Member Spotlight-Linday Rowland

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1) What came first for you, painting or fly fishing? I’ve been drawing or painting for as long as I can remember, but my mom got me my first fly tying kit when I was 10 – one with the clamp vise, some materials, and little book with a dozen or so patterns. I didn’t know what to do with any of the tools so I broke off as much thread as I thought I needed and proceeded to tie flies with my little hands (no bobbin). I think those were some of the best-looking flies I’ve ever tied! I tied mosquitoes and big blue houseflies. We had chickens and peacocks – I was always yanking feathers out of something. I spent hours sitting on the floor with that vice clamped to a coffee table. My first big fly tying purchase was Lefty’s book, Saltwater Fly Patterns after I’d exhausted the patterns in my little kit book. There were squid variations hanging from every cup in the china cabinet for years, probably until the ’04 hurricanes when the house flooded and it all got packed up. I would say painting and tying flies hit at about the same time, but I didn’t actually pick up a fly rod and fish any of those flies until much later. I competed in the National Junior Duck Stamp for years while in school – I placed every year and won Best in Show for the state twice. I bet Bill Sargent remembers that! He came to Holy Trinity to take a photo of me and my wood duck entry and wrote an article in the paper. It wasn’t until my last semester of college that I drew anything fish-related. I took a filler art class for an easy A (was actually a difficult A) and my final project was a still-life of my fly rod and reel. After that is when I really got into drawing/painting fish.

2) How did you get into fly fishing and where? As previously stated, I started tying when I was around around 10. But, it was actually my second year of college that I picked up a fly rod (2009). My family used to go up to the smokies (Boone, Gatlinburg, Maggie Valley) once a year or so and I would always bring my little 4’ Ugly Stik ultralight and a few rooster tails. I lived for going up there to trout fish. I went to Berry College in Rome, Ga and that was only a few hours from some of the best trout fishing east of the Rockies. I had my ultralight in tow. I went up to the South Holston in Bristol one weekend and outfished everybody there with salmon eggs and little gold spoons. Once I had my limit (that I brought back and cleaned in the girls’ dorm community bathrooms)  I stuck around a bit to watch all the guys fly fishing and decided I wanted to learn. I picked up a cheap fly rod/reel combo, took all those flies I’d tied, and started heading up to the South Holston every few weekends and between YouTube videos and trial and error I taught myself how to fly fish. I learned on headwaters and trout. When I graduated in 2012 and came back to FL, I dove into saltwater fly fishing and really honed in on my casting skills. Now when I make it back up to the SoHo, I always hear guys on the water say things to the effect of “man, that girl can cast” as I double-haul streamers from one side of the river to the other. Getting a fly in front of a tarpon or bonefish is a little different than gently positioning one upwind of a trout. The salt definitely improved my casting.

3) What is your favorite fish to fly fish for and why? I have to pick one? Down here I would have to say redfish – I love sight fishing tailing reds. I’ve only caught one bonefish, but I loved it. Tarpon are one of the coolest fish at any size. Pompano are a blast on fly and are my favorite eating fish. Overall I’d have to say you can’t beat being in waist-deep, 40 degree water with a backdrop of mountains and browns rising all around you though. I’d have to say browns or cutthroat are my favorite.

4) Favorite Fly you like to use and why? It’s gonna cost ya if you want my favorite fly to use on the South Holston, but I’ll say my favorites down here are schminnows or sliders. Schminnows because I’ve yet to find something that won’t eat them. And sliders because I love pitching them under mangrove edges for redfish. Gurglers are fun too.

5) Favorite fishing place and why? South Holston a little ways below the weir dam – again, that’s where I found the sport and fell in love with it. I got to fish the Gros Ventre a few year ago in Jackson, WY  though and it was incredible. Definitely want to make it back out there. Having thick cutthroat whacking every fly you throw at them at the base of the Tetons was other-worldly.

6) Favorite fish to paint? Why? Redfish and tarpon. I love the colors on redfish, especially their tails. And tarpon are fun to paint because of their reflective qualities – you can make them any color you want them to be.

7) Who is your favorite wildlife artist? I have a bunch, but A.E. Backus (actually a distant relative), a couple Highwaymen, George Hill, Ryan Kirby

8) How come Steve doesn't catch as many fish as you (just kidding) He’s actually probably been out more than I have lately – I’m putting all of my energy into hopefully getting a turkey this spring. I’ve gotten really into hunting the last several years – got my first buck with my bow on public land last year but I’m still trying for a big Osceola gobbler. ‘Came painfully close this past week but my efforts were thwarted. Thursday at 6AM, I took off down a trail alone in the dark I hadn’t hunted before on the east side of Bull Creek but that looked promising on aerial images and found myself in this perfect little clearing at the edge of a huge cypress head. There was a line of oaks with a leaf-litter bottom so I posted up at the base of a tree on the edge and stuck a hen decoy out in the clearing. I yelped a few times as the sun came up but never heard anything. Well after sun-up I let out three more soft yelps - immediately I hear a branch crack and wings in the distance – blocking out the light, is what I thought was a vulture until I see the silhouette headed straight for me and realize it’s a turkey! This bird landed 8 feet from my boot and quickly skittered around behind me – I caught a glance of a tiny beard – it was a jake; Just as I was shifting to prepare for a shot I hear wings again. A second, third, fourth, fifth bird crash to the ground. I was surrounded and was still in a half-twist looking backward and in no position to take a shot. One hen was on the other side of my tree and yelped loudly in my ear. I started purring and she purred back. A second hen stood 20 feet in front of me while I watched another bird – a huge gobbler, out of the corner of my eye behind me. I was shaking and trying not to breathe. I couldn’t move without the hen blowing my cover and sending the birds scattering. Two hens, two jakes and the mature tom. By the time the hen made her way behind me and I was able to move, the tom and jakes were out of range behind some trees. I tried crawling on hands and knees to stay low and follow them, but the leaves and palm fronds were too loud. I decided to fall back and be ready for them Friday morning. My hopes were up about as high as they go – I was the first one in the gate at 5AM and was at my tree, gun in hand by 5:30. Ten minutes before sunrise, here came two guys shining lights everywhere not 50 yards away – I flashed my light and they turned back. I tried to relax and waited for things to settle down again. As the sun rose, I again made a few soft yelps to let the birds know “I” was there again – the silence is broken by a gobble. And another, and another. NO! That wasn’t supposed to happen…he was supposed to stay quiet instead of announcing his presence. Immediately I hear other hunters descending on the area with their excited, unconvincing yelps in search of this loud-mouthed bird. The gobbler clammed up. I hoped maybe they would still fly down. I was ready to go and just waiting for those wings when I heard footsteps instead – here comes another hunter walking right through the clearing the birds might have flown down to any minute. Then he proceeded to look right at me, step behind a tree, and watch me for a bit. I guess he thought he was going to let me call a bird in for him? Rage and disappointment. My hope is that the birds will make it through the weekend and I’ll have another chance during the coming week. Had I not been a fly fisherman first, I’m not sure I would have the patience for turkeys!

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