Editor’s note: Each December we feature the Real Women of Northwest Fishing in our year-end magazine issue, and here are stories from the 2021 edition!
By Amanda Wiles
Entering 2021, I was fully anticipating my fishing and hunting seasons to be heavily affected by Covid. Luckily, this year proved to be yet another one of fun, adventures and new skills learned along the way.
The year started as it always ends, on the beautiful rivers of the Olympic Peninsula, which I would later in 2021 call my second home. Slow fishing was the theme early on, due to rule changes and wild steelhead runs. Yet we looked forward to spring and what it would bring.
I SOON STARTED prepping for my first-ever turkey hunt with a group of ladies who inspired and motivated me more than I am sure they know. What an experience of learning and using skills we already possessed to explore this hunt. We did a great job and put in the effort, but alas, the hunt did not put food in the freezer. However, it did produce excitement and a drive for next year’s turkey hunt.
We learned what to do next time – as well as what not to do. Like calling in a tom and having him so very close to the shooting zone, but then making an error in the call. Researching it later, we found out we told this poor fella to “turn around, there is danger ahead.” All we could do is laugh and add that to our collection of hunting story fail tales. And those trips were full of hunting stories, laughs and genuine heartfelt conversation that I will treasure.
The beginning of summer was an exciting time in my household. My sons and I took a trip with their grandmother to explore Yellowstone. I was so blessed to be able to watch them explore the amazing landscape and wildlife that call Yellowstone their home.
My oldest turned 10 on this trip. On the day of his birthday, I took him on a solo fly fishing trip on the Madison River in Yellowstone. I was overwhelmed with emotion the whole time we were fishing – the beauty of the land, my baby being 10 years old, and the gratitude that I was able to fish this iconic river. It was a special moment we will both share for the rest of our lives.
THE WEATHER AND action heated up as we headed straight into midsummer. Poor planning – or maybe I just like to see what I can put myself through – led to one day being on top of Mount St. Helens and the next being on the Columbia fishing Buoy 10.
This was my third time climbing the volcano and boy, oh boy, it doesn’t get easier with each trip up. It was what I like to call “the surface of the sun” weather that day. But I pushed through and up with a group of the most driven and inspiring women ahead of me. I say ahead because either I have little legs or I’m slow like a turtle, as they were always in front. We reached the top, where it was about 71 degrees; back at the bottom it was 100.
Now, I am a natural red-headed, fair-skinned Norwegian, we are not meant to be in that type of heat. But I didn’t die, and on to Buoy 10 I went! This year’s Lipstick Salmon Slayer tournament was a blast. I have fished with the same group of girls going on five consecutive years now and it is something I look forward to every year. This year after the tournament we set out on an all-ladies day trip of our own and on a female-owned boat. It was another day of slaying, laughing and feeling empowered. It was a great day to remember.
The end of summer brought me to my first offshore salmon trip. While I have been offshore many times, this was my first time on the ocean for Chinook and coho. The day brought beautiful chrome fish, as well as seasickness for me. But I did manage to get one beauty in between spending my time with my face over the side of the boat. Hey, we can’t always be beauty queens while fishing!
IN FALL, NEW adventures would change our daily life. My husband finally had the opportunity to become a guide and is now guiding up in Forks. And with fall salmon season upon us, what a blessing it was for our family to enjoy time together on the river and have its bounty bless our lives.
These rivers and mountains have so much more to offer us than full freezers. The mental healing we get from being in the most beautifully wild places is something to hold on to. We have the gift to explore, learn and grow from mountain tops above to rivers below.