It has been over a couple of weeks ago already, but I have to tell you about my experience at this fall’s Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BO-W) workshop. This year marked the 20th year of the Becoming an Outdoors-Woman program in Nebraska, http://outdoornebraska.ne.gov/Education/programs/bow/bow.asp . The main BO-W workshop is held annually the first weekend in October at the 4-H camp on the Nebraska National Forest near Halsey. Ladies come from all over Nebraska and even from out of state to learn a variety of outdoors-related skills. Of course you know I teach fishing-related courses, this year it was basic fishing, bow-fishing and then actually going fishing on the Halsey pit, but the ladies also take courses on fly-fishing and fly-tying, archery, firearms safety and shooting, trapping, canoeing, a variety of hunting, and much, much more! The weekend is packed with learning, but you better believe we have a darned lot of fun doing it too!
It is always a busy weekend and by the time it is over I am ready for a break, but it is a very enjoyable and satisfying time. Let me give you a little idea of how it went for me.
I try to arrive on Thursday afternoon. I bring a lot of “stuff” for my classes, tons of fishing gear, books, handouts, posters, etc., etc. It takes me awhile to unload all of it and to set up for my classroom session. I hate to be rushed and by arriving early Thursday afternoon I can take my time and get everything prepared just the way I like it.
By Thursday evening I usually have most of my “stuff” in order and have some time to slip down to the Halsey pit and see if the fish are biting. If a person is going to take a group of ladies fishing there on Sunday afternoon, he has to scout things out! I expected to catch some bluegills while I was there, but the first one surprised me by how large it was!
I caught & released a number of really nice bluegills before dark; stayed after dark and managed one 19-inch channel cat before I quit.
On Friday morning I try to sleep in a little bit; after that there will be no time for sleeping late. The ladies begin arriving for the weekend Friday morning and are busy carrying gear to their cabins while I finish up a few details. Everyone gathers at lunch on Friday for a welcoming, introductions and instructions. Friday afternoon class sessions start right after lunch. This year I got to goof off Friday afternoon as I did not have a class to teach or assist with. So. . . you know I went fishing! Ran up west a ways and found a 16-inch rainbow in the Middle Loup River.
I did choose to harvest that trout as there was a wild game feed scheduled for Saturday night. I examine stomach contents of every fish I keep and clean and this trout was full of aquatic beetles, one crayfish, and several grasshoppers.
Saturday morning was my classroom session, “Fishing Formula for Success”. I try to teach the ladies a mental approach, a fundamental way of thinking that they can apply to any fishing they do. If I stood there and told them what they needed to do to catch fish on Halsey Pit Sunday morning that would be great for that one morning on Halsey Pit, but it would do them no good for any of the other fishing they might do around Nebraska. I do have an outline and some curriculum I use, but I really love it when the students start asking questions. This year’s class was great! The ladies were asking me questions faster than I could answer them! Before I knew it, 3 1/2 hours were gone and we rushed to learn to tie an Uni-knot before the time was gone. We did not even get outside to do some practice casting this year and I apologized to the ladies for not having more time and not doing more “hands-on” activities. They said that was OK, they learned a lot (I hope they were not just being nice).
We had a short break for lunch and then I had another class Saturday afternoon–bow-fishing. Once again my students were asking questions before I even started and away we went! We spent a little bit of time in the classroom talking about bow-fishing equipment, safety, rules and regulations, etc., but after that it was off to Halsey Pit to practice! Along the north side of the pit I had scattered some wooden fish targets. Those targets are cut out to look like fish and they are weighted so most of them sink below the surface. I make the ladies “stalk” along the shoreline looking for the wooden carp in the water and then they can shoot those targets with fish arrows that have blunts on their tips. It is not exactly the same as actually bow-fishing for live fish, but it is very close. The students learn real quick about the refraction of light in the water and how they need to aim a lot lower than they think.
Bow-fishers will tell you that the line attached to the arrow will catch on everything, brush, grass, buttons, fingers, etc., etc., etc. The ladies had just started shooting at the targets this year when the first one hollered at me that her line had snagged, and then when she shot the line broke and her arrow went sailing into the water! That ended up being a theme for this year’s bow-fishing class as I started with 10 fish arrows ready to shoot and finished with 6 (NOTE TO SELF: Make sure you have a bunch of extra arrows next time!). The ladies felt bad about losing “my” arrows, but I told them to forget about it. First of all, fish arrows are not that expensive, and secondly, they learned an important lesson for bow-fishing—TAKE EXTRA ARROWS. If you bow-fish, eventually your line will wrap around something or a knot will break and you will lose an arrow. I did not get any photos of this year’s bow-fishing class; here is one from last year.
