Getting The Wife On The Water

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By Rob Parkins

I have not been able to teach either of my wives to fish.

No, not two wives at the same time–that is illegal. I mean my former and current wives. Even though I am a guide, they just won’t listen to me. Obviously, neither do I or I would be explaining the whole wife situation. I believe that it is very difficult for a man to teach his better half how to fish.

That being said, here are a few things that I have learned after many years in the boat with couples.

1. Get her a casting lesson. You can’t teach her, at least without an argument. Stu Apte is the only guy I know who taught his wife to cast, and Lefty said he did it wrong. Sign her up for an Orvis 101 course or go to your local shop, they should be a great resource and have basic fly fishing classes.

_DSF36202. Hire a guide. Then stay home. Here’s the deal, as a guide I have seen it a hundred times. Guy comes in and says, “I want you to focus on her today. I know what I’m doing and I just want to see her catch fish.” By lunch time you are pissed that the guide is tying on the right flies for her, putting the boat in position so she can have the best shot at the fish and she is catching all the fish. Then you start correcting everything the guide taught her. Guides both hate this and relish the fact that he can silently put you in your place for thinking you know it all.

3. Make sure she has the right equipment. Don’t use the fact that she is getting into fishing as an excuse to upgrade your gear while giving her your old stuff. As you know, the proper gear makes all the difference. Giving her your old glass rod with a 10-year old fly line is only going to make her work harder and not enjoy the sport. Also, if you take her to a shop to buy a rod, let her cast it and form her own opinion, not what you want, or feel is the correct choice. The weight, grip size or a number of other factors may be the reason for her decision. Hell, it just may be the color she likes.

4. If she needs waders, get her ones that fit. Same as you, the day will be miserable wearing waders that don’t fit right. Also, no neoprene or other non-breathable materials because they were on sale.

5. Don’t buy her a fishing outfit. Seriously, DO NOT do it. Men have a shitty fashion sense. You get her something and I swear she will end up looking like she was kidnapped by some Easter bunny cult. Pastels, sun gloves, sun sleeves, floppy brimmed hats, Buffs, the list goes on. A lot of women’s specific fishing clothing is hideous – too many pockets, ill fitting, uncomfortable and terrible colors. Here in Jackson, women are hiking in the morning, fishing in the afternoon then hitting happy hour right from the bar. Think they are getting changed 3 times throughout the day? No, they are wearing something sporty, comfortable and multi-purpose.

6. Think about how much she will enjoy the adventure before planning it. Check the weather before going out, no 20-mile floats in the cold and rain. Just because you want to hike to 3rd meadow in Slough Creek while it is super hot and the bugs are so bad that bug spray is more important than bear spray, it doesn’t mean she wants to. Start off with easy adventures, where she gets to enjoy herself, catch some fish and then go drink Gin & Tonics during happy hour.

7. Help her rig up, tie knots and select flies, unless she says no. Then let her do it and smile knowing that she is enjoying herself and wants to be self-reliant.

DSC_78838. Take the time show her why you fish: being out in nature, away from people (unless you are on the South Fork during salmonflies), the sights, the sounds, the wildlife and how beautiful the fish are. Explain the insect cycles and why you are fishing a certain fly. In the classes where we had an entomologist, that was the favorite part of the class.

9. Finally, just because your lady is now an “angler”, don’t start booking bucket list fishing trips all over the globe. Just because you want to catch a species that is equated to bigfoot – seen but never caught – don’t think she will be into it. While going to the Olympic Peninsula during Spring monsoons for Steelhead or a remote mothership trip to the island that “Lost” was filmed on to catch a Permit may sound like fun to you, chances are she does not want to spend a week of vacation just fishing in miserable conditions. Find a place where fishing and other activities are available. Go fish in the morning, and then, if she wants, have the guide drop her back off at the lodge, where she can go do other activities like snorkeling, hiking or some alone time. I know someone who has four kids and all of them came exactly 9 months after a fishing/relaxing vacation, where his wife got to do anything she wanted while he was out fishing. Coincidence?

As I said, these are just observations from my relationships and seeing other couples interact while out in my boat. There is no one size fits all scenario. Who knows, you may have a fishing addict on your hands and she forces you to do things mentioned above.

I do know that I have finally figured out what works in my relationship and it creates a much better day on the water for the both of us. Just this weekend, Pam and I went out to the South Fork and she almost listened, ended up landing a big Cutthroat on a dry, then sat down next to the dogs and read her book while drinking some wine. Ended up being the perfect day – and night too.

Editor’s Note: A grate many of our readers are are women who are very accomplished anglers. We mean no disrespect. In fact, we’d love to hear your war stories about trying to teach your husbands to fish! I can only imagine.


Rob Parkins
Gink & Gasoline
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16 thoughts on “Getting The Wife On The Water

  1. Number 3, 7 and 8 imho are the most important.

    I have a pile of good rods, so she gets my Helios 5 wt (my favorite casting rod) when we go out. I asked her if she was interested in learning to rig yet, she said no. I get to practice knots and fly selection, so it’s a win for me. I took her to my favorite smallie/carp river the first time and she said she lived here her whole life and had no idea a pretty River like that was here.

