Life in the Time of COVID:

Or My Wife’s Adventures in Fly Fishing

Mark the date on your calendar: Saturday August 8, 2020. The day this new post-COVID world finally got to my wife.

Sitting at my vise, after a morning in the office, I casually mentioned plans to take a short wade fishing trip the following morning and asked if she’d like to join. Having asked this question many times over the past five years, I had assumed her response before asking.

While she loves the outdoors, mid-summer is far from the ideal time for a nature hike in South Louisiana. With temperatures reaching the mid-90s well before noon and humidity constantly teetering just shy of 100%, a day on the water in July or August can be more a test of one’s will than the serene, almost meditative, retreat a morning on a small stream is meant to be.

But…to my surprise, she replied in the affirmative, and I was reminded once again why I should never assume.

For all of her love of nature, my wife has never been an angler. In fact, her first and only experience had come four years earlier on our first visit to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Still completing her clinical year of vet school, our week-long escape to the mountains that May had been her first chance to breathe since the year began.

Though we had concentrated our efforts this first visit on seeing some of the better known sites the park has to offer, I had packed a rod, and, unsurprisingly, found my way into the Smoky Mountain Angler one afternoon in Gatlinburg.

Still a week before memorial day, the shop was largely empty and I found myself chatting with the staff as I salivated over a selection of rods well beyond my budget. Adept at their craft, or perhaps eager to hone their skills before the tourist season began in full, the staff deftly transitioned our conversation on fly selection to the fact they had single half day opening remaining with their guide service the following morning.

Having already had our fill of waterfalls and mountain vistas, we decided a morning on the stream might be a nice change of pace. And before I knew it, we were putting down a deposit and getting sized for waders and boots to expedite our start the following morning.

Both armed with dry-dropper rigged euronymph rods, our guide lead us to a stretch of the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River well within the boundaries of the park.

As I rock scrambled and attempted 30-50′ casts among the low branches, much to the guide’s dismay, my wife diligently took instruction and learned to work each pool from top to bottom.

Though strikes proved hard to come by, and hook sets even rarer, the backdrop of the park more than made up for it.

No question why they call them the Smokys.

And before the day was through, she even landed her first fish. A small, wild rainbow.

Hard work paying off.

While it was a day we both remember fondly, it didn’t seem to ignite that spark in her and the prospect of fishing together had rarely come up in conversation since.

Now, however, four years later, and in our fifth month of this post-COVID life, my wife was proving once again that I will never be capable of reading her mind.

With a new plan now in motion, I rigged my 4 wt Orvis Clearwater and began tying a new lot of the “Half-drowned” Hopper pattern that had done so well for me on local streams earlier in the spring. It would be a morning of instruction more than angling, but, with any luck, a few fish would still be in the cards.

Rising a little later than I would on a normal fishing day, we found ourselves on the water shortly after eight, and, after a brief casting lesson, began our upstream trek.

With temperatures already approaching 90 F, time would be limited, and I wanted to reach quality water with time for her to enjoy it. With a mile or so to cover, we discussed stream “anatomy,” fish behavior and even the stream side hazards she would need to be aware. The latter proved particularly instructive as on more than one occasion I was able to provide real world examples, be it finding myself knee deep in quicksand after an errant step or startling a young cottonmouth as I cleared a path through the freshly downed tree obstructing our path.

Finally reaching fishable water, I handed her the rod and took a step back.

And to my surprise, she was off and running. It took her a few moments to get her casting rhythm down…

…but after that she didn’t miss a beat.

My job quickly became that of a guide, and I spent the next 45 minutes simply instructing her on where to direct her casts. As long as it was within 30′ feet, she did the rest.

And best of all…the fish complied.

Within minutes she had landed a number of green sunfish, striped shiners and even a few small spotted bass.

In all, she spent perhaps an hour fishing that morning before bowing out and handing me the rod. In that time, she mastered not only the basics of casting a fly rod, but landed more than half dozen fish with little help.

More importantly, she enjoyed every minute of it, and, as we began the drive home, inquired where we were going next Sunday.

Four weeks later, we’ve been back on the water only once care of work and some tropical weather, but the excitement still remains. She’s now felt the rush a large fish exploding on her fly (even if it did not come to net) and even has her own rod (a teal wrapped TFO Pro II from Mike at Coastal Creek Outfitters).

With a return to Great Smoky Mountains NP a mere five days away, there will likely be more of this story to tell in the not too distant future…

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2 thoughts on “Life in the Time of COVID:

  1. Nice. I wish my wife fly fished. She used to enjoy fishing when our children were young and I had a bay boat. I’m impressed with the tight loops in your wife’s casting.

    1. I’ve been quite surprised with how quickly her casting has progressed. It has improved even more since she began using her Pro II. She seems to prefer the action to the Orvis Clearwater she was originally practicing with. Thanks again for reading and commenting.

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