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Fly-fisher spreads the word

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Wanda Taylor is worried. Not long ago, she discovered something that she found contributes to longer life (or at least longer days), better health and a kind of mystical all-around satisfaction — and yet when she looks around, she sees few if any young people or fellow women sharing her discovery.

So she has taken it upon herself to spread the word, to convert the masses, to uplift mankind, by introducing one and all to this elixir of life.

So what is this that she cherishes so much? Christianity? Buddhism? All-day, full-service health spas? How to Become a Millionaire Without a Down Payment?

Nope.

Fly-fishing.


Her own conversion story began when she was 30. That's when she met and fell in love with a man named Gary Taylor. Little did she know she would also fall in love with what Gary did for a living. He was a fly-fishing guide in Tennessee.

What a deal. Two objects of affection.

But for Wanda it wasn't exactly love at first cast. That's because Gary and Wanda unknowingly, and understandably, violated the first rule of learning to fly fish: Never teach your spouse.

There's something that just doesn't work when your beginning technique is constantly corrected, followed by the word, "Dear."

Instead of boycotting fly-fishing altogether, Wanda fled to the Catskills in New York, where she sought out a woman named Joan Wolfe, a k a "the Queen of Fly-fishing."

"Why are you here?" Joan asked.

"Well, my husband was teaching me . . ." Wanda began.

Joan held out her hand.

"Say no more," she said, followed by "Let's get started."

And with that, the world's first female certified "Master fly-casting instructor" was born.


Twenty years later, Wanda is as hooked as she's ever been. Give her a fly rod, a river or lake, and leave her alone. Fly fishing is the perfect antidote, she'll tell you, to a stress-filled life. It involves action, requires plenty of thinking, and is always changing, plus it's a lot of fun.

Her quest is to somehow nudge the sport out of its comfortable yet rather narrow niche as a bastion for well-to-do middle-aged males. Her research with fellow guides and fly-fishing instructors has revealed a clientele with an average age that is pushing 60 if not 70. You just don't see that many young people, or women for that matter, enjoying the fine benefits of chasing fish with a fly, and she'd like to change that.

This is no idle crusade. When she isn't partnering with her husband as a guide in Tennessee, Wanda is traveling the country spreading the word. She is a moving force behind "Casting for the Cure," a fund-raising enterprise in the fight against breast cancer that also promotes fly-fishing for women. She was recently at the Boy Scouts of America jamboree near Washington, D.C., helping to certify fly-fishing as a separate merit badge for the first time, and she's also working with the Girl Scouts for a similar certification.

This week, she's in Salt Lake City for the annual Fly-Fishing Retailer Show at the Salt Palace, where she's encouraging others in the industry to market toward younger and more diverse audiences.

This past Wednesday morning, she gave a firsthand example of how to do this when she met several young 4-H Club members and Boy Scouts at the Liberty Park lake. For a couple of hours and at no charge, she taught the rudiments, and joys, of casting to the kids.

None of whom, of course, were her own.


Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to benson@desnews.com and faxes to 801-237-2527.