In 2012, I was going through a very tumultuous time in my life. I had just gotten the job of my dreams; becoming a Park Ranger. With it, came the responsibility of moving to the park. Not only did I have to leave the home I had lived in for the previous decade, but I was now far away from friends and family, and suddenly dealing with relationship stress and indifference from my boyfriend of nearly10 years. When I moved to the park, that relationship ended: and so a new chapter in my life began.
I met my husband back in that Spring 2012. Although significantly younger than I, he brought to my life the right tools to repair my heart and my soul. He introduced me to fly fishing. My entire life I have been a nature lover and have been known as the “nature girl” to all my friends. I even remember fantasizing that I was Pocahontas growing up. I never knew someone who loved the outdoors as much as I did until I met my husband. He came from a family that took camping trips yearly, and he was raised by a father who taught him how to fish and took him fishing. He was the missing piece in my life, especially having recently lost everything I thought I loved - my then boyfriend, friends and home.
I had never fished before and from the second we started dating, we were camping, hiking and fishing. Living in Miami at the time, we did all sorts of fishing: lakes for bass, piers and boating for saltwater fishing; things I had only read about and dreamed of.
I decided to wet my feet fly fishing on a February trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains in Georgia. He pulled out his arsenal of fly fishing gear and gave me a casting lesson. To our surprise, (coming from Miami) it was snowing! We actually got snowed in and trapped in our cabin atop a mountain for three days! Our fly fishing trip may have been ruined by snow-covered frozen rivers and 20 degree temperatures, but that did not crush my desire to learn the art. I read all I could about the sport during those snowed in days and although I had not yet fished, it fueled my desire and an extreme passion for the sport emerged. I was going to be as ready as possible when the time came to wet my feet.
I’m not going to lie, I did not have a good time at the river, but all was not lost and after three days trapped in that cabin, he proposed and I found out he had the engagement planned all along!
That next September, we booked a trip to Asheville, North Carolina. I was so pumped and certain this was “the trip.” The weather called for warm sunny days and cool, nice evenings. There are no words to describe what this trip did for me. For the first time in my 34 years, I was standing in the middle of a river: exactly how I envisioned it, dressed from head to toe, in hat, waders and wading boots… like I was wearing an expensive fancy dress and Christian Louboutin pumps! I was so proud; like I had conquered the world. I realized my wildest dream had come true because I took a chance and made the difficult decisions necessary to change my life. I couldn’t stop gazing around, breathing it all in. Looking in the water that day I was born again at Pisgah National Forest, in the Brevard area in North Carolina where beauty surrounds like something out of a magazine spread. It took me back to my early years growing up in Puerto Rico where the rivers and rainforest were our playground.
I was instantly hooked; not on a fish, but hooked on fly fishing. I didn’t even catch a fish and at first felt disappointed and down, but we were told by the local fly shop the fishing was the worst they had seen in the past 15 years. On the way home I reflected back on the week of wading the North Carolina rivers from dawn till dusk. It taught me patience, perseverance and hope, and I felt extremely lucky. I had made it! I had made it to that spot you dream about… that you have never seen but know must exist because you see it in your imagination. I was there.
I posted a few pictures on Instagram when I was fishing in North Carolina and I started connecting with many other women all across the country. One of my most memorable best connections, and my current best friend, is Jesika, who is a fly angler from Texas. We met when we entered a giveaway on Instagram and she won. What started with fly fishing grew to talking about life in general. Now, I can’t imagine my life without her. The many missing pieces in my life before have been filled now with fly fishing; the glue that put all the pieces together.
My husband and I were recently able to realize our long-lived dream to fish Alaska. Through fly fishing, I had already made friends in Alaska, including Brandy, who is a fly fishing guide from the Willow Area. She welcomed us into her home with warmth and open arms. She took me around Alaska and taught me to fly fish for salmon, grayling and ‘dollys.’ Jesika was also in Alaska at the time. After spending a few days in the Willow area, I spent the rest of my vacation on the Kenai Peninsula fishing the Russian River and Kenai along with Jesika, her boyfriend and other friends from Alaska.
Nowadays, I no longer work as a Park Ranger and we no longer live in Miami. We moved to Central Florida back in November and I now work from home so that I can focus all my time on fishing, including starting my own business inspired by fly fishing. It has become such an integral part of my life that I wake up, breathe, sleep and eat fly fishing and I couldn’t be happier. I have always been a firm believer that the key to happiness in life is not money, but finding that one thing that you love and are so passionate about that you’d do it for free. Nothing fulfills my heart more than waking up at the crack of dawn, brewing my coffee and heading over to the creek to fly fish for bass while the sun rises.
My message to you all is to never stop dreaming. I know this sounds cliché, but they say it for a reason. Go after what makes your heart happy. And, when fishing, never forget to look around.
It’s the time you’re not catching fish that your take away is the biggest.