When I saw this 1890 postcard, I had no idea it would reignite my interest in a sport I had abandoned 30 years before. Found in the lobby of The Lodge at Lolo Hot Springs, MT, this window into the past initially appealed to my sense of history. A friend and I were on a 13 day university class, following the route of the persecuted Nez Perce Indians as they fled their reservation in 1877.
Never had I seen women of the 19th century fly fishing in long dresses and boots, while being guarded from grizzlies by their shotgun-toting men folk! “Why are they fishin’? They should be in the kitchen!” My boyfriend offered this humorous title as we discussed possibilities. He had a point though. These women weren’t home baking bread and pies, or mending and washing clothes. They were fly fishing with bamboo rods, and the full support of their husbands who vigilantly stood by, armed against four-footed poachers. It was quite an amazing photograph!
A few years earlier I sat in my counselor’s office ending 23 years of marriage, raising two teenagers alone, and working on a new career. I was worn out, desperate, and distraught. My dear friend and advisor asked me a question, “What brings you joy, Amy?” Joy? I couldn’t give him an answer. How could I not know? I drove home that day with a homework assignment, to find my joy.
As I sat down at my desk to journal, I stared at that old postcard. I opened my Bible to Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Childhood memories of fishing and prospecting with my Dad began to surface. Dad had always wanted boys, however, he was gifted with three girls, so he did the best he could to equip us with his Wild West mindset. My father read every book Luis L’Amour wrote. I know, because I inherited his box of paperback novels. We lived in Sutter Creek, CA, during our formative years, which was a hop, skip, and jump from the northwest Nevada landscape.
My attention was then captured by an ad for the National Wild Turkey Federation’s “Women in the Outdoors” event held on the Tejon Ranch near my home. It sounded like the perfect opportunity to test my forgotten skills. I quickly signed up for beginning fly fishing, shotgun shooting, and archery classes. When the date in May arrived, I packed my little tent and headed south to the mountain ranch retreat. I knew no one on my arrival, but was quickly welcomed by eager participants and instructors.
The beginning fly fishing class included fly tying and casting. A friendship developed with Teresa, my fly fishing instructor, who is a dedicated member of the Kern River Fly Fishers’ Club in Bakersfield, CA. My dad had bought me a fly tying kit when I was a kid, and the fog began to lift. This is what brought me joy! I soon joined the fishing club and eventually became their president.
These new friends gave me the idea to recreate the 1890 postcard of women fly fishing on a river. I enjoyed Civil War and pioneer reenacting with my students during my teaching career, and had many resources to use in the photo recreation. It was no small task to corral these busy folks for a photo shoot on the Kern River!
The date was set for a hot August rendezvous on the river. I instructed the participants on their attire, borrowed four antique shotguns from my Civil War re-enactor friends, and provided some handlebar mustaches!
After I retired from teaching this past June, I had a custom, tiny house-on-wheels built, and moved to Carson City, Nevada. I knew not one person there before my adventuresome move, but it feels like home. It’s a place reminiscent of fishing and prospecting memories with my Dad!