Back when I was younger and dumber I did something really,
really stupid. A couple of weeks after first meeting my
wife, I knew I wanted to marry her. I often joke about the
three reasons why I proposed to her: she hates to shop, she
loves to fish, and she makes the best darned peach cobbler
you ever tasted. But there is more than a little truth in
that statement. I discovered all three of those things right
away and they did, in fact, play a key role in my decision.
But they are more accurately stated thus: she's frugal and
doesn't shop for recreation, she loves outdoor recreation
including fishing (but not hunting), and she is a fabulous
But by the time we had been married for a year or so,
I had spoiled fishing for her. We went fishing a few times
with mixed results and then one day I threw a huge fit while
we were fishing when a large bass cleaved my favorite rod smooth
in twain and took my last "hot" lure of the trip. I tossed
about three rods in the lake, dumped a tackle box, and just
basically lost my religion for about fifteen minutes. I don't
know what came over me, but I assure you it had nothing to with
my wife or fishing. But I scared the crap out of her and she
never fished with me again. That was stupid – really, really
Occasionally, life offers us a chance or two to redeem ourselves.
When these jewels drop like pennies from Heaven, I try like heck
to take advantage of them. We don't get many do-overs in life.
Such was the case when back in mid-May my lovely wife of over 12
years told me that she wanted to learn to fly fish so that we
could fish together. So I calmed myself, concealed my elation
and panic, and determined to get it right this time. I resolved
to bring everything we had learned about one another in the
intervening decade along with all of my contacts and affiliations
in fly fishing to make it right – to get it right this time – to
get her started fly fishing without turning her off to it in the
This isn't really easy for me, you see. Many of my
readers know I am disabled. But, until now, almost none know WHY.
I suffer from bipolar and post traumatic stress disorder. To make
matters worse, my father was bipolar and most of my experience
teaching people to do things came from the military…which was much
kinder and gentler than my dad ever was. I can be a very effective
teacher if you have a really thick skin and are highly motivated to
learn. But I sometimes lapse into those old sadistic and tyrannical
models I was raised on when I get frustrated. It's a hard thing for
me to guard against and control. So my first decision was that I
would NOT be teaching her the fundamentals.
It just so happens that I was on the planning committee for our FFF
club's first ever mini-conclave the first weekend in June, and we
were having Dave and Emily Whitlock in for a weekend seminar at
Jolly Mill Park. Now, who better to introduce someone to the
wonders of fly fishing than Dave and Emily? I sure couldn't think
of anyone! And this event was free to club members and their
immediate family members. Talk about serendipity! I told my
lovely bride to mark it on her calendar. And I scheduled her into
a women's only beginner's class with IWFF board member and River Run
Outfitters owner Carolyn Parker for the following Saturday. My luck
with this double shot of good timing could not have been better. My
wife would have two Saturdays with two of the top women professionals
in the business and the charming and gentle Dave Whitlock to get her
started off on the right foot. Carolyn's class in Branson is $75.
Believe me, that is a serious bargain for a full day of instruction
from the Industry Committee Chairperson of the IWFF, graduate of the
Joan Wulff Fly Casting Instructors Course, and owner of the Orvis-endorsed
Outfitter of the Year for 2006 in a small group class setting…I don't
care who you are! So my total outlay for what I imagine is the best
beginner training in fly fishing was $75 and half a tank of gas.
I thought that was a pretty good deal.
Someone suggested to me that this whole thing might make for a great
series of articles about women in fly fishing. Frankly, it had not
dawned on me, but they were right. So I began doing a lot of
research and arranged to photograph the training sessions. Of course,
one of the other main tasks was equipping my wife for fly fishing. So
what all gear was out there for women was one of the subjects to be
researched. My early focus was on apparel, equipment, and training
because my wife would need all three right out of the starting gate.
Over the next few months, I will be writing a series of articles on
women in fly fishing. They will all be based upon my observations
and experiences with my own wife, Wilma, as she progresses through
the beginner steps of fly angling. Wilma is from Germany. And she
has a degree in graphic arts, photography, and printmaking. She
worked for almost a decade as a professional artist before becoming
a REALTOR. Nowadays, she is a successful artist AND an award-winning
real estate agent. She is one of four girls and her father died when
she was a child. She grew up in Munich, Augsburg, and Ulm, Germany...
large European cities. Her mother's idea of outdoor recreation was
hiking, road biking, and picnics in the country. And Wilma first had
an opportunity to fish when she moved to the United States in 1991.
She was in her early 20s. Her outdoor sports passions in Europe were
biking and cross-country skiing. She also studied Kung Fu, was a
certified rescue swimmer, and worked out in the gym with a trainer
who was a successful professional body-builder. So she had a very
active lifestyle and an athletic awareness of her own mind and body.
She is now 40 years old and in good physical condition. That's the
biographical information that may become pertinent to the topics of
Wilma and I hope that my readers will find this series both entertaining
and informative. Perhaps they will inspire someone who has been on the
fence to take up the pursuit of fish on the fly. Maybe they will help
some women who have been struggling with some aspect of fly fishing to
overcome an obstacle. But most of all, we hope that they encourage
couples with an interest to fly fish together. There will be one
other character in our story who has not been introduced yet. He
is a 7 year old Weimaraner named, Cave Creek's Smoky Joe. He's our
dog. We have no children. And Smoky Joe is as much a part of our
little family as most people's children are. And he goes almost
everywhere with us. ~ Ken
Ken graduated from Southern Methodist University
in 1988, and spent the next several years serving
in the United States Navy as an intelligence analyst
and Russian Language translator. He is a veteran
of Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Leaving the
nation's service in 1993.
Ken is also a published outdoor writer and historian,
having penned articles and stories that have appeared
in several national hunting publications like North
American Hunter magazine, on GunMuse.com, in regional
and local newspapers, and historical and literary
journals. He has also provided hunting and dog
training seminars for Bass Pro Shops and other
sporting goods retailers nationwide. He volunteers
his time to Ducks Unlimited and Trout Unlimited,
as well as several local charitable organizations.
He is also a REALTOR with Coldwell Banker in
Springfield, Missouri; where he lives with his wife,
Wilma, and their Weimaraner, Smoky Joe.