I recently had a bad case of “Island fever”, a condition where you feel weird – you know something is off, but not quite sure. Then you have an “Ah ha!” moment, and realize it’s time to get off the rock. Living in San Pedro, Belize is amazing in so many ways, but sometimes a gal needs to see some dirt. Like beautiful gardens, and goats running around – things that don’t occur on this island. Pat and Colleen have a 25 foot high bow launcha with a 90 Yamaha. They love to explore and God knows, they love their fishing – but sometimes they like to party instead of driving the boat. So when they asked me to captain them over to Sartenjena, I said yes!
Sartenjena is a small village in northern Belize, close to Mexico. It’s been a fishing town forever – there are no paved roads. There is one super clean hotel right on the beach called Fernando’s. It costs $50 US a night and you have everything you need. I fell in love with the place right off the bat. But let’s back up.
A big part of “me” is exploring. I love it. I have been addicted to adrenaline and non-adrenaline sports – pushing myself to discover something new all my life. I feel comfortable as a fly fishing guide on my home waters of Ambergris Caye, but driving on new waters scared the hell out of me. I remember the older fishing guides telling me they used to drive over to Sartenjena for a day trip from San Pedro to find the big tarpon over there. The deal is you have to drive around “Rocky Point.” From the mainland about a mile out, there are huge rocks that appear out of nowhere and can really mess up your boat. I have heard “Rocky Point” forever, and now I’m driving there!
Pat, Collen and Diana were well into their beer. I think they started at 9 or so. I was paying attention to Pat, because even though she was enjoying her morning beverage, she was on it with the chart and calling out directions. “Stay at 03 North!” Which was pretty much the deal. Approaching Rocky Point, I felt like I was entering another world – another land – and I didn’t know what to expect. The east wind started blowing hard at around 30mph. I was completely gripped on that steering wheel and throttle. I started hearing stories about how they went fishing on Good Friday – a huge “no no” around here. It means you could have bad luck for the next year. So all of this information is piling up, and I’m thinking what have I got myself into this time.
All for the “love of self expression!,” I’m talking to myself. Another big IF sign.
Pat and Collen have been friends for forty-four years. They met in their mid-twenties as biology professors teaching at a University. They are just fun to be around. Colleen has never married and has seen Pat now on her forth husband. They love to laugh, explore and as I mentioned, fish. They are not fly fishing women – they like to bring in the fish. They spend several months a year here in San Pedro, and then return to South Carolina. Pat’s husband shows up here and there. He knew what he was getting into when he married Pat – nothing changes adventure trips with Colleen.
As soon as we docked the boat, I was running around. Walking all the back roads I found beautiful gardens and expansive ranches with yes, goats, horses, chickens. I even found a new fly fishing guide business! Small town – I ended up meeting the guides on the beach. Of course we were a big commotion. They don’t see a boat load of women showing up everyday – especially with a woman captain. We had a blast.
That’s all it took. A few days off the island, and doing something scary new that made me feel alive again. I came home renewed – a much nicer fishing guide and better mom to my dog, Panga. I also found I was checking in again with my beloved family and friends – which can get ignored sometimes and needs attention.
Creating new experiences for me and my business is what I do. It’s a way for me to express myself. As an avid sportswoman, there is always something in nature that reveals some mystery. And now, beyond this, we have a growing number of women choosing to embrace these very same experiences. Just this past April the Orvis Company held a “Leadership Course Lab for women who fly fish. ” I think everyone at that gathering came away feeling “bigger” in some way. I was not there, but I could sense the emotion from the blogs and reports from afield. And what do I mean, “bigger?” It’s that feeling where you don’t limit yourself – expectations change – amazing things happen, and mostly, you feel like yourself. You are owning how you express yourself.
This is also a major mission with Able Women. As a team of fly fishing women we are reaching beyond the fly fishing community to bring fly fishing, and our life discoveries from the field – to share.
At the top of summer I’m wishing for everyone a chance to do something new – try a new fly fishing destination, take a new hike, write a new song, drive a boat somewhere or row a boat somewhere – share your adventures with your people in your life. As you do, you will define your self expression.