In this series, Avenue staff try new-to-them experiences in and around the city.
For more than a decade, the Calgary Women Fly Fishers Club (CWFFC) has promoted fly fishing to women of all ages and abilities, hosting events from May to August. Membership has grown steadily every year and got a boost during the pandemic, as fly fishing is an activity uniquely suited to social and physical distancing — the further away you are from the ripples of someone’s movements, the greater your chances of catching a fish.
When I met CWFFC club president Rhonda Saunders and events coordinator Jill Collyer to fly fish for the first time this past spring, they introduced me to a whole new world of brightly coloured flies, fishing rods of many lengths, lines of varying thicknesses and the many ways to cast them. As a beginner, both stressed that it takes time to learn how to be still in the water, or to “find your groove” with casting; and that you’ll never know when you will or will not catch a fish. So long as you don’t accidentally hook a human, your day can be considered a success.
The following weekend I joined about 20 CWFFC members, clad in sunglasses, hats, camouflage overalls and rubber boots, at Eagle Lake RV Resort for the group’s first fishing event of the season.
Since you are often standing still in the water for hours waiting for fish, having the proper apparel is important to keep your body temperature regulated. Waders (a hybrid waterproof boot/overall garment that provides coverage up to the thigh, chest or neck) keep you dry and allow you to move between sandy areas and over slippery rocks, while sun protection shields your eyes and skin from the reflection of the sun off the water. Seasoned CWFFC members also had waterproof bags, hydration packs, and extra flies clipped to their suits or tucked into their pockets for easy access.
For my first time out, Coliyer graciously loaned me the gear I needed. In my extra-large waders and thick woolen socks, I stayed close to the shore and off to the side while most of the club ventured further into the lake and spread out in a semi-circular formation.
Unsurprisingly, casting a line in the water is harder than practicing on dry land. Saunders shared an insider’s tip: wear a hair elastic on your wrist and slip the handle of your rod underneath it to keep from tossing the rod too far over your shoulder. Armed with this info, I managed a number of successful short and long casts. I didn’t accidentally hook anyone wading by (I didn’t hook any fish, either), but I had a great time.