By Lazara Ramos
CalTrout Grants Associate
I love trying new things, especially when it involves the outdoors. Over the past two years, I’ve taken surfing, snowboarding, and soccer lessons. So, when I joined California Trout, I knew that I wanted to get out on the water and learn how to fly fish.
But my enthusiasm was quickly met with skepticism as I realized I had zero skills and zero equipment. When I started to research the world of fly fishing, I also saw that it was dominated by older white men.
I tried to imagine myself as a BIPOC woman standing alongside all of these men, but all I could envision was my growing fear of accidentally sticking myself with a fish hook.
Luckily, I was able to join Lost Coast Outfitter’s women’s only fly-fishing trip to Pyramid Lake in February this year.
This trip was organized by Sarah, who was patient and enthusiastic while answering all my anxious questions about fishing.
I asked many questions such as, “what gear should I buy? Should I watch some videos? What should I wear?” I felt so out of place while scrolling through fly-fishing catalogs.
Why are waders so expensive and why do I need special boots? And to top it off, the expenses were adding up. Still, I was committed to making it out to Pyramid Lake and catching my first fish.
On my first day of fishing, I realized how much trouble I was in. I had no idea how to fish and the 20-minute introductory lesson left me standing on the water’s shore for three hours without any bite or clue what a bite looked like.
I thought the fish must not be around, but every woman near me caught massive Lahontan cutthroat trout. I was ashamed but determined to learn.
So, I found the guides and asked each one (there were 5 guides) for help. Even with their lessons, I was still doomed.
Eventually, one of the guides noticed the difficulty I was having and stood by me for the next day and a half. Halfway through the second day, I caught my first fish!
Timidly, I put my hands in the icy cold water to hold the beautiful, grey trout.
Unfortunately, I drenched my fluffy Madewell sweater and absorbent gloves in the water (I need to buy fly-fishing gloves for the next trip).
Despite the cold water and the size of this tiny fish, this catch was both a relief and celebration for me and everyone on the trip. We could finally celebrate the fact that all 25 women on the trip caught a fish!
And, this fish would result in me receiving an official award: Smallest Fish Caught (surely an improvement from no fish caught).
I left this trip feeling exhausted, but proud. During this short weekend, I felt like I lived an entire lifetime.
I grew from a timid and unsure woman with a fishing rod, to a confident and enthusiastic angler.
I still don’t have all the answers to becoming a great angler (although I recommend you leave the puffy Madewell sweaters in your cabin) but I now have a community that invited me in and supported me until the very end.
The fish that fought me as I reeled them in taught me to fight for my place in this community.
I encourage anyone who is new to fly fishing to reach out to anglers when you have questions and fight for your right to learn a new sport in a space that might present many variables to entry.
I’m so grateful for all the people who answered my questions and went the extra mile to support me on this journey.
Thank you to Sarah for letting me borrow your waders. Thank you to Ashley for scouring the Patagonia outlet store for boots in my size. Thank you to Jimi and Morgan for teaching me how to fish. Thank you to Brown Folks Fishing for sending me fly tying gear. And thank you to the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe for allowing me to enter your land and your water.
Lazara Ramos is the Grants Associate for CalTrout. She supports our regional offices in submitting grants so that they can continue to grow their projects throughout the state. When she’s not working, you can find her surfing at Pacifica or taking a bike ride around her neighborhood.