We are thrilled to have a little one on the way and we can’t wait to buy some of those tiny Simms kid waders for our little girl!
I had the pleasure of fishing in my first ever Tarpon Tournament this past June. In fact, it’s one of Islamorada’s first classic tournaments designed for women, by women. The Ladies Tarpon Tournament has a rich history in the beginnings of women creeping into a male-dominated sport. The tournament began in 1977 with a group of women in the Florida Keys wanting their own version of the Gold Cup and Hawley. Charter members wanted the tournament to be prestigious and fun.
After a couple of years in the early 2000’s of less than impressive turn-outs that eventually lead to the tournament taking a hiatus; fishing legend Heidi Nute (above) took matters into her own hands and brought this tournament back to life. We all want to be a little more like Heidi. If you want to know why look at her score sheet, talk to her, or watch her master all things fly fishing on season 2 of Silver Kings.
This is the first fishing tournament I have ever entered and for a girl from Colorado, the competition was real. There is something so cool happening on this little island of Islamorada. Women are fishing; women are fishing a lot. They are making it a large part of their lives. They are good too. It’s so cool to see. I mean check out this group of ladies; all geared up, ready to fish, and ready to talk about fishing. This was one of the most fun experiences I have ever had!
The first day of the 3 day tournament was super exciting. Up before the sun, at the world famous Loreli dock, we waited for our heat to hear the blow horn. Jeremy Fisher was my guide and his brand new boat tore out of the bay like a bat out of hell. My favorite part was listening to Stick Figure jam on the sound system as the sun came up. It was a moment that is hard to describe.
Eventually, I had to put a rod in hand and get to work. Jeremy suggested that I use his rod because he was worried about the 3 piece coming apart if we were to fight a big tarpon. It was an element I never considered, but, “When in Rome”! The picture Below is one of the only ones I took of Jeremy, because, you know, fishing. He has laser-eyes. It’s downright impressive how he can tune into “funny water” and know exactly whether or not it’s a shark or silver king almost immediately. I recommend Jeremy to anyone who wants to be put onto fish. He was the most professional and successful guide I have ever fished with. It’s cool to be around that caliber of a guide, and it definitely leads to a fun-ass time on the water.
I kept telling myself not to have expectations and to relax when the fish appear. I also kept running through clock positions in my mind, because it’s just not the way I see things when I guide back home in Colorado. 2 o’clock to your right, 5 o’clock turn, don’t cast at 12 o’clock, 9 o’clock left. I don’t know what other anglers have running through their mind. I waould tell myself to be like Heidi. I would imagine leading the fish, not stepping on the line, and strip-setting.Ugh! Strip-setting is my BIGGEST weakness. There was a point where I considered swimming home after losing 4-5 fish to PAINFUL trout setting techniques. Strip set= keep your rod tip down. Trout set= lift your rod tip up.
One thing you can not control is the weather, and we were downright blessed with amazing conditions. Day one I released 2 fish (see the scoreboard below). Released fish means that you get the leader through the first guide on the rod. Then you attempt to back out and fight the fish for a catch. It feels incredible to get a release then follow that with a crushing blow when you lose the fish. It’s such a weird game we play, hook a fish, reel it in, touch it, let it go. Cuss a lot (sorry Grammie). Laugh a lot. I love every second of it.
A release is worth 100 and a catch is worth 300. There is a minimum size limit to prevent fishing for baby tarpon. Note Heidi crushing competition right out of the gate. #belikeheidi
Day 3 was my best and worst day.Early in the morning, I ended up sticking one for my one and only catch. I did a blind-ish cast which is probably why I wasn’t able to trout set the tarpon. Every muscle was shaking as I talked to the tarpon and tried to wear it out. Jeremy’s favorite word is either reel or bow, “REEL REEL REEL REEL! BOW! REEL REEL!” We were in a groove seeing fish, hooking fish, and losing fish. I mean, seriously, this was so fun and wildly disappointing all at once. I felt CRAZY! I was thrilled, happy, and super pissed every time I got a bite; which happened more than a few times that day.
Heidi Nute and Craig Brewer took an easy first place ( and she caught a permit.. no big deal #belikeheidi). Randee Ward and Jarod Raskob took second after a solid day 3. And Pia with guide Larry came into third. I lost the tie-breaker for third place because of the rule “last fish caught first rule”. It was a 30 min difference. I guess I have to go back next year now!
We ended up getting a prize for the high score on the third day. (below) I am proud of myself for being competitive and getting on the board. I am so proud of all the ladies that were involved too. There was some serious damage done out there! 34 silver kings in 3 days.
