Photos and Story: 50/50 on the Water at Lee’s Ferry

Written by: Chuck Coolidge

The whole crew poses mid-river at Lee’s Ferry.
Photos courtesy Chuck Coolidge

The first thing my friend Michael and I are often asked by friends and strangers is, “How do you convince your wives to come on these fly fishing trips with you?” Our answer is easy: Holly and Courtney are anglers. When we introduced them to the sport, we took the time to make sure the learning part was enjoyable: we planned a trip to a local fishery with amazing views, great fishing, and beautiful weather. It’s also important to explain to newcomers why we do what we do, start with simple setups, and–most importantly–embrace the scenery with beer breaks. It’s that open mindedness that now drives their new passion for the sport.  

People often tell us that they would love to do the kinds of the trips we do. The next question is usually “How did you get into fly fishing?” followed by fifty or so other questions about the difficulty, the apparel, flies, the lingo, and so on. Sometimes, it seems daunting for people who haven’t had the opportunity to take the first step.  That’s why we decided to host our own 50/50 on the Water adventure.

Cool water, lots of trout, and a gorgeous setting: How could someone not fall in love with the sport?

The Orvis 50/50 on the Water campaign aims to celebrate and inspire women to get involved in the sport of fly fishing by offering education, adventures, apparel, and gear specific for women. It’s this campaign that inspired our team to begin talking about putting together our own trip and inviting some folks who have approached us with interest in learning.  We thought, why not create a similar experience in what we put together for our wives years ago?  

Holly at the helm of our rented boat, which gave us access to more remote parts of the river.

A four-hour drive from the desert of Phoenix takes your through the high pines of Flagstaff toward the painted vistas of Marble Canyon.  Lee’s Ferry marks the beginning of the Grand Canyon, and the tailwater emanating from the Glen Canyon Dam is beautiful. There are two ways to fly fish Lee’s Ferry.  You can easily drive down to the parking area and find great fishing at the walk-in, or you can go upstream to some more of the secluded areas. A great way to go explore the water is to rent a boat from Lees Ferry Anglers, as we did. However, if you’re not proficient in boating we would recommend hiring a guide to take you on the water. The current is quite fast at times, so knowing the waterway is a good idea.  

Gretchen setting up her first bounce rig.

The feedback we received from our participants was amazing.  They were all excited to attend, and we were excited to include some who had never been fly fishing before.  We wanted to take some time on the water to share our knowledge that we have learned over the years in a real-world application–from rig set ups to knots, casting, reading the water and safety.   

 Photo 4: Gretchen setting up her first bounce rig.

Gretchen looks excited for her first trout on a fly.

We spent a few minutes on the basics but quickly put the team into the water. To no one’s surprise, the women quickly picked up on the program and started hooking fish. For several of them, it was their first time having a fish on the line. While I love catching fish myself, it’s almost more exciting to take time to show others and watch them succeed in hooking up.  

Lee’s Ferry is a great spot for events like this because you can fish close, for encouragement, instruction, or razzing.

It was a fantastic first day on the water.  We were able to get everyone on fish early, tangle tons of lines, create snags, and enjoy plenty of laughs.  Within hours, there was a definite camaraderie among these people who had never met before, and they were supporting and encouraging each other in the sport we are so passionate about.

By the end of our trip, this was a tight-knit group of anglers.

By Day Two, there was a sense of confidence that hadn’t been there before.  All of the women were glowing. They knew flies what they wanted to throw, were sure they were going to catch fish, and wanted to learn more.  They were asking to switch to streamers, asking to learn different casts, and some had even mastered the single and double haul by the end of the day. We could see their excitement and growth within the sport–so much so that when we asked if the team wanted to wrap up the day around four p.m. (after eight full hours on the water) to get ready for a sunset dinner, they said “Can we stay for another hour or two?” These ladies were on a mission and we were happy to oblige.

A perfect spot to enjoy a sunset dinner.

We also wanted to take some time off the water to enjoy the amazing area around the river and to let people enjoy each other’s company.  Check out this view (above) from a secret spot that looks out to the Navajo Bridge, with the Colorado running underneath. The new anglers had worked up an appetite and deserved this happy hour dinner location.

We hope that our 50/50 trip has empowered our new fly fishing friends to feel confident enough to go to the local fly shop and ask they questions about getting out on the next lake or river. Fly fishing has always been a community sport.  We have all had teachers and family members who have spent the time to share their knowledge and passion about the sport to us.  Continuing those same traditions we will elevate others to become sportsmen and advocates for the many issues we are so passionate about like public lands, clean waters, etc.  

Cheers, until next time!

Interested in learning more about joining a fishing trip like this? Click here.

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