September 18th, 2006

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
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What to Expect While Pregnant and Fly-Fishing
By Marta E. Rivas-Olmeda

When I found out that I was pregnant, books like What to Expect When You're Expecting, What to Expect the First Year, and What to Expect the Toddler Years (By Arlene Eisenberg, Heidi E. Murkoff and Sandee E. Hathaway) were easy to find, and very informative as well. However, I wasn't able to find any literature that could offer me some guidance about what to expect while being pregnant, and still going fly-fishing! Therefore, I felt compelled to share my experience (as I went fly-fishing throughout my nine months of pregnancy) and offer some suggestions to future mothers -to-be and their partners, in case they choose to pursue the sport of fly-fishing, while waiting for their bundle of joy to arrive. My suggestions aren't at all comprehensive, and many of the things I recommend for the expecting fly angler (e.g. what to wear or eat, type of fishing equipment) aren't that different from the ones a non-pregnant fly angler might choose for her outings, but here are my two cents.

As a pregnant fly angler you need to make some adjustments not only to your wardrobe, but also to your fishing equipment as well. For instance, at the beginning of my pregnancy, I used my 4-piece 7W 8 1/2-foot long custom-made fly rod at every fishing trip we made. This rod was built on a Sage blank and had good performance. However, as the pregnancy progressed, I began to feel uncomfortable and fatigued when casting with this rod. It felt too heavy for me to cast with. Wanting to continue fishing without feeling fatigued, I began to use a 4-piece 5W 7 1/2-foot Sage fly rod that Jorge had bought for himself at an outdoor sports show in Philadelphia. The more I used it, the more I liked it, and that was the end of Jorge's ownership of this fly rod. That is, this rod and I became inseparable; our bond was so strong that Jorge rarely got a chance to use it. Nevertheless, he didn't say anything about wanting his rod back.

Then, on a trip we made to a fly-fishing show in Garden State, New Jersey, the funniest thing happened.

Jorge bought a 4Wt 9-foot Thomas & Thomas fly rod for himself and insisted in buying me a 5Wt 9-foot one as well. I didn't want another 5Wt rod so I asked myself, "Why is he insisting on this rod?" Verbalizing my thoughts, I asked, "Why buy another 5Wt rod if I already have one?" Jorge never answered this question, that is, not in a direct manner. Instead, he began to give me all kinds of explanations about how good the Thomas & Thomas rods were. I couldn't help but think that perhaps Jorge wanted to buy me the 5Wt T&T because he wanted his Sage rod back. However, according to Jorge, this wasn't the case at all. Interesting enough, when we left the fly-fishing show, two T&T rods left the show with us (a 4Wt and a 5Wt one).

I decided to give the 5Wt T&T rod a try and cast with it during several of our fishing trips. It turned out to be a good rod. However, my attachment to Jorge's 5Wt Sage rod was already too strong and I wasn't willing to give it up! To my surprise, Jorge allowed me to keep it, and I still don't know why. Perhaps he didn't want to deny a pregnant woman a wish, for fear to get a sty; or maybe, being a good husband, he simply enjoyed seeing the mother of his soon-to-be-born child fishing. Whatever his reason, I kept on using the sweet 5Wt 7 1/2 foot Sage rod.

Sage rod My reason for liking this particular fly rod was a very simple one. It is a light rod, but not a puny light rod; it also has lots of authority. Furthermore, its great performance allowed me to cast easily without becoming fatigued or exhausted, something very crucial for me, as I stopped fishing just a few days before my due date! And before you jump to conclusions, I can assure that the Sage Company isn't giving me any royalties for advertising this rod, though that would be nice! I just know by experience that if you want a light fly-fishing rod with lots of authority, (not that I'm a fly-rod's guru to recommend you what type to use) the 5Wt 7 1/2-foot long Sage is a good choice.

Marta using canoe seat

It should be noted that a light fly rod is not the only thing to consider having when pregnant and fishing. Having the knowledge of how to take care of yourself and your baby is extremely important as well. For instance, prior to my pregnancy, I was enduring a severe low back pain due to a herniated disc. The baby and the weight gained during my pregnancy added more pressure to it, and so I needed to be very careful not to strain it even more. Therefore, to decrease and relieve my back pain I used a portable canoe seat that helped keep my back as straight as possible while sitting and fishing. I also took breaks and practiced the exercises given to me by the chiropractor I had been seeing for quite a while prior to my pregnancy. She used an adjusting method called non-directional force technique, which helped me cope with my back problem before and during my pregnancy, particularly, on long fishing days.

Comfortable shoes and clothes are crucial items for a pregnant fly angler who choose to fish on hot and humid days, as hormonal changes are accountable for making pregnant women feel overheated rather quickly. However, when the time to look for comfy outdoors pregnancy clothes came, I found out that the maternity clothes available were either ugly or too expensive. This is why I decided to wear simple and practical clothes during my pregnancy. For instance, in early springtime I wear large sizes of tights, shirts, sweaters, and sweatpants. On sunny and more humid days I wore light cotton Indian dresses as well as cotton shirts and exercise spandex shorts. These types of clothes were very easy to find, affordable, and convenient.

