A Fishy Handshake

By Jenn Balmes


This last year I have invested a good amount of time in fly fishing; spending probably too much money on little, tiny flies that mimic bugs in the water. I have tripped over rocks and fallen in the Roaring Fork River countless times, not to mention the multiple piercings I have on my fingers from hooking myself with a fly hook. So, why do I do this? I’m not sure. Maybe it has something to do with using my hands? And being with the fish.

Fly fishing is using my hands.

First, using my hands, I tie a fly on the fishing line. I also need my hands to hold the rod, to make a perfect presentation to the fish for it to think the fly hook is a real bug, and then to eat it. I also need my hands to strip line and make my fly flow in the water. Once I have a fish on the line, I use my hands to fight that fish; take some line in, take some line out. The hardest part at this point is trying not to get too excited because that fish will snap my line, and then it’s gone forever.

Once I catch a fish, the best part of fly-fishing, to me, is the “fish handshake,” or gently releasing the fish back into the water from where it came. When I release the fish back into the water, there is a still moment in time where it will stay in my hands and push water through my fingers as it regains energy to swim off — after putting up a good fight.

In these short moments I really appreciate fishing, and more specifically, the fish. I see it up close and notice all the spots and patterns that make every catch and every fish unique; the size of the fish does not matter in these moments. It’s truly amazing seeing the fish swim away and camouflage itself in the water — back to where it belongs.


As a graphic designer and angler Jenn Balmes’ hands stay quite busy. Fly-fishing has taught her to slow down her hands, appreciate her surroundings, and most importantly, the moment on the river. Also a photographer, her fly-fishing artwork is at: www.troutbandits.com, and follow her fly- fishing adventures on Instagram @Troutbandits.

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