This year marks 6 years since I first embarked on my fly fishing education. That 27 year old girl, who mindlessly picked up a fly rod for the first time in Colorado, had no idea the river would soon steal her heart and take her places she'd never before recognized within.
Hello, my name is Natalie Bennion and probably just like you, I am a slinging bug addict. I am married to my high school sweetheart, and have 2 annoyi...I mean, adorable children. I wish I could say most of my spare time was spent adventuring, hiking mountains and fly fishing local hidden gems, but the truth is most of my days are spent playing with dinosaur figurines, pretending my carpet is hot lava, and competing in Candy Land matches. I currently reside in the grand potato state of Idaho. I am proud to live somewhere where fashion trends from 10 years ago are still poppin'. It is truly one of the most beautiful and underrated places in the world.
My first experience picking up a fly rod was frustrating, awkward and clumsy. (Who am I kidding... I'm still clumsy) It was a bitter-cold morning in the middle of Fall on the Cache la Poudre river in Fort Collins, CO. I wore no name waders, a ski coat, my husband's (much too large) chest pack and negotiated with a complete stranger on the internet for a cheap fly rod. Despite my rookie awkwardness, after catching my first trout, I was hooked. (Quite literally... I think I snagged myself, and the trees behind me, at least 20 times that day.)
I get asked often, "why do you fly fish?"
I originally began fly fishing to escape the rat-race and the big city of Denver, CO. My husband and I were new to the state, didn't have any friends or family, we were dirt poor, in the thick of Grad school, and had a cute 2 year old tagging along with us. It was truly our escape and our own little slice of heaven that we created for our small family. Since I was a young girl, I noticed that the men in my family would "take-off" during our family get-togethers. It was the men who went hiking, they would go on snow-mobile rides, golfing, shooting guns, and eventually they decided to take up fly-fishing. It was always the men who disappeared for hours on-end while the women stayed home, watched over the children, cooked meals and just kind of "hung out" until the boys arrived back home. I dreaded these trips when I was younger. I never found them to be enjoyable, and I never understood why the girls didn't tag along. When I had my own baby for the first time, I decided that I wanted something different for my family and for myself. I wanted to create memories with my kids that I was in too. I want my son and daughter to see photographs of me adventuring, hiking and fly fishing with them. I wanted to be part of these experiences. I wanted unity in my home, and what better place than nature to create that?
Since the early days of learning and crafting this sport, I have grown, evolved, watched my husband graduate school, moved our home, dug deep into motherhood and welcomed another baby to our family. Shifting into a new phase of live has been wonderful, but also cames with its challenges. With the evolution of maturing my "why" on the river also shifted. Over the past few years, my time on the river has taught me to be patient with myself. We all experience differently seasons throughout life, and it's taken me time to appreciate those different moments, or seasons. There have been moments to shine, and times to step-back and act as a supportive role. There have been moments to focus on me, and moments to selflessly give more than I knew I was capable of. Becoming a mother has been my favorite thing about me. It brings me more happiness than anything else in this world. However, in the same breath, it isn't easy. It grows my heart while simultaneously breaks it. I've finally concluded, just like a flower nothing in nature blooms all year. I don't need to bloom all year, and its okay. As author Cheryl Strayed would say, "how wild it is, to let it be."
My "why" for fly fishing is different now than it was 6 years ago. But my love and passion for it remains the same. Wading on the river these days represents a moment to recharge my battery. My "why" is more selfish than it used to be. It is my moment to reprioritize the kind of mother, wife, friend and daughter I want to be. It is a moment I get to have to myself that no one else can interrupt. I love that about fly fishing. It is therapy to so many anglers for different reasons.
Personal growth is exactly that...personal. With age we are continually re-defining ourselves. One of the great challenges that all of us have in life is to define ourselves. Who are we? What are we capable of doing? What do we have to offer that no one else can? For we sense almost from the beginning of our life that we are indeed unique. And as we grow we continue to build on that individuality, learning differently, seeing differently, acting differently, in effect building our own set of life's filters through which we become the person that we are.
Fly fishing has become a part of who I am. My love for this sport runs deeper than just creating good memories with my children. It truly keeps me grounded, and reminds me to choose true joy.
I will end with one of my favorite quotes from legend female angler, Gretchen Leger, "As we begin to move, to gather speed, something begins to gather in me--it comes slowly, then faster, then comes all at once, like a river of heat rolling up from my toes, filling the hollowness of my body, making my scalp prickle, my fingers tremble. This is joy, this thing I was so unaccustomed to not so long ago. I have changed. I close my eyes and see a glimmering girl emerge from a silver trout, lithe and shining, running, calling, calling me, calling me by name." - A Different Angle (Edited by Holly Morris)