Several months ago, I noticed a thread on the TU online community that centered around “daughters,” and it really moved me. It moved me, so much, in fact, to think, “Jeez, so, so much of the trout fishing literary tradition is about fathers and sons… grandfathers and sons… we should turn that on its ear.” While I do not have a daughter myself (I have three awesome nieces who are like daughters to me), my whole trout fishing and conservation experience is really rooted in a story about daughters. I married the youngest of three daughters, but only after I passed her father’s “does he fish?” test. During my years of guiding, I could not count the number of times when little sister out-fished her big brothers—that was the norm, not the exception. That’s because women are instinctively better anglers than men. Within this community, we talk about getting more women involved with fly fishing all the time. But the truth is that women have been the backbone of fly fishing all along, whether the establishment has been willing to write about that or not. And it’s the daughters of fly fishing who will ultimately shape the future of our sport, by way of family, conservation, community and otherwise. I could not be more hopeful, nor grateful, in that regard. So, I hope you enjoy this small collection of stories by daughters, about daughters and inspired by daughters. I hope you go make more stories like them. Ultimately, I hope we all can broaden this written and visual tradition to make it more inclusive and more reflective of the true soul of fishing and conservation.
I tell our girls about their Grandma Sue who in the ’70s, as a 10-year-old, practiced with her uncle’s baseball team wearing a hat, her bowl cut tucked inside and going by the name, Sam. Players’ parents would ask why Sam never got to play in games and her uncle would say, “because it is my niece, Susie, and she isn’t allowed to.” I am Samantha because my mom was Sam, and I am proud that Sam is a part of me. My daughter is Penelope Sue because there is no greater lineage to carry on.
If you had told me I would have been included in a TROUT magazine feature with my daughter, as a TU employee, a year ago, I would have laughed. Seven years into marriage, I had (almost) resigned myself to not having kids, which was okay with me. Then, I got pregnant last summer (2021), followed by the opportunity of a lifetime to go work for TU. Suddenly, it wasn’t just about any selfish wants for experiences for myself, it’s about making sure my daughter has the exact same opportunities that I’ve had in the outdoors, but better.
I have two children, both girls (five and 10 years old) and have never thought once about raising them differently at least in a recreational setting then I would have if they were boys. Kids are kids… Cold clean water is incredibly important to both myself and our family. It’s how we enjoy our time off. Fishing, boating, camping and swimming—as well as how I earn a living.
I was fortunate enough to have been raised by amazing parents that immersed my childhood in the outdoors, so it has always been a must when raising our girls. Nick and I are very intentional with including our children in our outdoor activities. As long as it is safe, they go with us. We often have to adjust our expectations, pack way more food than you would think possible and plan a little ahead of time. But it is always worth it to have them with us. We want to raise them with confidence and respect for these wild places.
My mother greatly influenced my love of the outdoors, my parenting and my support of conservation. While in graduate school, I studied the science of being in nature. As a public health educator, I believe time in the woods is great preventative medicine. As a mom, it was important for me to raise my own daughter to love the outdoors and believe in protecting it. Outdoor adventures were a common theme for her and her brothers. They travelled through adolescence on foot, bike or skis covered in a mix of dirt and bug bites. At some point, she became interested in fly fishing. This hobby has enabled her to fish in big rivers and small streams throughout the U.S. and beyond. I have watched her be in awe of beautiful places and the fish they hold.
It’s the sleepless newborn nights, looking out the window wondering what it will be like when you can take her.
It’s putting her in a chest pack at 11-days-old and cautiously stepping into the stream to catch the fish that shares her name.
It’s accidentally dipping her one-year-old toe into cold fall morning waters while landing a 13-inch brook trout while she’s in a chest pack.
It’s watching her wide-eyed reaction to the cold toe and the touch of a fish for the first time.
I get asked a lot, “What’s your trick? Why do your girls still like to fish?” It’s often small talk so my answer ranges between quips like, “It’s all they know, so they just don’t know to protest.” Or, “Snacks, lots and lots of snacks.” Both are entirely true, but I’m also starting to see there’s more there too.
Like our girls, I’ve been fishing since I was little myself. I suppose it was all I knew.
Ode to a fish loving father
It started perched on your hip.
Watching as the fish would rise and dip.
You’d point them out
And then you’d say
We’ll fish together, we will, someday.
This series of stories about daughters originally appeared in TROUT Magazine.