By Mike Benbow Special to The Herald
April Vokey, of Chilliwack, B.C., is the owner of Fly Gal Ventures, a business that provides fly fishing guides and seminars for male and female anglers as well as equipment and clothing.
Vokey, 29, started the business at age 23, but she’s been fishing much longer. When she got her driver’s license at 16, she started taking herself to the river to learn more about catching steelhead.
Now she guides regularly on the Dean and the Skeena rivers, two of world’s best for wild steelhead.
Vokey, a casting instructor certified by the Federation of Fly Fishers, is a fly fishing ambassador for apparel and gear manufacturer Patagonia. She writes a column about steelhead fishing for Fly Fusion magazine and speaks about fly fishing and fly tying around the world.
She recently met with members of the Evergreen Fly Fishing Club in Marysville to talk about the sport. Afterward, she answered six questions from The Herald:
Q: Clubs like this one are mostly comprised of older men. What would you like to tell women about fly fishing?
A: It has always been a shame to me that fly fishing is perceived as a man’s sport. There is truly nothing overly masculine about it.
When explaining one’s desire to fly fish, finesse, timing, passion, excitement, intrigue and dedication are all descriptives that come to mind, descriptives that are not sole features of either gender.
I urge women who have not given this sport a try to skip their next yoga class or hike. Tranquility or excitement, whatever it is that you’re looking for, why not follow Mother Nature to the river instead? What if you absolutely love it?
Q: What would you like to tell young people in general about fly fishing?
A: This is an important question for me. I truly believe that we as human beings have forgotten what our natural inclinations are. We turn so quickly to computers and social networking that many of us have forgotten that we are here to exist, survive … to live!
Fishing is one of the last sports where we may truly dig into our inner selves, into the deep embodiment of who we are at our core, and spend the quality time that we need for mental clarity, sincere independence, and satisfaction of reward.
I am a catch and release advocate with many fisheries, and while I’m not trying to spread the word that we all need to go out and kill, I believe it is important that we at least all get outside to gain appreciation for who we once were and who we have the potential to be.
Q: What got you interested in fly fishing?
A: Nobody in my family really fished when I was young, but my parents would bring my sister and I down to the river to explore and seek adventure. Inevitably, during the salmon run, we found a washed-up (still chrome) chinook salmon. I was fascinated at a very early age that such a large creature had to journey through such a narrow commute. Putting the equation together, I figured that the limited space made my chances of catching one higher. Years later, the week I got my driver’s license, there was no keeping me away from the river.
Q: What has fly fishing meant to you?
A: Fly fishing (fishing in general for that matter), has truly been a life-saver for me.
I grew up in a rough neighborhood (Surrey, B.C.) and had friends that I shouldn’t. When things got rough around me, I went fishing to escape. It cleared my mind, strengthened my independence and showed me just how little I was when trekking through the forest.
I soon realized that life is so much more than what I was being exposed to in the city, and before long I moved away from it all to the country. I found myself on the river and continue to find myself every single day that I step foot in that water.
Q: What’s your favorite fish and why?
A: Wild steelhead. They were always the draw to me. With a name like steelhead, how could a 16-year-old not be intrigued?
They were wild, hard to catch, fierce, angry and mean. I saw them as a metaphor and as corny as it may sound, related to them for it.
It’s been almost 15 years of chasing these beauties, and I still cannot get enough. I don’t always need to catch one, but I always need to know that they’re there.
Q: You’ve developed a successful business based on fly fishing. What advice would you give someone trying to start a business from what most people would consider a hobby or pastime?
A: I would say to follow your heart and don’t ever let anyone tell you no.
We only live one time. Once. It can be a scary thought; a potential pay cut, a zero-guarantee gamble. But life is too short to be small, and if 50 hours of your week is spent doing something that you count down the hours waiting for it to be over, then perhaps it is time to ask yourself just how much living you really are doing?
The things that mean the most are never the things that come the easiest.
You can find out more fishing trips and workshops, and check out April Vokey’s blog, at www.flygal.ca. Or follow her on Twitter: @ AprilVokey.