September 5th, 2005

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
This is where our readers tell their stories . . .

Women, Mothers, and the Art of Fly Fishing
By Marta E. Rivas-Olmeda

"When your baby moves in the womb, he or she is not kicking, but practicing fly casting!" This is what some of my friends and co-workers used to say, whenever I showed them pictures of the different fishing trips I went on while pregnant. Laughing, I would touch my belly and say, "I really hope so. After all, Jorge and I are both passionate fly anglers."

When I met Jorge, I never thought that we would end up being a duo, much less a trio. His professional interests revolved around the world of physics and mine around the world of music, but as the saying goes, "opposites attract," and attracted we were. Years later, (and I do mean many years later), these two opposite poles were about to become the proud parents of a wonderful child.

When we found out that the stork would be paying us a visit (well, not really the stork, but you know what I mean), our excitement couldn't be greater. Jorge and I were determined to continue with our fishing trips, as long as my pregnancy was a healthy one and the circumstances allowed me to do it. The circumstances however managed to make things difficult for me and during the first three months, I had to endure a series of lab analysis to make sure that I wasn't on the verge of having a miscarriage. The lab results showed that, like a well-trimmed sailboat moving with the wind, I also had the wind in my favor. Everything was going well with my pregnancy.

Choosing not to know the baby's gender made the waiting period even more exciting for us. Would it be a boy? A girl? Not knowing the answer to this question is what I consider to be one of the very few surprises a human being can choose to experience in her/his life. Moreover, our parents didn't have the advantage of today's technology (e.g. an ultrasound that could determine a baby's gender) and they loved each and every one of their children. Our main concern was to have a healthy child, as we were committed to giving our offspring (be it a daughter or a son) the gift of enjoying nature and fly-fishing, or any type of fishing for that matter. After all, Jorge and I got the same present from our dads; they both loved nature, as well as the sport of fishing. Thus, taking all the necessary precautions, we continued to go fishing, until the weekend before my due date (October 6, 1995).

In general, most of our fishing trips were very pleasant, although I must tell you that at nine months, my belly was absolutely gigantic, and my bottom…well, being a "Caribeña" (a Caribbean woman) with voluptuous hips, you can imagine! Carrying all this weight while fishing was sometimes a big challenge, particularly when casting and trying to maintain my balance while standing on the small inflatable that we used for our fishing trips or on any type of boat. This, I tell you, was quite an odyssey!

Managing fatigue, back pain, nature calls, and other pregnancy related difficulties was challenging at times, but amusing at others. For example, you all know (and if you don't know it yet, you are about to find out now) that the pressure that a baby's weight exerts on its mother's bladder forces her to visit the bathroom more frequently than usual, especially during the first and last months of pregnancy. This is one of many normal pregnancy milestones a mother-to-be will experience, but it is one that could also place her in unpleasant situations, particularly, when she needs to use a bathroom and finds herself forced to improvise. A situation that I experienced during several of my fishing trips, as the following anecdote shows.

One day, I felt the urge to use a bathroom. Not having one close by, I looked at Jorge and said: "Row as fast as you can to those bushes that I see ahead of us because my bladder is about to burst." Without saying a word, but understanding the urgency of the situation, Jorge began to row as fast as he could. As soon as we reached the shore, and like a rocket that has been launched to the moon, I got out of the boat and walked towards the bushes (actually, waddled towards them, as my belly was big), without paying attention to what type of bushes they were. "What a relief," I said to myself. Then, waddling back, I let out a sigh and got into the boat. As we continued fishing, I began to feel some discomfort on my bottom, but didn't make much of it. I figured that, as pregnant as I was, my discomfort was the result of having been seated on the inflatable for such a long time. Upon reaching home, and still feeling such discomfort, I looked at myself in the mirror and, to my surprise; I discovered I had several long scratches on my gluteus maximus. "No wonder I was in such pain," I said to myself.

It so happens that the bushes that I had used as a bathroom had thorns, but in my desperation to go, I never saw them. One can only say thank God that these bushes had only thorns intertwined with them and not what, in good Spanish, we called "yedra venenosa." Had this been poison ivy, being as allergic to this plant as I am, instead of scratches, I would have ended up looking like I had a bad case of chicken pox (something I experienced as a child and would never like to experience again). From this moment on, whenever I am in need of a bathroom and I am forced to improvise, I check it out first before using it!

Despite the few inconveniences encountered on our trips, though, I continued to go fishing and so did our baby. Being in my womb like a fish in water, our son, Sebastián, accompanied us on our fishing trips until the weekend before he was born. By then, he had already logged hundreds of miles on fishing trips. From that point on, he stopped being a fish and became a fisherman!

