I went to Wyoming’s Snake River in search of fish. I found a new connection to my dad.

Fly Fishing in Jackson, Wyoming
Jay Nel-McIntosh

I am not the most outdoorsy girl in the world. While I can be swayed toward a camping trip on occasion—though only with a meticulously planned menu and glamping-style tents—I’ll rarely be the one to suggest a hike or similar form of adventure.

My father is the complete opposite. He skis black-diamond trails, goes deep-sea fishing in the Pacific, and has a pop-up tent on top of his Toyota Tacoma. When I’m home in Oakland for the holidays, I might catch him stepping out of the house at 5 a.m. to go throw some flies in Lake Merritt in preparation for a fly-fishing expedition, or sorting through boxes of bait at the kitchen counter.

I usually leave the catching of the fish to him (and he leaves the cooking to me), though I have always found fly fishing intriguing. While I admittedly thought it had to do with catching flying fish (which, in my defense, are real) I saw a picture of my dad wearing waders, standing in a lake, in a Simms ad (seriously, he is super outdoorsy) and thought it looked like a good time.

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When the opportunity to try to catch some trout first-hand on one of the most notorious bodies of water in the West came my way, I thought, Why the heck not? I packed my bags and headed to the Snake River in Wyoming.

Fly Fishing school in Jackson, Wyoming

Jay Nel-McIntosh

Fortunate as I am to be the daughter of a fly-fishing pro, I knew nothing of catching fish and dared not to venture out without expert assistance. Instructors at the Jackson Hole Fly Fishing School took me through a course on flies—which ones sit on top of the water, which sink beneath the surface—and fish native to the area prior to stepping into our gear.

The team also led me through a casting lesson on land, which greatly improved not only my confidence but also my actual cast. Then I gave it a go thigh-deep in rushing water.

An easy way to get a bite, I was told, is to cast your fly into the current and allow it to drift downstream until it is out of sight, and then recast. As someone whose vision is nowhere near 20/20, I must say that it is much harder to keep track of a fly in a large, moving body of water than it seems. Twenty minutes later, I was still casting, with no fish paying me or my flies any attention.

Fly Fishing in Jackson, Wyoming

Jay Nel-McIntosh

So there I was, the Tetons topped with snow in the background, casting my fly over and over, determined to catch a fish, when the person next to me exclaimed that they got a bite. Everyone ran over, someone scooped a small trout up into a net, and all of us cheered because a fish was, in fact, caught—regardless of who was holding the rod.

My shoulder was starting to tire from casting, my feet were beginning to get chilly through my socks, waders, and boots, and I was thinking more about how I wanted to cook a trout than the actual act of catching it—even with rod still in hand—so I asked to take a picture with that lone fish before we threw it back in. I sent off the image to my dad with a cryptic message about how a fish was caught, not explaining exactly by whom, and decided to call my first fly-fishing experience a success.

Rope bridge in Jackson, Wyoming

Jay Nel-McIntosh

Upon my next visit home, my dad greeted me with a sticker that said “I SUCK AT FLY FISHING.” It now lives permanently on my laptop as a reminder of the humbling experience of coming home with no fish for dinner.

But I know if I sneak out to throw flies with him in the wee hours of the morning, a fish will one day bite.


At Jackson Hole’s most popular fishing experience destination, you can choose the class that fits your fishing interests. Curious to learn more about the ins and outs of fly fishing? An introductory class on the basics of fly fishing starts at $60. Or you can join a three-day trout school that covers the basics of casting, types of flies, wading, and more for $1,875.

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