Sunday, November 27, 2022

Gals with Griffons

Many years ago, while mulling over my finances, I wondered to a friend how much money I could save by going deer hunting. After my friend described the costs (license, gun, ammunition for practice and hunting, processing, and freezer storage) and difficulties (I realized I'd have to get the deer to jump into the truck before I dispatched it--yes, I know that's illegal, I was kidding!), I decided to go on sneaking up to meat in the frozen food aisle.

Two women and three dogs next to a gray truck get ready to go hunting.

But then I met Tawna Skinner, Anita Andrus, and their assorted wire-haired pointing griffons. Tawna invited me to watch them train their dogs at a wetland near town. I saw dogs and people working together to catch and retrieve wild birds--just the right size for me to wrestle into the truck. I still don't hunt my own meat, but I've learned about remarkable human-canine partnerships. I wrote about them in Gals with Griffons, in the fall, 2022 issue of Big Sky Journal. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Casting From the Shoulders of a Giant

 In 1960, 34-year-old Joan Cummings — later to become Joan Wulff — used a one-handed bamboo fly rod to cast 161 feet and set an unofficial women’s record. Unofficial because there was no women’s distance division in casting events at the time; Joan competed with the men.

In 2018, 14-year-old Maxine McCormick used a graphite rod to cast 161 feet in a similar one-handed event, matching Joan’s distance. This time, McCormick set an official women’s record at the World Championship of Flycasting and followed that up with a 189-foot cast in the two-handed distance event, another one of the six women’s events.

Joan Wulff casting in Canada in 1997.

Although the distance of McCormick’s record-setting cast was the same as Joan’s, competitive casting and fly fishing had undergone a sea change in the intervening six decades. “The arc of Joan’s life perfectly encompasses the development of modern fly fishing,” says Tom Pero, fishing writer and long-time friend of Joan’s, “from her graceful tournament casting with heavy bamboo rods and high-maintenance silk lines during the 1940s, to her flawless teaching with ultralight graphite rods and synthetic lines into the 2000s.”

The First Lady of Fly Fishing, as she is known, has both witnessed and helped bring about changes in fishing tackle and gear, along with influencing the popularity, demographics, and conservation ethos of the sport. Over her life and career, Joan Wulff, now 95, built a strong foundation for fly fishers, both women and men.

Read more of my latest article at Big Sky Journal.