I don't think my husband understands that it's really not about "hooking the big one" that inspires me to get up at bird-chirp-thirty, don waders, a vest and my favorite fishing hat to stand hip-deep in an ice-cold river.

I don't think my husband understands that it's really not about "hooking the big one" that inspires me to get up at bird-chirp-thirty, don waders, a vest and my favorite fishing hat to stand hip-deep in an ice-cold river.

For him it's the thrill of the hunt, the contest of man vs. fish and, of course, telling the big fish story to the guys at work.

Not to underrate the thrill of that iridescent flash when a feisty rainbow trout gulps breakfast on the end of your line, but for me and many other women fly fishers, it's something much more spiritually satisfying: a romantic notion of grace and skill, along with the sheer joy of standing in the middle of God's country with the singing of the river and the symphony of feathered companions chirping like neighborhood gossips.

It's the joy of feeling that perfect cast when the line arches gracefully and lands ever so gently, exactly where I aimed it. For many women, fly fishing brings a feeling of balance and inner tranquility.

"I have stood in a river and felt strength and purpose " I have watched steelhead and sea-run trout return from their incredible journey to the ocean and back and felt their power," says local fly-fishing enthusiast and instructor Cathy Tronquet. "I love that fly fishing has given me an appreciation of the rivers I have lived around all my life; they now have their own life and meaning. They offer a place of peace and hope."

Every woman who relates to this feeling has a story about how she got interested in fly fishing. I have wanted to learn ever since I watched my dad when I was a child. He was my hero, so I thought anything he did was wonderful. But it took me many years to actually get the chance to try my hand at it. When my father passed some years ago, I was thrilled to get his old fly rod and reel, and just having them inspired me to get serious about pursuing this dream.

Local fly fisher Sonja Nisson tells of a similar initiation.

"My grandfather was an avid fly fisherman, and I idolized him. I followed my grandpa to the stream and imitated what he did. After he passed away, I was mostly self-taught," says Nisson, whose love for the sport has spanned more than 50 years.

My husband, who loves to fish, was enthusiastic about my interest. It gave him the perfect "theme" for my next birthday, and in no time I had my own rod, several reels, waders, a pint-sized vest with all the little hanging accoutrements and my very own compartmentalized fly box. After buying my "here fishy, fishy" hat, I was ready. All I needed was a little practice.

One of the first things I learned about fly fishing is that — much like learning to drive — your husband may not be the best person to teach you the fine art of casting. Women who teach fly fishing encourage beginners to take a class where you'll be taught by someone other than your future fishing buddy — preferably another woman.

Tronquet, who says her husband was very patient, agrees. "I probably improved the most when I took classes from others because I was not as self-conscious."

She believes taking a class gives women a greater sense of autonomy. "That is one reason I have taught women's classes — to keep it fun and to encourage independence on the river."

Although an experienced fly fisherman can make it look easy, it takes practice to perfect the harmony between rod, arm, line and fly. I watched videos, studied the technique and dutifully practiced in the yard with a little tuft of day-glow yarn in place of a fly with a hook.

That all seemed to be time well spent during our first fishing expedition, but during our second outing, a slight breeze challenged my tenuous skill level, and I experienced a little frustration with my casting technique.

At one point, I was actually yelling out loud at myself while standing in the river, "YOU SUCK!! YOU REALLY SUCK AT THIS!!"

A couple of fishermen came walking along the bank about this time, giving me a wide berth as they hurried upstream. That's when I decided to get some lessons.

During a free Saturday class at Sportsman's Warehouse, store manager and Montana-bred fly fisherman Chase Galentine freed me from a head full of technique alarm bells. Along with some great observations about how to improve my forward cast, the most valuable advice he gave me was, "There is no perfect method — just get out there and find your own groove. The main thing is to enjoy it."

Voila! I relaxed, and my casting greatly improved.

In talking with other women fly fishers, I've noticed that women seem to have a unique perspective on their enjoyment of the sport. Not to say men don't appreciate the same peace and beauty of the great outdoors, but they seem more goal-oriented, focusing more on catching fish.

Women enjoy the feelings they get from the experience, the inner calm of being completely in the moment, focused but relaxed — almost a Zen-like consciousness — where catching a fish is just icing on the cake.