Q: What do people first starting out with tarpon fishing not understand?
You're not going to get that fish to the boat by getting him in there with your biceps. You will fail. That’s the common mistake. You try to muscle it, like “I'm going to beat this fish,” because you have all of that energy in the beginning. Then you use all of your stamina and your muscles are noodles the rest of the time. It's a very physically demanding sport. You have to train your body like an athlete to do this stuff. You have to have strength throughout your entire body. There's no point muscling a fish when it's green and hot. If it's running, you don’t use your biceps, you would physically fall apart.
Q: So what is the proper technique?
There are different techniques on how to pull on fish. You can tell the difference in the pressure you can put on it by the way that you're using your tool. For me, I use my legs a lot to get leverage on the fish and pull back. You're using your back, you're using your arms, your legs. You're using everything. But you try not to fight the fish while it’s running and you need to know when to put in the effort and when you're just wasting your energy. My dad's been preaching that to me for as long as I've been fishing. He’s always said that there's no reason why being a woman would ever give me a disadvantage in these tournaments or in tarpon fishing because it's not just strength. It's knowing how to control these fish. And when you learn that, you'll put the tarpon in your guide’s hands every time.
Q: What would you recommend for people who are just getting into saltwater fishing?
For people that are new to fly fishing, especially saltwater, I would not recommend starting on tarpon. There's a huge difference in species and I think there are better species to cut your teeth on for just learning the fundamentals. If you're just getting into it, snook and redfish are really fun to start and it can get you more comfortable with your casting because it's not all sight fishing. Then you can start working up to more challenging species and keep going from there. What's so cool about this sport is you can start there and you will continue learning. And if you really love it, the opportunities and the species and the places you can travel are just endless.
Q: What was the most challenging fish you ever caught?
It was the tarpon I caught when we were recording Columbia’s “Why I Fish” video
That fish had it out for me. Woo, she did not like me. And she was not giving up—there was no quit in that fish. It was a very big teaching moment for me because it was extremely difficult. I think everybody has a fish that kind of breaks them a little bit, but not to the point where they want to give up. That was that fish for me.
Q: What was going through your mind while you were fighting that fish?
I knew I couldn't break off the fish and I was working really hard to land because of the whole photo shoot thing. And I knew what my dad had taught me about fighting technique—but even knowing the information in my head, I had a hard time applying it in real time to that fight. I thought, “There has to be a way to help manipulate this fish to ease this process or else these people would not go and land three to five of them in a day. Because you couldn't. If you tried to muscle those fish, you would physically fall apart. So you have to have that fish that kicks your ass to realize, “All right, what do I have to do to learn the technique to be able to not kill myself for these fish?”
Q: What kind of role has your dad played in your career?
Obviously he's one of the top reasons why I fish. It's always what we talked about. Tarpon was like the other brother that was always at the dinner table with us. He created a life doing the thing that he was most passionate about to provide for the people he loved. As he started training me, it became this goal and journey and dream that we have together and that we can share. We can get out there and really explore and accomplish these goals together. It's such a cool bond. The bond with him and the journey together is why I didn't stray away from it. I just fell more in love with it and was more dedicated to these mountain-high goals.