Forward from the editor: Alaskans — you’re invited to learn more about Nelli and other inspiring female anglers by watching the film, “No Excuses,” in Anchorage on Feb. 12, or at the next Orvis 50/50 On the Water screening near you! Details here.

By Nelli Williams

Nine years ago, when I was quickly approaching motherhood and really had NO clue what we were about to embark on, one of the things I was most apprehensive about was the impact the pending kid would have on our outdoor pursuits.

Back then, a lot of our evenings were filled with after work fishing adventures, and on the weekends, you’d likely find us on the Kenai River or maybe bushwhacking with friends to a lesser known river. We had oodles of fun, and I was finally feeling confident enough in my fishing skills, thanks to my husband and many other patient teachers, that I was regularly catching fish. (Always a perk!)

I remember promising to myself on the Skilak boat launch, as I hiked my husband’s waders up over my ginormous 8-month pregnant belly that I wasn’t going to “let a kid get in the way of exploring the Alaska rivers we loved.” I vowed that I wouldn’t let myself become a mom that stayed home to tend the kids and do “boring stuff” while others went and did fun things. At the time it was unusual to see another woman on the river, let alone a family with kids…I didn’t want that to be us.

Fast forward to today, two kids later, and I laugh at my pre-kid self.

I didn’t have a clue how hard, yet wonderful, parenting would be. I didn’t know then, that some days spending a Saturday morning sitting on the living room floor in your pajamas eating Goldfish for breakfast and doing puzzles with your kids is not only all you can manage, but completely enough and perfect.

I didn’t know how hard it was to wrestle a diaper off and on a squirmy one-year-old on the bow of a boat in the rain without either having crap all over the place; or a wet, hypothermic child.

But we learned. We adapted. We invested in some good gear. We were cheered on by grandparents and others who understood how important it is to instill a sense of joy for the outdoors at a young age.

And sometime between sitting on the hard bow of our boat just a few days after giving birth to our son, and my son’s recent commitment (after two years of successful fishing birthdays) to catch a fish every year on his birthday, and my daughters insistence on casting by herself, I figured out that it’s not just about the fishing.

Over the past nine years, it’s been inspiring to watch so many badass women and moms doing truly incredible things for not only themselves but for their kids, loved ones and communities. It’s also been really inspiring to know that my husband and I are not alone in our quest to cultivate a sense of joy and excitement in our kids for the special outdoor places we love. Parents (and grandparents and aunts and uncles and friends!) throughout the state and our country are making it happen and it’s the kind of movement we need to ensure good fishing (and hiking, hunting, biking, camping and canoeing) are around for generations to come.

I am honored and humbled to share some of the things I’ve learned about getting out fishing despite the daily challenges of motherhood, along-side some other truly incredible women, in the film “No Excuses.”

The film was produced by the lovely and talented team at Fishewear and Silverline Films and is featured in the Orvis 50/50 on the water film tour.  You can watch the film in Anchorage on Feb. 12th at 7:00 p.m. at the 49th State Brewery or at an Orvis 50/50 on the water film showing near you!

To make things even sweeter, Linda, the owner of Fishewear, is donating to the Bristol Bay Fly Fishing & Guide Academy to further support youth getting into fishing and honing their love of the outdoors.

And for you moms and dads out there, who want some advice or to laugh/cry over shared outdoor adventures stories, give a shout. One of my now-that-I-am-a-mother vows is to do all I can to support families to get out and explore the rivers and wild places they love. I am happy to share what I’ve learned, and keep learning from you!

Looking back, kids had an earth shattering impact on outdoor pursuits, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. 

Nelli is the Alaska Program Director for Trout Unlimited. She lives in Anchorage. Join her on Feb. 12 if you’re in Anchorage!