I started fly fishing when I was 20 on a small, trout-stocked lake in Southwestern Pennsylvania. To be quite frank, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Over the next few years, if I caught a fish, it was definitely a pure stroke of luck. However, I loved it as I have always enjoyed a variety of outdoor pursuits. It wasn’t my “passion” though. At least not yet.
In 2007, I was offered a job at the Fly Fishing Show. It’s a large consumer trade show that travels the country promoting fly fishing. I definitely didn’t earn that job because of my casting skills, but my socializing skills proved to be a good fit.
A couple years later I started to travel with the shows to various venues. In Somerset, NJ, I observed my first live casting demonstration. I won’t name drop, but I was mesmerized by the demonstration presented by a tall, handsome man with a heavy German accent. He had a rod and reel that was far more bad ass than the little trout set up I had. I was even more intrigued by the fact that he was using two hands, which eliminated his need for an overhead cast. “Whatever that guy is doing I want to do,” I said to myself.
Fast-forward to 2011. I married that tall, handsome German in a small wedding in Atlantic Highlands, NJ Atlantic Highlands was special to us, as we would occasionally meet between our hectic schedules while we dated internationally. I started fishing for stripers off Sandy Hook Beach, and from then on, I was officially a two-handed gal. Our adventures would take us to Norway and Canada, fishing for Atlantic salmon. I learned quickly this type of fishing was not for the weak-hearted. Swinging flies and Spey fishing was now, not just a passion, but a full-blown obsession.
I had no intentions of ever going back to overhead casting.
We took a trip to the Florida Keys in 2012. I had no idea what to expect other than there would be no two-handed rods. Oh, and the small detail that we would be fishing in the middle of the night. OK, middle of the night I could handle, but how on earth would I be able to survive overhead casting in the dark? I was mortified, excited, and feared for anyone on the boat with me.
We ventured out into the silent darkness. Everything about that night was magnificent. The star-filled heavens, the air so humid and calm; I never wanted this night to end. The anticipation was like nothing I had ever experienced. I was so thankful that I was only required to make one cast and allow my fly to swing in the current, similar to my days on the river chasing Atlantics. The peaceful quietude was shattered when a giant, prehistoric creature completely derailed me. That was the moment my tarpon obsession began.
The next few years we would venture to Florida as much as our schedules would allow. In 2016, we laid down permanent roots in Stuart, FL to raise our daughter and explore the amazing variety of species saltwater has to offer. The St. Lucie estuary is located at the end of our street and boasts the most diverse saltwater fishery in the entire US. On any given day, one has the opportunity to catch a snook, bonefish, redfish, sea trout, or juvenile tarpon. Calm days (and German motion sickness gum) allow for mahi-mahi, spanish mackerel, and false albacore offshore.
In other words, I have found my paradise and I never want to leave.
In the early 1900s, a dam was built for flood control purposes around Lake Okeechobee. Over the years it has been reconstructed with levees and overflow channels into the Caloosahatchee and Saint Lucie Estuaries. When Mother Nature provides wet seasons, and the lake rises, the flood gates are opened and billions of gallons of fresh water are released into those saltwater estuaries. The changes in salinity, combined with decades of agricultural runoff, create toxic algae blooms. Sea grass is dying, spawning grounds are disrupted, and the communities living on both coasts are affected by the risk of health-related issues. Curious about what could be done, I attended a meeting in Stuart, FL, addressing these environmental concerns and was immediately drawn to the grassroots organization, Bullsugar. This non-profit organization was founded on the belief that science has provided a fix to this problem, but the politics needs to follow.
Since that meeting, I’ve traveled all over the US to bring much-needed awareness to the fly fishing community. The support received has been overwhelmingly positive, and it makes me proud to be part of such a conservation-minded industry.