So much of the Pacific Northwest’s public lands and backcountry are located east of the Cascades. With the help of five outdoor enthusiasts, some who make their living out in the woods, we explore the diverse ways people work and play across the Inland Northwest’s vast wildlands. Their stories offer behind-the-scenes insights into the wild places we love, and we hope they will inspire you to get out and explore more of the region’s world-class mountains, forests, trails, and waterways. // (OTO)

Clear water flowing over rocks and between boulders, leaves rustling, perhaps a merganser swimming by with her chicks. Miles from civilization, wilderness beckons those with fly rods. Whether hiking only a couple miles or much further through forest and talus slopes to a backcountry destination, Heather Hodson enjoys seeking faraway places.

“I try to get off the grid as often as possible. I’m not always hiking into different locations, but I do try to drive to rivers that are far away and not as popular as some of the local rivers,” says Hodson, who started fly-fishing a decade ago. Venturing into the backcountry depends less on your actual fly-fishing expertise, she says, and more on how comfortable and experienced someone is with traveling off the beaten path.

 

Photo of angler holding fish in the river.

Cutthroat // Photo: Eric Neufeld

“As you drive up a river you might see an angler at every pullout on the road. I’d bet money that those anglers don’t venture too far away from that location,” she says. “The further you can get off the beaten path and explore, the more likely you’re going to find some willing fish who do not get an artificial fly thrown at them multiple times a day.” As river levels drop and water clears, fish develop better senses. “You’re less likely to fool a fish the more times that they are hooked or have been fished,” she says. “An angler may have better luck if they are casting towards fish that are less educated.”

Hodson founded Spokane Women on the Fly four years ago to share passion and knowledge of the sport with women of all ages and abilities, through group events, classes, and guided trips. “I prefer to fish with other anglers. Fly-fishing to me is so much more than just about the fish. I love the camaraderie and friendships that I’ve developed through Spokane Women on the Fly and choose to share my experience with others,” she says. Though at first the sport may feel intimidating, Hodson says don’t be afraid to fail. “It took me an entire year to catch my first fish on the fly. I had no clue what I was doing.” It wasn’t until Hodson found a few mentors and took a fly fishing level one class that she got better and started to catch fish. “Time on the water is truly the only way to get better.”

Hodson points out that for anglers or anyone looking to recharge their batteries on a quiet stretch of water, the Inland Northwest is truly blessed. She rattles off the names of iconic fly fishing rivers and notes that we have 50 lakes within 50 miles of Spokane. “Most you can drive to and there are still a few hidden gems that you can hike into and not see another angler.” //

 

[Feature photo: Todd Moen]