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The following story was reproduced with the permission of the Atlantic Salmon Journal The Atlantic Salmon Journal Story and all Photographs were taken by Jim Fowler on The Grand Cascapedia River
By Mel Lefebvre
WHAT DO YOU DO WITH A PRECIOUS FLY THAT NO Longer seems to catch fish? Well, you might be happy to know that it can have a second purpose as art, thanks to the creativity and life journey of this Nashville artist. It remains a mystery why a salmon comes to a bit of feather and fur. She is no fish, but it’s clear that she is attracted to how spectacularly beautiful and unique salmon flies can be. And that’s why she has chosen to give them another purpose recycling old flies and using ones that a new-found fly fishing friend, Jim Fowler, has given her. She has transformed them into art, combining them with treasures and antiques collected through her travels over the years.
She was born in Florida where her family had a summer vacation home on the Withlacoochee River. As a child, she would spend lazy, hot days watching her dad fly fish.
"I had such fond memories of fishing as a kid. I loved the freedom of paddling around in our little Jon boat while my dad fly fished," she said. "I was intrigued watching him and I enjoyed being outside."
Since then, she has wandered from the dark and slow flowing Withlacoochee to the twang and excitement of the capitol of country music Nashville, Tennessee. An interior designer, her clientele include some famous country musicians. "I have to protect their privacy, but if you were to watch any of the (country music) award shows, my clients are usually in the front two rows," she says, not without a touch of pride.
After living in Tennessee for several years, she found herself needing to cope with burnout from work and a divorce after 28 years of marriage. She discovered escape from these tumultuous life experiences south of the border, in Mexico.
A three-year period of exploration provided a much-needed respite from the stresses of home. After a while, her creative juices began to flow again and her Mexican adventure sowed the seeds for what would turn out to be a relaxing and lucrative hobby.
"I started finding all these great antiques, like an interesting pocket knife or really pretty perfume tin; all kinds of items you wouldn’t normally think to use in a necklace," she says. "So I started making jewelry. In the beginning it was something to do because you can only learn so much Spanish."
Part of her personal reinvention was to pick up a fishing rod again. "I had a friend Jim Fowler who was teaching me and it was so much fun. I find that’s when I get some of my best inspiration and design ideas," she said. She noticed how beautiful the flies were in her reintroduction to the sport of fly-fishing. They inspired her to incorporate them in her jewelry.
While in Mexico, she began collecting antiques, visiting markets and negotiating with vendors. She began creating art and beadwork using antique pendants, fishing memorabilia collectibles, and flies. "That whole period was definitely a life transition. Living in Mexico almost seemed like a dream," she says reflectively. "It was a life changing experience and gave me the opportunity to pause and hit the ‘re-set’ button."
She is taking her time designing and promoting her new artisan trade."There’s something wonderfully calming about the solitude that comes both with the beading and the fly-fishing. Unlike clients, neither the beads nor the fish are needy," she said.
Her journey has brought her from fishing with her dad on theWithlacoochee River through tough times to falling in love all over again. Now, in Nashville, she is a woman transformed, having re-defined herself, taken control over her life, and built a successful career. Along the way, she caught her very first Atlantic salmon during a trip to the Cascapedia River. "It was 20-plus pounds!" she adds emphatically.