Everyone has to gather together for a group photo on Saturday evening, and then this year we all got to sample a variety of wild game. Most years we will have some kind of ridiculous skit on Saturday night and for some reason I usually get drafted to participate in those skits. This year I lucked out, there was no skit and I did not have to embarrass myself! After the evening programs, the ladies can do some night-hiking, star-gazing, fireside story-telling, or card-playing in the lodge. We also had some crossbow, blowgun, and aerial target archery for fun this year. Eventually, I wandered down to the camp fire for S’mores!
Sunday morning I was up early to grab a quick breakfast and get all the bait and tackle ready to go fishing! Sunday morning is the real “hands-on” activity for the fishing courses as we go down to Halsey Pit and actually fish! Once we get to the pit, I tell the ladies a little bit about the pit and the fish that are in it; I show them all the tackle and bait and then tell them they are on their own! I will give them advice on where to fish and how, but the goal of the entire BO-W program is to enable the ladies to do those things for themselves! I am there for advice and assistance, but I ain’t tying on hooks, baiting hooks, making casts, or even taking fish off the hook. The ladies typically scatter around the pit; many of us set up shop on the dock and then I roam around offering assistance and advice. There usually are at least a few fish caught and many years I have ladies who catch their first fish on Halsey Pit during our fishing session! You better believe that is very gratifying!
I have to tell you one story about one of my fishing students this year. This particular lady wanted to catch a bass, so to begin with she tied on a rubber worm, rigged weedless like I showed them in class. She covered some water on the north side of the pit and said she had a fish or two pick up the rubber worm, but was not able to get the hooks into them (I had told her that Gramps taught me to “jerk their eye-teeth out”). After an hour or so, she was ready to change things up and quietly asked me what I would recommend if she just wanted to catch a fish, any fish. I suggested she tie on a small jig-head and put a small float a couple, three feet above it. Then I opened up my bait cooler and told her to grab a wax-worm and put it on the jig. I then suggested she just drop the bait over the side of the dock, no casting necessary, and she should be able to catch a bluegill, maybe a big bluegill. She did that and had something nibbling at her bait almost immediately, but they were small bluegills, too small to get the hook in their mouth. After losing a couple of wax-worms, I suggested she move her bobber up so she could fish a couple of feet deeper–I knew those bigger bluegills were down there someplace. She did that as I walked away to talk to one of the other ladies. Next thing I know she is hollering she has a fish, a big fish! I run over to the rail and see her rod has a good bend in it. I am thinking she has a bass or one of those big bluegills when I look in the water and see a nice trout on the end of her line (catchable-size trout are occasionally stocked in the Halsey Pit). We never have time to talk about using the drag or playing big fish, so I reach over and flip the anti-reverse switch on her spinning reel and give her an impromptu lesson in back-reeling. She does a great job and I quickly grab the net and head down the bank to land her fish; which, she lead right into the net just like I told her!
And she was a happy camper! We snapped a couple of quick photos on her cell-phone (sorry, I do not have any of them), measured her trout at 18 inches and quickly got it back in the water where it swam off. The best part for me was then hearing her tell the other ladies that Daryl had just suggested she move her bobber to fish a little deeper, and she did that, and right away she caught a big trout! Yes, my head expanded a few sizes bigger.
Then I had several other ladies who wanted to tie on small jigs, small floats and use wax-worms. Here are a couple of other students with the fish they caught.
Those smiles say it all!
It was a beautiful morning and you know I never want to quit fishing, but around 11:30 or so everyone is getting ready to go home. As the ladies pack up their gear and head out I spend some time putting everything away, filling out evaluations, loading up and eventually get out of there myself. It was near sundown by the time I got home and unloaded everything.
By Sunday night I am ready to sit down, relax and catch my breath. The BO-W weekend is always a busy one and all of us instructors work hard. But, it is a very gratifying weekend and I only hope the ladies have as much fun as we do.
It has been 20 years of BO-W in Nebraska. We had some cake and celebrated that at this year’s event. The main “ram-rod” and organizer for Nebraska’s BO-W is Julie Geiser and Julie has been involved with Nebraska BO-W for all 20 years! Julie is a very fine and accomplished outdoors-person, hunter, angler, artist, and the absolutely best person I can think of to be “BO-W Nebraska”. Way to go Julie, and thank you for ALL you have done! Our Nebraska BO-W program would not be what it is without you!
We had another instructor at this year’s event who has assisted with the firearms classes for all 20 years; “hats off” to conservation officer Ray Dierking!
It has not been quite 20 years for me, but the gals did present me with a little gift for 15!
Thank you! I told everyone when they gave me the comforter that as soon as I got it home “my” outdoors-women, my daughter and wife, would never let me use it, but we all appreciate it!
I cannot wait until next year. As I close I am again going to post a link to our Nebraska BO-W website. Besides the main workshop held at Halsey every fall, there are several more BO-W and “Beyond BO-W” events available. I would HIGHLY recommend them all!