    I taught her to cast though. I think the easiest thing in doing that is to show her the basics then leave her alone. I do the same thing in the water. Show her good lies, retrieves, how to spot fish, then I leave her alone. She gets better faster when I’m not trying to tell her what I would do.

    I like having her on the water with me. Plus she is a great photographer and gets to do that while we are out too.

  2. i agree with it all! all my guided buddies passed on the skill needed to my wife to fish. All though it was odd sitting there with clients while you wife goes by hoked up! Also i will pass this on to all fathers of bad ass daughters! same goes but be ready to be out fished!

  3. I think these are all great tips if a man really wants his wife/girlfriend to learn how to fish. One of my favorites is tip #8. Even if she doesn’t end up liking it, she will better understand why you like it so much. And she’ll want to know that. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Louis, I have to agree with most of your points. I am one of those lucky men whose wife likes to fly fish. I couldn’t teach her to cast, but a well known professional lady did. They say that people who fish before they are 14, will be more likely to enjoy fishing at a higher age. I thank my deceased father-in-law every day for that. My wife loves to go on guided trips and to Andros. She loves nature and those trips occur in beautiful places. I have found that trout, particularly on my neck of the woods, can be discouraging for beginners. She didn’t have much luck at first. But when I took her pan fishing her confidence soared and she said,”I can do this.” She’s become my best fishing buddy!

  5. I must agree with most of the advice above. I think most important, the woman must have a desire and love of fishing. That was true for me when my husband encouraged me to take up fly fishing. I did get a lesson from a professional rather than from him which was good. Once I became proficient as a fly fisher, I never looked back. We have so much fun fishing together now. Married 27 years and fly fishing for the last 10 years, I have to say fly fishing is what bonds us!!

  6. I proposed to Connie on the water and jumped a big tarpon right after. I actually hid the ring in the fly box and asked her to find something good in the box. Her expression when she stumbled on it was priceless. We have fished GA, FL , MA, NC, Alaska, Wyoming, Colorado, Belize and many other places that are some of our greatest memories. This includes her catching native brook trout on dry flies, grayling on the fly and bonefish too! Now that we have kids she could care less about fishing. The memories are still priceless. For a girl that claims to not know much about fishing is been a blast fishing with her.

  7. Spot on! Partners should never teach one another. It always makes for a tension filled day. You should talk to some female guides, we have lots of stories about teaching men to cast… I love it when a client tells me he’s a saltwater fly anger and when we go brookie hunting he can’t cast across a 20ft creek with an elk hair caddis…

  8. Hmmm, I’d like to think if one cares enough to set their own fishing ambitions aside for a time, teaching a partner and watching them improve is the most rewarding experience in fly fishing. I have a hard time with people saying this is impossible.

  9. Be careful what you wish for. My wife got into it a few years ago (good guides doing solo full-days with her set the stage), and now is obsessive. Goes catty on Page 6 Chicks. Bought 4 4-weight rods on eBay before she found the one she likes, but is keeping the other three “because I might need them some day.” She’s so fishy guides at lodges and fly shops we frequent compete to get her in the boat. If she says, “can we drift past that spot again,?”, they bust ass rowiing her back up. I was once left on a gravel bar for two hours watching a guide help her work 100 yards of the Elk while she took hog after hog and I got zip. And then I’m supposed to dole out the tip. Now she’s leaving around brochures for Chilean luxury fishing yacht trips….

  10. Selection of right fishing tackle indeed sounds perfect beginning. Followed by appropriate fishing techniques, not-an-option but to learn to succeed. Professional training makes difference, mainly if pursued with consistency. It’s all about helping our wives, isn’t it a fun?

  11. My new girlfriend is not a fisher lady at all! I keep up the enthusiasm and passion for my obsession and she seems to be caving. slowly but surely. Our running joke now is her saying, “Hi (insert friends name), nice to met you. Oh and by the way, I don’t fish.” To which I reply “YET!”

  12. 53 years married (to the same woman). Tried to teach her flyfishing on our honeymoon. Mistake! Non-fatal, but mistake nonetheless.

    40 years later she was finally ready. Local club (Kelly Creek Flycasters, Lewiston, Idaho) has an annual Women’s Clinic. A good place to start.

    Downside? Very little. I catch fewer fish. Perhaps because I frequently relinquish first pass through prime water. Or perhaps she’s just a good fisherman.

    Lessons learned? Some things must not be rushed. Your “D” loop, your back cast, your wife.

  13. I started fly fishing with my now fiance after she asked to join a couple years ago. I basically guide her when we are out on the water. She learns slowly, but is becoming a good fly fisherwoman, as she can read water and is starting to learn how to identify what bugs to use when. I always try to point out something new every time we go out, so it sticks. When she catches fish, it is almost an extension of myself – at least that’s how I feel, because if she wasn’t there I probably would have caught it. I get excited just the same as if Im catching a trout.

    There are times where it takes an immense amount of patience. But being on the water with her and the dog, is about as close to paradise as I think Ill get.

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