The one constant throughout my life has been a special connection to nature. It surprises me now that I only discovered the sport of fly fishing in 2015. Living in a rural, farming community, my childhood was full of happy outdoor outings. While we were not anglers, I remember ambling alongside my Mother as she gardened. She would teach me the names of wildflowers, native tree species and wildlife indigenous to our region. Drawing inspiration from our adventures, Mom always had an art project on the go and she encouraged me to experiment with a variety of mediums. Our natural surroundings became a second home to me and a place of tranquility to simply be.
As the years passed, the special memories we made continued. It was not uncommon for us to rush home from work to meet for a bike ride, a swim or hike. For us, there was no better time to share our struggles and achievements. We were best friends more than Mother and Daughter during those years and we treasured this unique bond.
Tragically, life took an unexpected turn and my Mother took her own life in 2009. She was not yet 40 years old. She was everything; my confidante, my mentor, my best friend and I had lost her. I allowed grief to wreak havoc on my life for those next years. Losing her, destroyed me and for a time I lost myself. Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote: “Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling in at night. I miss you like hell.” During those years there were no truer words. Everything revolved around the pain of losing her and each day was a battle to fight that pain. I sacrificed relationships and pieces of myself as I tried to hang on to the memory of her.
With time, the shock subsided and the grief became more manageable. Life was moving along without her and she would have wanted me to live it. I recognized the need for a drastic change and I utilized my Mother’s memory as a force. A force to propel me as I forged a path where I could live purposefully and authentically. While on this journey, I met my partner and best friend, Derek. He introduced me to the beauty that is fly fishing. His passion and love for nature aligned with my own and so, regardless of weather, off we would go to practice casting techniques and fish for beautiful Brook Trout and Atlantic Salmon.
Fly fishing and fly tying have become much more than hobbies. I feel as though I could write for hours about my time spent fishing and how casting a line and concentrating on the fly drifting downstream has become nothing short of cathartic. Life’s twists and turns are much like those of a river; unpredictable and ever-changing. Being on the river and seeing it’s untamed beauty is comforting and awe-inspiring. While on the water my thoughts slow, I feel connected to those I have lost but most of all, I feel proud of the woman I am today. Fly fishing is a gift that was shared with me and it is one I feel compelled to share with others.
As an angler, relatively new to the sport, I am constantly learning. It is one of the things I love most about fly fishing. I am passionate about our catch and release fishery here in Nova Scotia yet the sport can, at times, present challenges for women. Traditionally, it has been an old boys club and female anglers are still a minority on our rivers here. Although primarily positive, the reactions encountered are mixed. A small fraction expect that I am simply accompanying my partner as an observer or, that I am someone who will muck up their water. I am often asked, as I walk up in full gear and a rod in hand, “Do you fish too?” I chuckle to myself every time I hear those words however it’s rarely said maliciously. A quick introduction where I express my excitement and love of the sport, sets the tone for a beautiful day on the water. Because of this, I have made many great friends and have learned much from my fellow anglers. I ask questions and I listen carefully as they share advice on everything from fly selection to prime lies. The insight you can glean while sitting on the river bank is truly invaluable. It just takes a little effort and at times the breaking down of stereotypical barriers.
Admittedly, early on, I was shaking in my boots as I fished with the fellas but now I am their peer. We are a close-knit group where hugs and warm handshakes are common place. Stories are shared on and off the river and the friendships made are lifelong. Of course, not everyone is always respectful. I have encountered objectification on the river but it is rare and can easily be remedied. One example of this was a day last Autumn. I walked up to a Salmon pool that I had never fished before and there were a handful of anglers waiting for their turn. One began to use a host of adjectives to describe me rather than to acknowledge me directly. I was irritated to say the least, but ignored him and asked the remaining group if there were any fish hooked that morning. There had been no signs of fish yet that day. I proceeded to walk to an empty pool nearby and began to cast. Perhaps it was the fact that my blood was boiling, but my casting was on point and the swing was perfect. There was a section that looked like a prime taking spot and I could hardly wait to cast over it. Eyes were on me as the first fish of the day, a fresh, sea lice covered, Atlantic Salmon, took my fly and gave five acrobatic leaps. I fought the fifteen pound fish successfully and I fought back against disrespect and intimidation by doing what I love.
Time spent on the water is the key source of peace and tranquility in my life. It is where I turn when I do not have the answers. When life is hectic and I cannot get out, I look through photographs from my adventures for inspiration and I sketch, paint or write my way back to those watersheds. As I plan and prepare for fishing season, I sit down at my vice to tie a variety of trout and salmon flies. I love beginning the journey at my fly tying desk and finishing it with the quick release of a wild beauty on the water. It’s incredibly rewarding to hook and release fish on your own flies. For this reason, I cannot bring myself to buy them. I practice the pattern until it’s perfected and off I go.
I am happy to say that all the initial nerves have worn off as I have become more confident in my angling abilities. I practiced a great deal at the beginning and I still do. Videotaping myself casting in an open field has been incredibly helpful in improving my technique and timing. While learning on the water, it is easy to allow frustration to rule the day but with practice sessions and dedication, any demographic can become proficient at fly casting. We anglers are a group of like-minded conservationists and dear friends. I truly feel at home on the river and very much a part of the angling community in Nova Scotia.
For many years, I lived my life according to a set of values contrived by others and defined success as they defined success. Life experience has taught me that to find true happiness you must follow your own path. I’m grateful to say I have found mine and it is because of Her. Losing my Mother was the hardest thing I have yet to endure but it also gave me a strength I never knew was within. This became clear during my first year of fly fishing as I was standing on a riverbank, in the town where my Mom grew up. I was standing where she had once stood, walking along a road she had once walked and I realized, I had finally found my way back to the woman my Mother raised me to be. There I was in my waders and boots with a fly box, full of hand tied flies in hand, and I knew she would be proud. She is at peace on the water and so am I.
You can follow Deirdre Green on instagram @thewadingwanderess