My only fishing experience took place at age 7 when my cousin swung her rod around and somehow hooked my nose. The hook was so well-lodged that the emergency room doctors had to drill a hole through my septum and pull the danged thing out the other side. Happily, Heather Hodson’s unbridled enthusiasm for fly fishing, radiant smile and welcoming demeanor are disarming and infectious, and she won me over as soon as we met.
Hodson is the founder of Spokane Women on the Fly (SWOTF), a group of women interested in fly fishing, which has more than 60 active members ages 15 to 75. “My vision for the group is a way for like-minded women to network and have fishing partners as well as friends in the Inland Northwest,” Hodson says. “Most of the women who’ve become a part of the group haven’t had much fly fishing experience, which is just fine,” she promises. SWOTF is an active, friendly, welcoming group that organizes dozens of events throughout the year.
Fly Fishing 101: These women-only, 4-hour introduction classes offer a flood of practical information. Hodson teaches the classes, which are limited to six women, and she warns students that they’ll only absorb 25 percent of the material. “But that’s okay!” she continues, “because the most important concepts are learned on the water.” The class starts with a 3-hour indoor presentation and discussion about gear, knots, entomology, rigging, etiquette, and fish handling. The last hour takes place outside, where Hodson teaches students how to assemble the rod, reel and line and then how to cast. “Patience and finesse are often the two hardest things for students to master,” says Hodson. She coached me to “slow it down and even it out,” reminding me of what Norman Maclean described in “A River Runs Through It” as “an art that is performed on a four-count rhythm between 10 and 2 o’clock.”
Hackle and Hops: The SWOTF Hackle and Hops fly-tying events are a good place to become conversant in fly fishing lingo and to learn how to transform some thread, a couple of chicken feathers and a hook into something that strongly resembles a bug good enough to eat. (At least that’s what you hope the fish will think.) The Hackle and Hops events are open to all women (even newbies like me who had never picked up a rod, much less a fly-tying vice, before.). These events are limited to 15 women to ensure that everyone gets personalized instruction. I tied four flies in the time it took the experienced ladies to tie 12, but every single one of them encouraged me as I squinted at the ball of fuzz that eventually hatched into a passable nymph.
Fishing Outings: SWOTF members take turns hosting fishing outings in local waters. “We’re happy taking ladies to the outings and teaching them,” Hodson explains, and several SWOTF members agree. Kim Palmer, a nurse at Sacred Heart and Valley Hospitals, has been with the group since its start in 2014, but she was new to fly fishing when she joined. “We have an amazing group of ladies who love to fish, tie flies and do life together,” Palmer says.
Several SWOTF ladies recollect their hesitations when they were new to fly fishing. Jodi Fitts, Vice President of Spokane Fly Fishers, remembers that “I got the rod, a float tube and some neoprene waders for Christmas. I was completely clueless and had no idea how to go forward.” Graphic Designer Deanna Camp had a familiar fear in a male-dominated sport: “I didn’t want to be sized up by guys who have been fishing their whole lives.” Hilary Hart, SWOTF/Trout Unlimited Women’s Initiatives Chair, wanted to avoid “fishing alone. Joining a club, particularly Spokane Women on the Fly, has helped solve that problem for me.”
It’s hard to find a SWOTF member who doesn’t rave about the group — or about Heather Hodson. They appreciate her labor of love; indeed, Hodson invests 40 hours per week in SWOTF in addition to her full-time nursing job. There is no cost to get involved with SWOTF, although some of the individual events have minimal fees to cover costs. “I’m not doing this to make money,” says Hodson. “I’m doing it to remove any obstacle to fly fishing that a woman might perceive.”
For more information about Spokane Women on the Fly, visit Spokanewomenonthefly.com. //
Women’s Fly Fishing Events
- May 1: Rocky Ford Walk and Wade Outing
- May 6: Hackle and Hops: Gypsy King
- May 17: Gear Set-Up and Casting Practice
- May 21: Women’s Fly Fishing 101 Introduction Class
- June 13-14: Women’s Fly Fishing 101 Introduction Class
- July 8-10: Priest Lake Outing
- July 11-12: Women’s Fly Fishing 101 Introduction Class
- July 22-24: Second Annual Women’s Tiger Muskie Weekend
- August 12-14: St. Joe Walk and Wade Outing
- August 15-16: Women’s Fly Fishing 101 Introduction Class
- September 12-13: Women’s Fly Fishing 101 Introduction Class