Marta catches too

Regarding swimsuits...well, my husband and I happen to believe that pregnancy is a beautiful stage, and neither of us felt uncomfortable with me showing my very pregnant belly. This is why I chose to wear a bikini whenever I went swimming. I also found it to be more comfortable and prettier than wearing a maternity-bathing suit. However, I have to recognize that not every woman and their partners might agree with my point of view. But if you feel like wearing a bikini, go ahead and do so, enjoy the sun and the breeze caressing your skin. After all, a little bit of sun on your belly won't do you or your baby, any harm. However, watch out of the content of your day cooler, as food cravings (many times the unhealthy ones) can make you gain weight easily, being you, pregnant or not. Thus, make sure to take with you plenty of healthy snacks to calm your hunger and plenty of water to avoid dehydration. In addition to healthy food, you mustn't forget to bring a good sun block and a hat. Again, these items are even more necessary for pregnant women, as some might develop pregnancy spots on their faces. I recommend, and particularly like, the type of sun block that has an insect repellent in it. Why? It isn't fun to stop your fishing trip because of having to visit a doctor's office, when you could be landing some good fish. An experience I went through while fishing for "macabí or ratón" (bonefish) in one of the many beautiful Los Roques islands, 80 miles away from La Guaira, Venezuela.

It so happens that trying to protect my sensitive skin from the strong ultraviolet effects of the equatorial sun, I used not only my sun block, but my friend's sun block as well. And when the mosquitoes began their quest for fresh blood, I also added a coat of insect repellent to my mixture of sun blocks. Not a good idea...because this combination proved to be costly not only to my skin, but also to my pocket. That is, I got a severe rash on my face, neck and arms, and was forced to take an emergency trip to a dermatologist's office in Caracas. My misfortune also took away some of my precious fishing time, but what do you know, this experience not only taught me a lesson, it also gave me an anecdote to write about!

Another interesting aspect of my experiences while pregnant and fly-fishing was our encounters with other fishermen. Some turned to look at me twice, wanting to make sure they weren't seeing a mirage. When they became aware that I was real, their faced reflected quite an amazed look. "You must really like fishing" or "Your baby will definitely like to go fishing," a fisherman said to me. Another one looked at Jorge, and commented, "You are lucky your wife likes fishing so much to even do it while pregnant. Mine cannot stand it." In addition to these comments, two question were frequently asked: "Aren't you afraid of going into labor while fishing from that tiny dinghy?" and, "What would you do if your wife goes into labor right now?" Yet, I never gave these questions too much consideration, at least, not until the weekend before my due date arrived.

That weekend in particular we went fishing for bass and pan fish in one of the many Delaware State Parks, and while looking for some rising fish, several thoughts and images came to my mind. I pictured Jorge rowing as quickly as possible to get to shore (we have an electric motor for our dinghy, but liking to row, Jorge and I have only used it twice before) while I kept on yelling at him to row faster because I was in pain, and didn't know if I could make it to shore! These thoughts and images made me feel uneasy about being away from home. Don't get me wrong, I trust Jorge with all my heart, and knew that he had been reading a lot about the pregnancy stages and how to deliver a baby, in case he needed to. Nonetheless, the idea of having our baby in a 10-foot-long dinghy wasn't appealing to me. I looked at him, and snapping out of my thoughts, I reminded Jorge that we were two hours away from home. "What if I begin to have contractions now? I asked, and then added, "I love fishing very much, but I don't want to have our child in a 10-foot dinghy."

Jorge, always the calm type, looked at me and with a very calm voice asked, "Are you having contractions now?"

"No," I responded. With the same calm voice he added that if I began to have contractions we would go to the nearby hospital.

My reply? "I would rather be in Philly and deliver our baby with our midwife."

Almost ready "That would definitely be better," he said and calmly continued to look out for some rising fish. I stared at him for a few seconds, astonished at his reaction. If he was anxious at all, Jorge managed to hide it very well, as he changed the conversation and asked me to cast at some rising fish ahead of us. And if this was Jorge's way of trying to put a stop to my worries, it definitely worked, as the rising fish caught my attention. Taking some deep breaths, I began to present my fly. Next thing I knew I was landing a fish, and what was I worried about? This is how I looked, the weekend before my due date; I was big! Wasn't I?

The rest of the trip went very well. We had a beautiful afternoon, with a very refreshing cool breeze. Better yet, I was able to catch and release a few more pan fish. When sunset arrived, we were in our car, heading home. To my relief, and Jorge's, too, our baby didn't choose to come to the world during this fishing weekend after all, but the Wednesday after. A few months later, and up until the present time, my son Sebastián continues to go fishing with me! ~ Marta

Below are more fishing photos of Marta and her children.

Marta and family

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