In an industry largely dominated by men, there are a handful of women out there making a name for themselves in a very big way. To say Paula Shearer is one of them is an understatement. If you're reading this, I'd say there's a high likelihood you already follow her on Instagram/Facebook - and if you don't - you should. Whether it be swinging a two-hander for steelhead, throwing bushy dries to rising cutthroat, stripping streamers for monster bull trout, or sitting in the middle seat of her 'Clacka putting customers on fish, this Canadian born, Calgary based fly-fishing guide is the real deal in every sense of the word. We recently sat down with Paula to learn a little more about the person who has made all of us think we really need to take a fishing trip to Canada.
Aside from her social media prowess, Paula is in the process of revamping her website (currently under construction) but should be finished in the near future. Be sure to check it out at www.psonthefly.com!
Trouts: How did you get your start in fly-fishing and what was it that instantly had you hooked?
PS: Fly fishing for me was something I grew up doing. From a young age my dad would let me join him and my uncles on the lake to troll flies in search of trout. By the age of 8 I had started to “learn” how to cast to the evening rise. This is where I acquired my patience and proficiency for untangling fly line. Over the years with the help of some very knowledgeable fishermen and a lot of hours spent on the water (some may say I'm on the water too much), I became an experienced and efficient angler.
Trouts: Let’s talk about your guiding. Do you remember any sort of ‘Ah ha!” moment where you decided that guiding was what you needed to do?
PS: Becoming a guide felt like a natural progression for me. I have always enjoyed teaching friends how to fly fish. There is no better feeling than seeing the face of someone who has caught their first, or biggest fish on a fly rod. I love being able to share my passion with others and seeing their development, enjoyment, and involvement within the sport grow. This is why I find joy in other people’s fishing success. As far as the "Ah ha: moment : It was early spring several years ago, when a friend of mine asked if I could teach her how to fly fish after we had both retired from the sport of skeleton. She was fortunately the same size as me, so I was able to lend her a pair of waders and boots to use. After teaching her the basics of casting, (she caught on quickly) all I had to do was put her into an area I knew was held fish, and within a few casts she was hooked up. I felt as if I was hooking the fish as I witnessed the depth of her excitement, and the smile that grew on her face. It was at that very moment that I knew this would be a memory she would have for the rest of her life, and I wanted to help many other people achieve their lasting memories as well.
Trouts: What’s the best part about being a fly angler in Canada?
PS: I feel lucky to be able to call Canada home. There are a lot of different fishing experiences it has to offer, from steelhead on our west coast, to Atlantic Salmon on the east coast and everything in between. Living in Calgary allows me to fish a world renowned river that runs through the heart of the city. If I'm looking to get away from the bustle, I don't have to go far as there are a multitude of rivers and streams that run through the mountains that are from 30min - 2 hours away. These mountain streams carry many species such as Bull Trout, Cutthroat Trout, Rainbow Trout, Whitefish, and more. Alberta has a variety of rivers and lakes to fish, which in turn keeps many anglers happily occupied year around.
Trouts: Taking a look at your Instagram feed, you no doubt spend a bunch of time fishing your home waters. Do you ever make it down to fish in the states much?
PS: I love to fish for the variety of species of fish in Alberta, but it's hard to beat the experience of fishing somewhere new. When I have the opportunity I try to travel, which I don't feel I do nearly enough., I try to make the most of whatever fishing oppertunity is available. There is an unending list of places I would like to fish in the US, and of course Denver Colorado is high on that list! A few places I have been fortunate to visit and fish in the US are Montana, Idaho and Florida. Hopefully I will be able to increase that number soon.
Trouts: Sticking with the topic of Instagram, you have over 16,000 followers. What does it feel like to have that many people paying attention to your fishing adventures?
PS: I am extremely humbled to have so many people follow my Instagram and Facebook pages. It's crazy to see how fly fishing has become so mainstream so fast. If there is one thing that I hope, it is that it can inspire others to not necessarily fish, but at the very least get outdoors and enjoy all it has to offer. The more that people are able to get outside, the more I hope they are able to become environmentally aware.
Trouts: What are your thoughts on the topic of women and fly-fishing? Down in Colorado, I would estimate 3 or 4 out of every 10 anglers I guide are women. We even have women’s specific fly-fishing clubs here in Denver and I know these exist else ware around the US as well. Do you see similar trends in your area? Do you feel this segment of our industry is getting the attention it deserves?
PS: The involvement in women's fly fishing has grown tremendously. I remember not knowing another female angler for far too long. Several years ago there were not as many of us, so when you had the opportunity to meet others, it became a tight knit group. I feel lucky to have become friends with some incredibly talented and hardcore women fisherman. It's amazing to see the resources and gear that are now available for us. This growing number taking up fly fishing has encouraged many clubs and events to be created, which cater to all these lovely ladies. Here in Calgary we have the Calgary Womens Fly Fishing club with nearly 100 members and growing. Clubs like these create a friendly and positive environment to learn and grow as anglers.
*For those ladies reading this I highly recommend you do a bit of research to find the closest club to you, and join as you will meet a wonderful community of women anglers.
Trouts: With your guiding, what is the number one mistake you see people make out on the water?
PS: There are two fundamental mistakes that I see people make not only when I'm guiding, but when I’m out fishing as well;
Routine: Many anglers get into routine habits of fishing the same water, and using the same flies being fished the same way. Fish are constantly adapting to changing conditions, and we need to be willing to adapt and learn new techniques to find consistent success. This means fishing and exploring new waters.
Confidence: The number one thing every angler new or old should have, is self confidence. If you go out onto the water thinking you're going to enjoy being outside and have a great day, then chances are you will do exactly that. If you think you’re going to catch a fish, then your chances are much higher that you will.
Trouts: Where would you like to see yourself within the fly-fishing industry 5 or 10 years from now?
PS: 5-10 years seems like a long time but, we all know that's really only a blink of an eye away. I hope to be a successful guide that introduces many people to the enjoyment that fly fishing has to offer. I would also really like to do quite a bit more traveling, and be interactive within the industry to help to protect and improve the environment.
Trouts: Favorite species to target on the fly?
PS: I don't have a favourite fish that I like to specifically target, as I believe they all have something different to offer. I have so many species to knock off my bucket list that I love whatever I'm targeting on that specific day. However, I can say I really want to do some more salt water fishing very soon as I want to fish for tarpon.
Trouts: Lastly, tell us your most recent memorable fish story.
PS: There are so many memorable fish stories that range from having clients catch their biggest fish, to friends from out of town enjoying the Alberta experience. I would have to say that my most recent memorable fishing story would be taking my mom on float. My mom had recently taken up fly fishing, She was probably tired of hearing me talking some much about it she decided that she might as well see what it’s about and give it a shot. My mom had quickly picked up the casting but struggled with fighting larger fish. I had taken my dad and her fishing a couple times but while she hooked a lot of fish, she continued to have a difficult time landing them. To make things worse, my dad continued to do well. A couple weeks later I had the opportunity to take just her on a float down the Bow and it was on this day that things finally all came together. As we made our way down the river she proceeded to catch fish after fish on nearly every cast including several large trout that took her well into her backing. She was so thrilled with the experience that she continues to look forward to future fishing trips.To see my mom do so well at something I am passionate about made me incredibly proud of her and I too look forward to our future fishing trips .