We spent a few great days out on the Green River in Utah with fellow pro-staffers from Scientific Anglers and Winston rod company. It was so refreshing to be around so many like-minded individuals. It took about 5 hours of driving to get to Dutch John from Vail.
We arrived at the fly shop in Dutch John which is attached to a gas station/restaurant. The only one for miles. After checking into our brand new cabin (you can rent through Trout Creek Flies),
we headed to “Little Hole” which was a take-out for section A. It was maybe a 5min drive. Not long at all. We wade-fished there and started to sink into the beauty that is the Green River. The color of this river matches its name, but photos don’t quite do it justice. Every inch of this river is crystal clear with deep pools of emerald green contrasted with the huge red rock cliffs on either side. Fish were keying into small black juju baetis flies.
Night one. Cooper tried to die at dinner. *WARNING GRAPHIC* He coughed a few times and as I am asking if he is ok I just saw him paralyzed in a frozen state with drool pouring out of his mouth and tears streaming from his eyes. I started wailing on his back…nothing. I got up and got behind him to get the Heimlich maneuver going. I heard about 20 chairs slide out and all guides were ready to report to duty. It’s funny what details your remember when shit goes down. The sound of those chairs makes me laugh to myself every time I think about it. I don’t remember much else really. I know I pumped on him once and then I heard someone say “he’s coughing,” so I stopped destroying him and proceeded to watch him hack and puke all over the table. I noticed Coop’s face drained of all color and I was still not sure what the heck just happened. It was a hot mess. THAT is what I call a first impression. 🙂 We went outside and walked around for a bit. I was there just as support in case he tried to die again. He finally puked in the parking lot and immediately after said,” That was it.” I’m sharing this story because it makes me laugh. Literally, “that was it” and we are on our way to the Wing Ding Olympics.
Cooper had “medical deferment” from participating and yet he still decided to participate in the whole deal; a shot of Yukon and all. #lifechoices #movingon That’s my husband. Love him.
About the Wing Ding Olympics. This was a brain child of a genius.
Station 1- Accuracy casting with a Winston into some hula hoops on the ground
Station 2- Sprint to the cooler across the parking lot and blow the duck call. “blow the fat side”
Station 3- Sprint to a setup and take a shot of Yukon and make a spark with the fire starting kit. Bonus points for starting a fire. (no one got bonus points)
Station 4- Try not to let the Yukon affect you as you sprint over to the blow-dart gun and blow up a balloon, tie the balloon to a leader, hang it on the barn, and pop it with the dart gun.
Station 5- Run over to the 2wt and you get three false casts to thread the line through the hanging target.
You didn’t have to win, you just didn’t want to be the loser. Or this….
As I come back to work and people say “oh you look cold” all I can think about is going again. Of course it was cold, and it was beautiful and it was awesome, and it was STILL one billion times better than working at my winter job or watching TV or doing chores or running a marathon. There was nowhere I would have rather been. Good company, fly fishing, manhattans for everyone. Thanks SA and Winston for an awesome few days. Until next time!
A quick little guide to catching a trout, explained in 3 minutes.
Cooper & I recently made the commitment to check a box on our bucket list and headed to Tulum, Mexico. I’ve never used my passport, and I was tired of reading all these blog posts about the incredible fishing all over the world. I was tired of seeing my Facebook explode with endless enthusiasm for wanderlust, and not really getting it. I figured Mexico would be an easy start. We booked our stay in Tulum. Tulum was an EASY 2-hour drive south of Cancun airport. I would describe Tulum as an up and coming yoga lovers destination. Think of vegan options, naked meditation on the beach, and massage with aromatherapy and ginger tea to boot. But let’s get back to fishing.
I’ll keep it real, it was raining 8 out of the 10 days we stayed in Mexico. (October is rainy season in the rainforest! Lesson learned).
It was a bit rough to say the least. I have never felt so gross. All of those authentic thatched roofs were straight leaky; so everywhere we went, the water followed. That has to count as some sort of mermaid spa treatment to be wet for 7 days in a row. My clothes smelled moldy and we ran out of dry towels in our hotel room. Anyways, the first day we tried to get out to fish, our guide Rhett, showed up in a downpour at 5 in the morning. He came into our musty hotel room and said, “there is no fucking way.” The surf was huge and not looking to settle anytime soon. He then told us a story of a Navy Seal he has taken out fishing in this kind of weather who, “loves this kind of shit.” I am tough, don’t get me wrong, but I am not even close to Navy Seal ready. Mission aborted. I love guides and their stories. *Book idea: Guide Stories from the U.S. and Beyond. Call a publisher!
