Getting The Wife On The Water

I have not been able to teach either of my wives to fish.

No, not two wives at the same time–that is illegal. I mean my former and current wives. Even though I am a guide, they just won’t listen to me. Obviously, neither do I or I would be explaining the whole wife situation. I believe that it is very difficult for a man to teach his better half how to fish.

That being said, here are a few things that I have learned after many years in the boat with couples.

1. Get her a casting lesson. You can’t teach her, at least without an argument. Stu Apte is the only guy I know who taught his wife to cast, and Lefty said he did it wrong. Sign her up for an Orvis 101 course or go to your local shop, they should be a great resource and have basic fly fishing classes.

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2. Hire a guide. Then stay home. Here’s the deal, as a guide I have seen it a hundred times. Guy comes in and says, “I want you to focus on her today. I know what I’m doing and I just want to see her catch fish.” By lunch time you are pissed that the guide is tying on the right flies for her, putting the boat in position so she can have the best shot at the fish and she is catching all the fish. Then you start correcting everything the guide taught her. Guides both hate this and relish the fact that he can silently put you in your place for thinking you know it all.

3. Make sure she has the right equipment. Don’t use the fact that she is getting into fishing as an excuse to upgrade your gear while giving her your old stuff. As you know, the proper gear makes all the difference. Giving her your old glass rod with a 10-year old fly line is only going to make her work harder and not enjoy the sport. Also, if you take her to a shop to buy a rod, let her cast it and form her own opinion, not what you want, or feel is the correct choice. The weight, grip size or a number of other factors may be the reason for her decision. Hell, it just may be the color she likes.

4. If she needs waders, get her ones that fit. Same as you, the day will be miserable wearing waders that don’t fit right. Also, no neoprene or other non-breathable materials because they were on sale.

5. Don’t buy her a fishing outfit. Seriously, DO NOT do it. Men have a shitty fashion sense. You get her something and I swear she will end up looking like she was kidnapped by some Easter bunny cult. Pastels, sun gloves, sun sleeves, floppy brimmed hats, Buffs, the list goes on. A lot of women’s specific fishing clothing is hideous – too many pockets, ill fitting, uncomfortable and terrible colors. Here in Jackson, women are hiking in the morning, fishing in the afternoon then hitting happy hour right from the bar. Think they are getting changed 3 times throughout the day? No, they are wearing something sporty, comfortable and multi-purpose.

6. Think about how much she will enjoy the adventure before planning it. Check the weather before going out, no 20-mile floats in the cold and rain. Just because you want to hike to 3rd meadow in Slough Creek while it is super hot and the bugs are so bad that bug spray is more important than bear spray, it doesn’t mean she wants to. Start off with easy adventures, where she gets to enjoy herself, catch some fish and then go drink Gin & Tonics during happy hour.

7. Help her rig up, tie knots and select flies, unless she says no. Then let her do it and smile knowing that she is enjoying herself and wants to be self-reliant.

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8. Take the time show her why you fish: being out in nature, away from people (unless you are on the South Fork during salmonflies), the sights, the sounds, the wildlife and how beautiful the fish are. Explain the insect cycles and why you are fishing a certain fly. In the classes where we had an entomologist, that was the favorite part of the class.

9. Finally, just because your lady is now an “angler”, don’t start booking bucket list fishing trips all over the globe. Just because you want to catch a species that is equated to bigfoot – seen but never caught – don’t think she will be into it. While going to the Olympic Peninsula during Spring monsoons for Steelhead or a remote mothership trip to the island that “Lost” was filmed on to catch a Permit may sound like fun to you, chances are she does not want to spend a week of vacation just fishing in miserable conditions. Find a place where fishing and other activities are available. Go fish in the morning, and then, if she wants, have the guide drop her back off at the lodge, where she can go do other activities like snorkeling, hiking or some alone time. I know someone who has four kids and all of them came exactly 9 months after a fishing/relaxing vacation, where his wife got to do anything she wanted while he was out fishing. Coincidence?


As I said, these are just observations from my relationships and seeing other couples interact while out in my boat. There is no one size fits all scenario. Who knows, you may have a fishing addict on your hands and she forces you to do things mentioned above.

I do know that I have finally figured out what works in my relationship and it creates a much better day on the water for the both of us. Just this weekend, Pam and I went out to the South Fork and she almost listened, ended up landing a big Cutthroat on a dry, then sat down next to the dogs and read her book while drinking some wine. Ended up being the perfect day – and night too.

Editor’s Note: A grate many of our readers are are women who are very accomplished anglers. We mean no disrespect. In fact, we’d love to hear your war stories about trying to teach your husbands to fish! I can only imagine.

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