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A Fishing Family

February 26, 2021

I am one of life’s rarities, one who comes from a long line of fly fishermen and whose life has constantly been influenced by fishing. In many ways, fishing has been the subtext of my entire life and those around me. Let me explain.

My father was a fly fisherman, my mother was a fly fisherman and their parents were fly fishermen with the exception of my father’s mother. My sister and brother were fishermen, my wife is a fly fisherman and I have been a fly fisherman since the age of  four.

Let’s start with me and work up the fishing tree. I first handled a fly rod on the Owens River in Northern California as a small child. I wasn’t a natural like Paul McClean but the next 68 years put a whole lot of experience and learning behind me. I have fished in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, Mexico, Italy, Germany. Austria and Slovenia. That’s a lot of miles of streams and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. But no matter what stream I’m on at any given moment, I always think back to those who went before me and those in my family who still  surround me both physically and spiritually.

A Nice Steelhead on the Smith River, Oregon 1999

Next my siblings: My sister could handle a rod very well when she was just a small girl. I remember well getting skunked when I was a kid in Wyoming while she won the day. She had a ton of encouragement from my father. My brother was also a fisherman in his youth but has since given it up as an adult. All three of us children were always on the river with our father as kids. We learned, we practiced and we were all successful fishermen.

My father was a fly fisherman his whole life since he was about five years old in Utah. He later became nationally known as a fly fisherman, fly tier and conservationist. In his later years, he designed and helped build the Indian Creek Salmon Hatchery on the lower Rogue River near Gold Beach, Oregon. Even in his mid-eighties, he could double haul a long line on the Rogue River with the very best of them. For a full account, read my book The Blackest of Canyons and Other Micro Tales of Fly Fishing.

Dad With a Nice German Brown on the Owens River, California 1956

My mother was an unlikely fisherman. She was not born “outdoorsy” but had learned how to fish from her father and husband. While she loved the outdoors, she had three children to raise and that was a full time job back in the 1950’s. I never saw her actually fish but a few times but I have seen the photos from when she and my father were first married. In one photo she has a nice five pound Brown in hand. I still have the custom bamboo fly rod my father made for her as well as the matching one he made for himself.  She retired from fishing when she was about 30.

My father’s father was also a fishermen in Wyoming before his early death at the age of 38. I don’t know about his native Tirol but I suspect that he did some fishing there as well, probably by hand as was the custom then.  His wife, also from the Tirol, was not into fishing as most women of the era were more apt to be found in the home. They were from the “Old Country” and as such each had their place. Hers was in the kitchen. In fact she was the chief cook at the Alpino Refugio on the shores of Lake Tret, Italy in the late 1800s where her specialty was (what else?) trout.

My mother’s father was an avid fly fisherman since the age of five. He grew up in Pike County, Missouri and in Anaconda, Montana and learned the craft from his father, a pioneering outdoorsman, fly fisherman and hunter. He fished the Owens River extensively in its early days as he was involved with the building of the Mono Tunnel. I learned a lot from him as did my father. Fishing was almost his entire life (Yes, he hunted too.) His father and brother were also very experienced fly fishermen, hunters and true mountain men. For a full account, read my book: The Horse Whisperers from Anaconda.

Lee Allen in the Owens River gorge, California 1958.

My mother’s mother was also a fly fisherman, probably in part because her husband was always on the stream. Her early days in California were filled with fishing opportunities in and around the Sierra Mountains. Judging by this photo she was also pretty handy with firearms.

Edna Byron Allen With Her 12 Gauge Shotgun

Let’s not forget my wife. She learned fly fishing from the expert (Not me, my father!) and has plied the waters of California, Oregon, Montana, Wyoming, Mexico and Europe with me by her side. She has a slightly better cast than I do and is very hard to out-fish on a good day. She has extreme patience and proves that the stream is not the sole domain of men.

Rachel Rizzi With  A German Brown On The Clark Fork, Deerlodge, Montana 1993.

As you can see, I am surrounded by a fishing family. Apparently, it’s in the genes. To all of you fellow fly fishermen out there, tight lines!

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4 Comments
  1. Wow. Those are some nice fish.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I, too, am a rarity. I am the ONLY fisherman in my family, let alone the only fly fisherman. I have absolutely no idea why, but I’m glad I am . . . a fly fisherman. It was fun learning about your fishing family. I’m glad I’m part of it . . . at least peripherally. Tight lines to you, too, my friend. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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