Your name or any nicknames you have?

Rachel Wilhelm 

Where are you at in the world? Where will you be fishing this year?

I currently live in Knoxville, Tennessee. Hopefully I’ll be able to fish in Utah and northern Michigan.

What river(s) and lake(s) do you guide/fish?

Most of my fishing is split between the wild trout streams of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the many tailwaters around the area, including the Clinch River, Holston River, French Broad River, and the Little Tennessee.

How long have you been guiding/fly fishing? 

5 years.

What got you into fly fishing? When did you start? 

I’ve been an active fisherwoman most of my life but decided to pick up a fly rod 5 years ago. It was love at first cast. I had recently moved to the mountains and on my many hiking trips in the smokies, I was amazed by the numbers of fly fishermen on the streams. 

Why do you fly fish?  What does it “do” for you?

Fly fishing for me is my “slow down” and my church. My job keeps me very busy and on a very tight schedule with a lot of sensitive deadlines. With a fly rod in my hand, the noise of the outside world is replaced by the sound of water moving over rocks, birdsong, and the methodical swish of my waders as I work my way up a stream. Instead of the manual labor of daily life, my hands gently move the rod back and forth or pull on the oars of a drift boat. I lose track of time. 

 

As a woman guide/angler, you’re definitely in the minority.  What made you decide to be a guide/angler?  

I grew up fishing with four brothers and my dad, so it was never really a decision,  per say. It was something I loved from an early age. 

Has the fact you’re a female ever been an issue with a client or other angler (such as them hitting on you or maybe talking down to you?)  If so how did you manage it/them?

I’m very fortunate to have a small community of women anglers here that are supportive of each other. It never really felt like we were different from any of the men out on the water. There is of course the occasional “mansplaining” when I walk into a fly shop to browse the fly selection or women’s apparel. “I’m not here shopping for anyone but myself” is my typical response. Living in the South I think men tend to be more polite rather than hitting on me. It’s annoying to get random messages on social media about how I look when the picture in question is of myself with a beautiful fish. 

Do you think being a woman gives you a different perspective as an angler/guide?  If so, how?

The joy of fishing doesn’t discriminate gender. I have witnessed both men and women with the same humble grin releasing a fish back into the water. 

What is a piece of advice you want to give to other anglers or a tip/trick that has helped you grow as an angler?

Patience. It’s not something you can perfect overnight. I am always growing my skills as an angler. The first thirty minutes on the water I’m typically a mess. Tangling my line, losing flys, sloppy casts. Eventually I find my rhythm and the magic happens. 

What’s your favorite new piece of gear?

I recently added a fiberglass 4wt rod for mountain fishing. So much fun! Glass is not dead! It makes any fish feel like a good fight with such light action. 

What is your favorite fly? (To tie, or catch fish on?) 

My go to dry fly in the park is a yellow elk hair caddis, or a neversink Rob’s hellbender.

Best catch of all time?

My first native brook trout I hiked 3 miles through thick rhododendron for 7 inches of a beautiful mountain jewel. 

What’s your “Dream Trip”? 

I’m torn between a saltwater adventure in Belize chasing bonefish and time in Alaska learning to use a spey rod for monster char.

What are some of the best places you’ve been fishing?

My favorite to date have been the White River in Arkansas, and Estes Park in Colorado. 

How do people follow you on social media or reach you?

I’m on Instagram @shestrayedsouth

About The Author

Jill Kana

Jill is in charge of a great deal of our web content here at Denver Outfitters and is always looking for potential blog contributors, content, and #FlyGalFridays. If you have any desire to say hello or have an idea, please touch base with her at jill@denveroutfitters.com

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