The Lightbulb Just Went Off—in Belize

All It Takes to Change Your Fly-Fishing Life

My husband Michael has been rowing a drift boat down Oregon rivers as a fly-fishing guide for over two decades. He’s memorized every rock, eddy and bend in the waters that he considers his other “homes.” He has taught scores of people how to fly-fish and introduced veterans to the secret holding waters on the McKenzie, Deschutes and Rogue rivers.

I, too, love to fish. After years—15 to be exact—of listening to my husband, you would think that I would be nearing the expert stage of my fishing career. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Which begs a quintessential question about my marriage: had I really been listening to Michael all these years?

Recently, we had the great fortune to partake in several days of guided fly-fishing in the Caribbean country of Belize. Famous saltwater guide, Eworth Garbutt, was our guide and the person responsible for finally turning my fly-fishing lightbulb on.

In between swatting the “no-see-ums” and applying sunscreen to Central Oregon arms that had not seen sun in many months, I managed to hear Garbutt say one small thing. This one tip—relatively simple sounding if you take it just off the cuff—changed my fly-fishing life.

“Sarah, pretend your elbow is resting on a table when you cast,” he explains. “Your cast is most efficient if your whole arm doesn’t move.”

With just a few practice casts utilizing Garbutt’s new visual, I was able to cast my fly line and land my artificial fly—colorfully named “gummy minnow”—an additional 15’ past where I was able to cast it previously. The extra 15’ of length was enough to get in front of a handful of bonefish—a wily, hard-pulling species that cause even veteran fly-fishermen to scream with delight when they hook one. Garbutt’s one simple suggestion allowed me to land my first bonefish and in the beautiful, inviting country of Belize.

A QUINTESSENTIAL QUESTION ABOUT MY MARRIAGE: had I really been listening to Michael all these years?

Michael wasn’t with me when I landed my first bonefish. He had graciously taken a day off to allow myself, and two other friends, to fish with Garbutt in his smaller, flats boat for the day. On one hand, it would have been nice for Michael to be present as I hooked this exciting gamefish. But, on the other hand, perhaps this fishing outing—sans the fly-fishing guide husband—was exactly what I needed to have my breakthrough moment in Belize.