"I got you an early birthday gift," he said, standing in the kitchen with the look of a small-time gambler who has just bet his house, car and kids on a hunch. I knew Husband had been to the fishing shop that afternoon, and so as he went to fetch said gift, I rolled my eyes at my sister, "He can't give me fishing stuff for my birthday? Surely not!"
My husband taught me to fly fish when I first met him. I joke that it was a pre-requisite to being proposed to, but none was more surprised than I to find that not only did I enjoy this new sport, but I wasn't too bad at it either. Call it my Scottish heritage, call it beginners luck - whatever forces were at play those 5 years ago, I picked up that fly rod and something magical happened in me. I became a fly fisher. Only I did not realize it till now.
A little slow on the uptake, perhaps, as I have found myself un-able to pass any body of water without looking into its blue, reflective depths wondering what fish swim beneath that surface: The first sign of a fisherman, they say. My father's many jokes about me having become a 'fishwife' have somehow floated over me, not quite the right twitch, the right colour, the right bug for me to have a go. Ha, ha, yes Dad. A fishwife. The significance gone undetected. After all, I have just been playing at fly fishing, haven’t I? I have happily gone along with Husband on many a fishing expedition, armed with my girly distractions: Pink fishing jacket, pink fishing hat. Even went scouting shoe stores for the perfect pink Hunter fishing wellingtons.
I have followed Husband, fumbling with my line, learning to choose and tie on my own flies, slowly but surely getting more and more decked out so as not to need as much of his help - fly jacket, zinger, clippers, fly release tool for easy handling. (I always catch-and-relelase - letting them go, un-hurt, a little fitter for the next fight next season. I call it 'gym for fish'.)
I have been river fishing, still water fishing, even tried a day at estuary salt-water fishing with him and the other fishermen. I have fished in Dulstroom, in Gouritz, on Eilandspad, Holsloot, up in the Wittedrift mountains, on the chalk streams in England and in the Highlands of Scotland. I have fished enough to be able to say, with my own personal ichthyology, that fresh water salmonids (specifically trout and grayling) and South African Yellows are my favorite. I have frequented many a fishing shop and bought many a fishing thing, and can hold my own when chatting to enthusiasts about float tubes, spey casting, 2 weights and wooly buggers. But that didn’t make me a fisherman, I thought. Merely the wife of one. The journey has always been one I have attested to Husband, his passion, me just tagging along for the ride - albeit an incredibly enjoyable ride - in my pink gear. I never really thought of myself as an actual fisher women, just one who fishes with her partner.
"Here it is," he said, hopefully, pulling the mystery gift out from under his jacket. Pink. Tube. SAGE! I could not contain my excitement! I had to swallow my words to my sister as the rush for what was in that tube forced me forward, all fumbling and disbelieving and a smile so big it hurt my face. The rod inside was even more gorgeous that I could have imagined! A beautiful pearly pink Sage 5 weight called the 'Grace'.
I pulled her out of her sheath and knew in that moment: Not only was this the absolute perfect gift for me, not only was I the luckiest woman in the world...but...
It hit me like a beaded fly, bulleted into the back of my head on a gusty day. I am a fly fisherwoman. I am an angler!
Love, lust and fairy-star-dust