We waited a couple days and in the meantime; we paddle boarded in private cenotes, swam in cenotes, learned about pesos, walked the beach for miles, saw sea turtles hatching on the beach ( Sea turtles hatch randomly throughout October), and stuffed our faces with more guacamole than what seemed humanly possible. Nonetheless, we were getting a little stir crazy. Both of us had researched the fishing reviews and were itching to get out there!
Cenotes are these incredible limestone sinkholes in the jungle. Many are filled with fresh water and some are filled with brackish water depending on their proximity to the ocean. Some are open air and some are caves. One of the cenotes we visited in an intermittent rainstorm, I saw a tarpon roll in. I asked Rhett about it, and he said with all the rain it wasn’t uncommon for ocean fish to find their way into the mangroves for some reprieve. Too bad “no fishing” signs hung all over the place. If they take the trouble to write it in English, I’ll abide. Plus, I don’t know enough Spanish to ask if I can peso my way in with a fly rod to do some catch and release. I think we paid 100 pesos to paddle this cenote, and the gentleman even carried my board to the water for me! Cooper had to carry his own. *life goal: learn more Spanish
Finally on day 8, the sun came out and Rhett was ready to take us fishing.YAAAAYYY!!! We went to the Sian Ka’an biosphere. We drove the infamous dirt road, and yes it was pretty rough. Although not quite as bad as imagined, I still wouldn’t want to take anything less than a truck or jeep over some of the bigger pot holes.
The surf was still a little testy, but wadeable. It kind of reminded me of high school when I would intentionally jump in moshpits just because I was in the mood to YOLO and see what would happen. You get pushed around, but it’s really not as aggressive as it looks from the outside.
Rhett talked about the resident crocodile that lived in the area right before he has us wade through the jungle and into the ocean. I caught a glimpse of what it might be like to be a client of mine coming to Colorado for the first time. I talk about bears freely and then immediately proceed to walk through thick service berry filled brush ( aka: bear food) on the way down to the flowing river and say “let’s get in!” The unknown keeps it exciting to say the least!
We fished a righteous spot where the cenote water flushes out of the jungle just like a mouth of a river meeting the ocean.
We walked on this untouched beach for hours.We followed the edge of the murky water and looked for tarpon and snook paying attention to the bait fish that we would see jumping and scattering. We fished an 8wt & 9wt rod. Our leaders were shorter per Rhett’s suggestion; we hand tied the leaders with about 4 ft. of 30lb to a 2ft section of 40lb bite tippet. ( Thanks Nate Dogg for letting us borrow your rod!)Then we waded into the mouth of the cenote flush and blind casted in the murky water.
Every once in awhile I would hear Rhett get super excited about something that I didn’t even come close to seeing. A permit, a jack, a big flash. I believed him every time, again, it’s really the same way in Colorado. I spot fish all the time that my clients don’t see. This is his spot. I loved fishing with someone who LIVES his passion guiding out on the water. Maybe half way into the trip, Cooper hooked up with a snook! AWESOME!Not 5 minues after he released his fish, I hooked into mine. Really, this was ALL we came for! And it finally happened. It was a happy moment to say the least. We both caught some decent fish, and the trip was not for nothing. I think I will remember this snook forever, because I had to work so hard for it. I had to battle the rain, Montezuma’s revenge, a dirty hotel room, and my sanity while waiting to get a rod in my had, and FINALLY I caught a break. Cooper hooked up a couple more times before we called it a day.
If you find yourself in Tulum, Playa del Carmen, or Cancun, look up Akumal Fly Fishing. Rhett is exactly the kind of guide I would recommend to anyone. He is passionate, honest, friendly, animated, and prepared. Did you know you can buy bags of half-popped popcorn?!? Rhett has the hook-up on fishing and half popped-popcorn. But sorry ladies, he has a girlfriend too.
We wore wading socks and Keens. This was Cooper’s brilliant idea, and I am happy to say it worked well! It felt nice to take them off too.
Cooper & Rhett at the lunch spot on the beach.
I am SUPER excited to have some of my photography in this years Umpqua catalog!!
I realize most people won’t know how exciting this is unless you are into fly fishing; but anytime you can combine passions it is something to be excited about! This is something that I always wished for and it’s a cool feeling to achieve even the smallest goals that I have held in the back of my mind for so long. Thanks Umpqua!