But what do fly-fishing and motherhood (and fatherhood for that matter) have in common, after all? Are there any differences between them? This is a question that can generate as many answers as there are fly anglers and parents in the world. Yet I believe that fly-fishing and parenthood are great adventures we choose to engage in, not knowing at times what kind of challenges and surprises they might bring. But challenges and surprises are intrinsic parts of the parenthood process, as well as the sport of fishing; they are a requirement to improve our parenting and fishing skills; they're nature's way of teaching us some humbleness.

In the process of raising and educating our children, we all use similar and different styles, methods and techniques. Likewise, we all have our unique ways of presenting the proper fly to a rising fish. When learning to fly fish, we not only learn to use a rod and a floating line, but we also learn to use plenty of entomology, biology, geography, and even meteorology. When raising our sons and daughters, though, we don't need to know entomology or meteorology (at least, not that I know of!), but we do need to know some biology, sociology, psychology, and several other "ologies," (as well as plenty of other skills). Love, planning, patience, intuition, passion, understanding, determination, and lots of practice, are some of the skills and qualities required to become both successful parents and successful anglers.

In our parental role, the joys and rewards our children bring into our lives can make up for any of the challenges and obstacles we may encounter during the process of raising them and taking them fishing with us. Likewise, as fly anglers, the challenges or obstacles we may encounter when fishing, are completely forgotten the moment we release a fish. And what a great feeling of accomplishment this is!

If you still aren't convinced that parenting and fly-fishing are both interesting and challenging adventures, try to change a baby's diaper or feed a baby at 1:00 AM or 2:00 AM, when both of you are tired and sleepy. Or try to catch a fish that doesn't show any interest whatsoever in any of the flies that you are presenting it, making it difficult, if not impossible, for you to catch it. Better yet, get in your car and go on a fishing trip, but not without first placing in your car's trunk an inflatable that is basically 10 feet long and about 4 feet wide, the type of inflatable that you will have to inflate with the help of a pump that is connected to your car's battery (and, thank God, not with the air from your lungs!) the moment you arrive at the fishing place. Also, bring the rods and fishing equipment that you think you need to have (you probably won't use all of the equipment, but you'll feel compelled to have it with you, anyway). And, since you are taking your baby fishing with you, you cannot forget to bring all of the necessary equipment for your bundle of joy! You'll need a backpack filled with diapers, changes of clothes, blankets, sun block, a towel, a hat, sunglasses and toys, your baby's car seat or stroller, first-aid kit, life jackets, food for the adults, and a camera, among other things. Quite a picture, don't you think?

For Jorge and myself, the above-described picture was our daily bread, as taking Sebastián fishing with us (which is what we did all the time, and still do) meant putting so many things in our small inflatable, that instead of fly anglers ready to go fishing, we looked more like merchants transporting our wares to the market! But this was part of the price that we had to pay (and one that we paid with "gusto"), for we very much desired to become parents, and wanted to continue pursuing our fly-fishing passion as well.

Oh, and to satisfy your curiosity, I must say that Sebastián's food did not occupy any space in our small boat, and I mean not at all, as his milk supply was being kept in the perfect place, ready for whenever he wanted it. Where? I'm sure you know the answer to this question, but just in case, here it is: I was breastfeeding him!

At present, Sebi (short for Sebastián) is 9 years old. Our fishing trips have taken us to places near Philadelphia, the city where we live and to places as far away as the Xingú River in the Brazilian Amazon.

In these journeys, we have learned something new as individuals, and as a family. We have also shared plenty of responsibilities, fun, laughter, sunny and rainy days and good and bad fishing days. There have been times where we have gotten exhausted, frustrated, upset or sick, but, what can I say, these experiences have also been part of the adventure. Moreover, on each trip Jorge, Sebastián and I have been able to fish, demonstrating that the famous phrase, "Either you go fishing, or you take your son or daughter fishing," is nothing but a myth.

But let me tell you, bringing a child, whether a boy or a girl, on each fishing trip is not necessarily going to make it a fun experience, or make it a trip free of complications. Although, in my experience, taking a grown man or a woman on your fishing trip doesn't necessarily make the fishing experience any better. On the contrary, sometimes it could make it worse, especially, when he/she begins to complain about not being able to catch a fish and wants to call it a day. At that point the fishing experience could become agonizing for everyone involved, but mostly for the angler who is accustomed to fishing long days, until tiredness overcomes him/her.

In summary, being passionate anglers, as well as devoted and caring parents, has proved to be a challenging and fantastic experience for Jorge and myself. The amount of stuff that we take on our fishing trips has lessened since we no longer have to bring a child's car seat or stroller, nor do we have to bring a bunch of baby stuff, like we used to have to bring. However, one thing hasn't changed at all...we still bring fishing stuff that we don't use. But what can I say; BAD HABITS are hard to break!


~ Marta E. Rivas-Olmeda


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