitive, casual, relaxed, eager to learn every aspect of the sport, interested only in outings and catching fish. Some are eager to travel to exotic places and explore. Others prefer staying fairly close to home.

For many women, catching fish is almost secondary to being somewhere beautiful, casting the best we can, watching rising fish and occasionally having a fish strike our fly. In Alaska for instance, catching lots of fish, sharing the rivers with the bears, picking blueberries in the fields, smelling wild strawberries in the spring, watching the moose, the little red foxes on the shore and feeling the tired salmon by our legs, that’s what a fly fishing experience is for me.

Fishing with and for women is more than just catching fish: It is a lifestyle.

There are also well-known female fly fishing guides, instructors, lodge owners, shop owners, women who write wonderful fly fishing books and women employed in designing and creating for some of the major manufacturers, such as Simms, Winston Rod Co, Patagonia and others.

Annette McLean of Winston Rod is the only female rod designer in the country designing rods for a major manufacturer.

As the women fly fishing movement has become so strong and involved, we now focus on the new generation of fly fishers. The youth are our future. Everyone recognizes that now. Every organization has some program directed to kids. Fly fishing camps have become very popular. Adults who teach kids to fly fish are getting a lot of satisfaction and in the process learn more about the sport. When teaching kids it is important to keep the sessions short, simple, fun and exciting.

It has been 18 wonderful years: very active in the sport of fly fishing, with women who have had the impetus to get into a primarily men’s sport, being recognized and accepted by the fly fishing community and industry. IWFF members have found lifetime friends to share what has become our passion.

by Sylvie Malo-Clark

Chasing the sea trout and Atlantic salmon is a six month affair on the Miramichi river. However some would say it is a twelve month ordeal as preparation is as important as the act of fishing itself. It is no doubt a way of life! Many of the traditions stay the same year after year. The day before the opening which is on April 15th, anglers  double-check their gear, take their aluminium “Jon boats” up and down the river many times to make sure the motors and boats are working properly. The Miramichi comes back to life!

For us, my husband and myself, we open the camp two weeks before the big day. We clean it top to bottom, take the canoe out which was stored inside, pull out the rocking chair and willow chairs back on the veranda ready for river watch. The first day can’t arrive soon enough! Last year, huge ice chunks draped our side of the river on our bank making it almost impossible to cast a line. I prayed for the unlikely event which was an overnight thaw thinking why now!

Morning couldn’t come quick enough. I woke up to the sound of the Jon boats making their way up river in hopes of landing the first kelt (also called black salmon as they get dark having spent the winter in the river instead of going back to sea). No luck! My side of the river was still jammed with ice chunks.

At the crack of dawn, I was the witness to seeing many anglers on the other side of the river wading and catching salmon. Well I may add I was using binoculars to give me a clear view . By ten o’clock I had enough watching anglers hooking up. I decided to get ready to fish and made my way with great difficulty to shore and climbed the flattest ice chunk that I could find. Voila! Here I was fishing for kelt!  After several casts I realized that this was a very dangerous situation. I was very pleased that I had at least wetted a line on opening day.

Finally Mother Nature was on our side with heavy rainfalls which meant the icebergs probably were floating down river.  When returning to the camp a few days later I couldn’t get out the SUV fast enough  to see if our side of the Miramichi was fishable. I couldn’t get in the camp fast enough to change to my fishing outfit and get my fishing gear together and down to the shore I went fishing for the kelt. By noon I had landed three salmon until a thought came to me saying maybe I should take a break. I still had three weeks of this mighty fishing!

Soon after the kelt has returned to sea, the anglers await the sea trout run. They act pretty much like the Atlantic salmon coming up river near the end of May. An interesting fact I have noticed while fishing in United States is that the anglers measure their catch in inches while here most people translate their prize catch in pounds. You never know when the sea trout will appear in the river. You pretty much have to make your way to the river every day until one rises for your fly or depend on the “hear say’ of your fellow anglers. When they do, be prepared!

