Should You Teach Your Significant Other to Fish?

Carolyn and Fred’s love of fly fishing brought them together.
Photo courtesy Mike Kaul, Two Rivers Emporium

[Editor’s note: You know you’re dealing with a touchy subject when you have to begin with a disclaimer, but here goes: this post is not about gender. The points made here apply equally to men and women when the roles are reversed. I know several couples in which it is the female who is the passionate angler. (Such as my friend, Casey Peltier.) The power dynamics are somewhat different, but the same rules apply. Okay, now that that’s out of the way. . .]

Here’s a question I’ve heard a lot over the years: Is it a good idea to teach your spouse/significant other how to fly fish? In most cases, it’s a man wondering about his wife, but there are certainly women in this role, as well.

In a column I wrote a few years ago on, I laid out the issues this way:

I’ve heard two competing arguments over the years. Uxorious types believe that a wife who knows how to fly fish means the angler will now have a loving partner with whom he can share his passion. Aside from the joys of bonding over a shared love of fishing, this arrangement may also translate to more opportunities to fish, since now you don’t have to split your free time between doing what you want to do (fish) and what the wife wants to do (something else). The counter argument is that a man’s fishing expeditions are a time for him to be away from his partner, giving each some time to breath and recharge. (Of course, if the wife is left home alone with the kids, how much recharging is she doing?) Depending on the relationship, there are merits to each argument. I know husband-wife teams who really enjoy each other’s company on the water, and I’ve guided couples who should never have gotten in a boat together. I leave this decision to each individual angler, his conscience, and his partner.

About ten years ago, I booked a float trip for my wife and me with Reel Women Fly Fishing, a guide service staffed by female guides in Victor, Idaho. I figured that Mary Beth would learn better from a woman—recent Trout Bum of the Week Jennifer Cornell—which turned out to be true. She picked up the sport quickly, and we had a great time. However, she never developed a real passion for fly fishing, and it remains my “thing.” I’m sure she could be great at it because she’s naturally athletic and her casting stroke was good right off the bat, but I’ve never tried to push her to fish more.

Even though she didn’t develop into a true fishing partner, I think that sharing my love for the sport with her was an important step in helping her understand why I want to be on the water so much.

In an article in the Baxter (AR) Bulletin, popular Outdoors columnist John Berry shared his different experience and argues persuasively that teaching his wife to fish many years ago has greatly enriched both his relationship and his angling experiences.

What do you think?

5 thoughts on “Should You Teach Your Significant Other to Fish?”

  1. Some wise words from the author of the linked article, and I agree with many aspects of what he says. As a male who has attempted to instruct his wife, I would disagree slightly and say, if at all possible, don’t demonstrate things. It’s the hardest thing in the world to use your words and describe what could be done, versus grabbing the rod and demonstrating, but if you can create the space for your SO to mess up without your being critical, it will make all the difference. I know that in my life, when I have had the space to screw up in a safe environment, my experience was that I found the contours of the task and adapted to them. And invariably it was a lesson that stuck. Again, it is the hardest part of the entire exercise, and I don’t claim to have mastered that particular aspect, but I know it’s the crux of the matter.

  2. I always wished my wife would want to learn to fish with me. She just isn’t interested but understands my love of fly fishing. That might be why so far ,we’ve had 29 wonderful years together

  3. I have only been fly fishing about 5.5 years. I have been lucky in that my wife has willingly taken up fly fishing with me. I gave her some basic instruction and enrolled her in e fly fishing clinic that we both attended. After a couple of months we went to Lake Tanneycomo and I hired a guide (Carolyn Parker, River Run Outfitters, Branson, MO). This was the first time we really tried to go fly fishing together. What a great experience and my wife had a great time. That was four years ago. We fish together during our travels around the country and she makes it enjoyable because even though she does not go out with me on every outing, she knows what fun it is and does not hold back on allowing me to go fish. And most of the time when she does fish she catches the first one.

  4. There’s a big gulf between “Teaching Your Significant Other” and “Encouraging your significant other to learn to fly fish”. Putting one partner in a teaching role can be disastrous for some couples especially if they’re been together a while and bring all that baggage to the teaching.. Encouraging a partner to take lessons from an experienced teacher is often the best course of action. The partner, imho, is more likely to emerge from the course with a more positive attitude about going forward. Some couples can pull it off, but many can’t.

  5. As the spouse that was taught by her husband, my opinion is- yes! Teach them but only if they are wanting/willing to learn. I’ve been with my husband for 17 years. In year two, he tried to teach me to fly fish but it was not the right time . Roughly 15 years later I came to him and asked him to teach me and I have not looked back since. It’s now the best thing we share and have made countless memories on the water.

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