There’s an infamous story from my youth. I don’t remember the finer points of the event, or any of the details really, just the “do you remember that one time” stories that my dad likes to throw in my face when the Booton family is together on the river.
On a family vacation to Avalanche Ranch in Marble, Colo., during the summer of 1995 my twin sister, Shauna, caught a bigger rainbow trout than me. It ruined my day, tears were involved, and fuel was added to the sibling rivalry fire.
It turns out shared birthdays and toys aren’t enough for the Booton twins. What started as routine family camping trips to Wellington Reservoir featuring two Zepco bait casters, bobbers, a pack of Eagle Claw bait hooks, some jars of Powerbait, salmon eggs and even those weird trout marshmallows, has now fully evolved. Twenty-five years later our shared passion for chasing fishing has migrated 3,500 miles northwest to the Last Frontier and manifested itself into an entirely different beast, complete with drift boats, homemade camper vans and a combined fleet of fly rods.
Having previously only caught fish on a spin rod, when I made the move to Alaska, one of my first priorities was to get a fly rod into Shauna’s hand. Frustrations were had, I fumbled my way through instructing, bird’s nests were created, flies were snagged in trees, and so forth. But as a teacher by profession and an eager learner, she took to fly fishing quickly and landed her first trout on a mosquito pattern during one of our inaugural Alaska camping trips.
Shauna is quick to remind me that though we are twins, she’s the oldest (by 22 minutes) and, though I am the defacto instructor, I still routinely learn valuable lessons from her just like when we were youngsters. I’ll also admit, all those braids, crazy friendship bracelets, and crafts she shared with me during daycare have gone a long way in improving my fly tying and knot tying proficiency.
Nearly five years later, I am pleased to watch my twin sister tackle the river, reading the water with confidence and planning her own fishing adventures. I still help with fly selection and offer tips here and there. But the way I see it, she’s on her own, and I’m just the boat captain and fly shop.
Though it should be known that my twin sister has a knack for finding the biggest Dolly Varden of the day, and yes, I still get jealous.
Eric Booton is the sportsmen’s outreach coordinator for Trout Unlimited. He lives and works in Anchorage.