Armed with your trout fishing gear you make your way through the back woods where you will likely find the big ones in their wild habitat. I have to admit that my husband and I fish for them quite often. Some places where we go we have to reserve in advance and other places are deeper in the woods where we have a good two mile walk one way to get to the pristine pool. This is a fantastic way to get in shape and well worth the walk. I remember one time I made my way to this secret honey spot deep in the woods with my new Orvis Superfine Trout Bum fly rod. On the first cast I got a nice five pound sea trout. More of the same size followed. Was I ever in love with this rod! The sea trout stay in the river all summer. After spawning they return to tidal waters. They are more responsive to your fly in June but through the peak of the Atlantic salmon season your odds to get one are pretty good.
You may expect the main run of Atlantic salmon to be on the first week of July. Too bad they couldn’t  text the anglers and let them know when they are arriving. We can’t wait to treat our river guest nothing but the best on the Miramichi… new boxes of various flies, our fly lines are cleaned or replaced and await to be put to test. Some anglers go as far as taking casting lessons during the off season to enable them to reach the opposite bank. I like to set goals for myself and one of mine had been for a long time to master the double-haul. With Cathi Beck’s instruction and patience at the Pennsylvania festival I can now do the double-haul. My new goal … is to master Spey casting.

Fishing seasons are never the same. Weather conditions pretty much dictate the outcome. Last season the water level was fantastic with lots of rain which the salmon love. Last July my best salmon catch was in high water. The day that I caught my 22 pounder, my husband and I crossed the river very very carefully as the river was up to the bushes. I will remember the take of this large Atlantic salmon as long as I live. It was an electrifying moment!

The last stage of the season is Fall fishing. You will find an endless landscape of blazing Fall foliage along the river. It’s difficult to keep your eyes on the fly when surrounded by such beauty. When the end of the season draws near, anglers try to fit in as many hours of fishing as they can. You are always trying to catch just one more Atlantic salmon. So we fished until dark on October 15th. As we had caught our “just one more” the day before we were content in just being there and appreciating the last moment.

For generations the famous Miramichi has attracted anglers from around the world for its ability to produce the wild Atlantic salmon. You never know who you may meet. This past September I met a member of IWFF Mia Sheppard,  on the banks of one of my favourite salmon pools. Camaraderie was at its best and I should say it was my first time meeting a IWFF member on my own ground. To add to my excitement I found out that Mia currently holds the World Champion Women of Spey casting with a distance of 144 feet. Thanks Mia for the inspiration! I am very blessed to be so close where the Atlantic salmon and sea trout choose to return every year but most importantly to meet a lot of people on the river who share the same passion.. the love of fishing.

Our fishing gear has been put away and anxiously awaits the next opening . This is now the time to tie flies and to dream about the next season!!!

 

Rebecca Spey-1

The author’s first steelhead on a spey rod!

by Rebecca Blair

Once again Mia Sheppard used her spey casting skills to raise money for Casting for Recovery (CFR). On the weekend of April 12-13, 2014 Mia competed in the Jimmy Green International Spey-O-Rama (SOR) in San Francisco. It was a wonderful time with fantastic weather and a “reunion-like” atmosphere since many participants are from far away and only see each other annually. It’s always a fun event involving serious doses of both learning and camaraderie, and in typical San Francisco fashion, you never know what you’ll see. There were numerous displays of hand crafted spey rods and artful demonstrations of two handed casting. And among the spectators there were also men in kilts and young girls in waders gleefully carrying “Girl Power” signs. In the casting arena, it was particularly impressive to see records being broken—Travis Johnson made a record 198 ft. cast during the qualifying events and won the men’s event the next day.

For the fourth year, Mia who won the 2013 women’s division, linked the competition with raising money for CFR. Her CFR Pledge drive effort allowed donors to pledge a flat amount or a dollar amount per foot based on Mia’s longest cast in the competition. This year Mia sweetened the pot and suggested that donors guess her longest cast with the winner receiving a free guided trip on the Sandy River with her company, Little Creek Outfitters. Gary Anderson of Anderson Custom Rods provided further incentive by donating a beautiful 4 piece, 12’6” Explorer rod which all donors had the potential of winning.

Teresa LeBlanc and Rebecca Blair from NCAL CFR were on hand to support Mia and collect donations. Long time Golden West Women Fly Fishers member and past women’s winner, Donna O’Sullivan was also there and continues to motivate women in competition casting with her enthusiasm and participation. Event participants were generous, with even Mia’s competitors contributing. Whitney Gould won the women’s competition with Mia following closely behind.

Mia ended up with the longest women’s cast of 142 ft. With pledges of up to $2.00 per foot, Mia was able to help raise more than $2,000 for CFR. Per Mia’s wishes, the money will be equally divided between Northern CA CFR and her home state CFR of Northern Oregon.

CFR is a national non-profit support and educational program for women of all ages and in all stages of breast cancer. It’ provides retreats at no cost to participants which allow women whose lives have been profoundly affected by breast cancer to gather in a beautiful, natural setting and learn to fly fish. See   http://castingforrecovery.org/ for more information.

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