My Unexpected Journey into Fly Fishing

Written by on July 7, 2014 in At the Homestead - 1 Comment

There are people who stumble through life, lucking into one thing or another, and then there are those who seem to be intentional with every aspect of what they do. I would love to tell you that I have been intentional in my pursuits but, in all actuality, I spent a great deal of my life not knowing exactly what I wanted to do. Add many years of spiritual immaturity to the mix, not knowing to ask God to reveal His plans to me, and I ended up with more than a few fruitless searches. So for the vast majority of my youth I pursued life as most adolescents do, based on what I happened to be good at. For the most part I pursued music but solely on the basis of my being capable. I was told from an early age that I was not good at math, and therefore should not seriously consider my true passion, biological sciences, as I would surely end up in a van down by the river.

Ironically, that may have been exactly the place I wanted to end up all along. After five years of marriage, Rob and I relocated to tidewater Virginia where I started to listen to God’s promptings and was lead to a series of jobs located at the mouth of the York River, where the waters emptied into the Chesapeake Bay. I cannot tell you how many times I heard the statement, ‘I want your job,’ and nothing I could say would be romanticising it in the least. These jobs were dream jobs by most peoples’ standards, and I was blessed to have not only one, but three of them back to back. It was here that my love of waters really flourished, although I didn’t realize it at the time.

When Rob and I started having children, we felt the call to move back to the mountains. I knew in my heart it was where I was meant to be and it was absolutely wonderful to move back. Although I missed the seemingly endless opportunities to explore waterways in Virginia, I didn’t fully realize it until I started thinking about how I would pursue the rivers and streams in my home state of West Virginia. They say God speaks to us in weird ways, and I never would have guessed that He would ask me to pursue a hobby, but I believe that is exactly what happened. One day, out of the blue, I asked a friend if he could show me how to flyfish, and ever since then I have pursued it more intentially than I have almost anything else in my life.

After months of reading, a ton of emails filled with questions sent, hours of practice in my yard, and the loaned equipment from my aforementioned (and very patient) friend, I finally began fly fishing in the small pond on our family’s property. At best, my casting is sloppy, but the sunfish and bass in that little pond built my confidence enough to branch out. Before too long, fishing was all I could think about, and I was ready to schedule a trip, which brings me to this past weekend.

For the most part, the heat of July is not the best time to fish. And for the most part, Gatlinburg, Tennessee on Independence Day weekend would make most anglers run in the opposite direction. But seeing as how we have three little girls, limited funding, and parents who invite us on vacation, you can bet that I will find a place to cast a few flies in the Smokies. Most people would route their way to their cabin, but I mapped us straight from Charleston, West Virginia to the Orvis store in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

As I approached my Mecca, It appeared as though I had entered some sort of shopping bizarro-world. The cars in the parking lot were running, and the inhabitants appeared to be cross-armed women waiting very impatiently as the drivers of their vehicles had strangely gone missing. Those females who had been adventurous enough to wonder away from their cars were obviously met by a kind of invisible force field that prohibited them from entering the store. They parked themselves in the chairs outside of the building…again…waiting very impatiently.

Apparently the force field either momentarily collapsed or I was immune to it, and was able to enter. After months of pouring over catalogs and browsing the website, I really can’t tell you how excited I was to be in that store. I’m pretty sure I heard angelic music. I knew my time was limited so I immediately whipped out my extensive shopping list and went to work.

I can attest to the fact that at some point in life, every woman will be a part of a stereotypical politically incorrect scenerio. I can also tell you that it never bothered me in the least. I do not get offended when a man calls me sweetie, asks me to fix him something to eat, or suggests that a woman’s place is in the home. I feel that our society has greatly emasculated men and that it is a greater struggle for them to reconnect with their manliness then it is for us women to find our equality. Because of this, we are left with a frustrated majority, and another gender bursting at the seems with inappropriate pride. But that is another soapbox for another day. So when I asked the Orvis respresentative for grizzly hackle and he said, “Exactly what size did your husband say he needed?” I just smiled and said, “Oh no, this is for me…but yes I could use a little help because I’m just getting started, really.”

Maybe it was the embarrassment of the misspoken words, or maybe it was just that he saw a mom of three who very much wanted to spend some time alone on the water. Whichever it was, he drew me a map of a place I had never been, assured me that I would not see a soul, and for the next two days I had the time of my life crawling over rocks and catching native brook trout on a fairly remote mountain stream in the Great Smokies.

The moral of this story is that God introduces things to our lives when we least expect it. In order to not miss a blessing, we must be attentive to, and focused on, Him above all else. This fly fishing journey began at a time when I desperately needed something to make me feel valued and capable. I felt a call to His Creation but had no idea what to do about it. I sought my identity through Christ, and He rewarded me with the idea to simply ask about a hobby that I have become very passionate about. This passion has been a true God-send for me. Now, I just have to figure out how to bless others with it.

About the Author

Jes Russo is a stay-at-home mother, educator, homesteader and an avid outdoorswoman. Her love for her family, the land and all of God’s Creation suits her well and she is happy raising chickens, knitting and sipping a fresh cup of coffee.

One Comment on "My Unexpected Journey into Fly Fishing"

  1. Greg July 9, 2014 at 9:15 am · Reply

    So many life lessons in fly tying. Start with a good foundation, add layers as necessary, there is joy in the journey, the flashiest things aren’t always best, persistence pays off, always include friends, ask for help when you need it…your enthusiasm has re-kindled my interest in fly tying.

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