At the request of one of my good friends, I am writing this blog entry to give a little background on my relationship with my #1 fishing partner... but I can't give Jenny all the credit here. I must admit that Howard of Wind Knots & Tangled Lines also inspired me by writing his blog entry entitled "Who is your fishing partner?"
Well, to answer your question Howard, Kelly is my fishing partner. She is my girlfriend, and despite the traditional association of fishing with male bonding... and even as an escape from the women in our lives... I would rather go fishing with her than any other person I know.
You see, Kelly and I see eye to eye on more than just fishing. We have similar perspectives on the natural world and life in general. Certainly we have our differences, and that's what makes us individuals, but for lack of a better way to express it... Kelly "gets me"... and I do my best to try and "get her." For those readers whom I may have just lost in slang translation... we understand each other on a deeper level than most. To illustrate this point using an example from our times fishing together, Kelly is the first person I have ever fished with whom I have had to tell "it's time to go." I can honestly say that I've never told anyone that except her. I always want to make the last cast just in case there's one more good fish to be caught. Kelly almost always makes the last cast now when we go fishing... and I totally understand.
Like me, Kelly is a biologist by virtue of education, but an education in biology does not make one a naturalist. A naturalist is a person who has a keen eye for the natural world... an observer of nature... a person like Kelly. I thought I had a keen eye, but she challenges me at every turn. She is one of the very few people in this world who can claim that she has spotted a snake in the woods before I did. (In my defense I was looking to the skies for Bald Eagles at least once when this happened, but it has happened more than once so I guess she really is that good.) Very often when we go fishing, Kelly gets distracted by the natural world around her, and so do I. I'll never forget watching her fascination with the abundance of life in the Spring River (AR) that becomes so apparent at night. I knew she was special then, but it certainly wasn't the first time. There was the time at Cypress Creek (AL) when I said "you know this would be a great place to find Stripeneck Musk Turtles" and she promptly reached down and picked one up as if they were easy to find. I can assure you... they aren't that easy. I've wasted a lot of time looking for Stripenecks with limited success... I can count less than 15 wild Stripeneck Musk Turtles that I have ever seen.
Interestingly, Kelly and I met at a party at a zoo... among the animals. It took place at a zoo where I was previously employed, and there was an expectation for me to show up as a representative of the zoo. I was less than excited about going and I almost stayed at home. Let's just say I'm really glad I decided to go. September 6, 2008 was a night that changed my life for the better.
Early on I knew Kelly was special because she made reference to butterflies as "Leps" during one of our first phone conversations. To try to explain, butterflies are insects of the Order Lepidoptera... which she abbreviated to just "Leps." This abbreviation is not something that your average girl who puts a butterfly sticker on her school folder would know. "Leps" was sexy. Sounds ridiculous, but butterflies are very special to me because I spent two years working with them at the Memphis Zoo. Kelly and I have a shared interest in our "scale winged" friends.
On our second date weekend, I decided to try and introduce Kelly to fly fishing. I didn't think it was much of a risk, because I knew from our first date and our several long phone conversations that she was quite an accomplished outdoorswoman already. (How many girls do you know who have a trophy whitetail buck hanging on the wall?) Fortunately for me, Kelly's dad introduced her to hunting and fishing at a very young age so going fly fishing on a second date wasn't a hard sell. We went to a nearby state park lake and Kelly managed to catch a Bluegill on her first day of fly fishing. I took pictures.
Early success probably helped keep her interested, but I like to think she would have tried fly fishing again just to be in my company...
OK... thank you Mrs. Bluegill for being cooperative!
Kelly even came fully prepared with her own pair of Costa Del Mar polarized fishing sunglasses.
Fly fishing has become a big part of our life, and I probably fish more now than ever because of Kelly. It is our thing we do together. It definitely isn't the only thing we do together, but since this blog is mostly about fly fishing I'll leave it at that. Fly fishing has taken us to some beautiful natural places, and I regularly dream about the places we have yet to go. (See last blog post for details.)
I know that soon enough, Kelly and I will be married... and I wouldn't be any luckier if I caught a new World Record Brown Trout... I already caught the best fly fishing partner a boy could ask for.