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Fly Girl Q&A is a new, recurring Fly Life Magazine feature focused on contemporary women in the sport of fly fishing. Enthusiasm and participation by women has never been higher within the sport than it is right now. Enjoy getting to know some of the ladies of our sport…

Alex Lovett-Woodsum

Alex Lovett-Woodsum has a diverse fishing resume.

Alex Lovett-Woodsum has a diverse fishing resume.

In what capacity are you currently engaged in the sport of fly fishing?

Primarily as a recreational angler. I’m also involved because I’m the Development and Communications Director for Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, a fisheries conservation organization, so I interact with a lot of anglers, guides, lodges, fly shops and other industry folks in that role. I am also the Project Lead for Project Healing Waters in Miami, teaching wounded veterans to fly fish, and I’m part of the Anglers Circle for the American Museum of Fly Fishing, which is doing an amazing job preserving the unique history of the sport.

How were you introduced to the sport?

My introduction to fly fishing came when I was eight years old on a trip to Montana with my family. We were fortunate to be connected to Paul Roos, a legendary fly angler and outfitter out there, who took me out on the river to show me the ropes. I spent the whole day flailing away casting with both hands trying to catch a trout, to no avail. Despite my frustration, I was totally hooked. Fortunately, we went to a honey hole spring creek the next day and I caught some fish, which was overshadowed by my four year old brother catching a brown trout so large it broke the fly rod.

ALW with a beautiful brown trout.

ALW with a nice brown trout.

What is it about fly fishing that “keeps you coming back”?

Fly Fishing is a truly cathartic experience for me. It is incredibly challenging, frustrating and involves extreme highs and lows. How many things do you do that make you curse like a sailor and inclined to break everything in sight, but you keep coming back for more? Because the adrenaline-charged rush of stalking a fish, casting to it and having it actually turn to eat the fly is one of the best feelings in the world.

Fly fishing also unites you with such a unique and colorful community, and takes you to places most people will never see. Because most people aren’t crazy enough to get up at the crack of dawn to hike down to stand in a freezing cold river in the middle of nowhere, or leave the dock when it’s still dark to sit for hours waiting for some elusive silver fish to show up rolling on the horizon, at the off chance you might catch one. It’s great to see the sport expanding in a number of ways, and I hope that continues.

Who were your biggest influences or mentors, male or female?

Paul Roos will always have a special place in my fly fishing memories. Not only is he a very patient and enthusiastic teacher, but a genuinely wonderful human being, very talented angler and dedicated conservationist. My dad has also been a constant presence in my fly fishing life, and we’ve had the opportunity to go on a number of trips together to some really unique places. He really instilled in me the importance of treating fish with respect and practicing catch and release. I’ve never met someone as crazed about fishing as him, and it has certainly rubbed off on me. He’s a talented angler who always seems to catch more fish than anyone else on a trip, though it may be in part because he often keeps fishing long after everyone else starts drinking.

 

I’m naturally really impressed by Joan Wulff, not only because she was a pioneer for women in the sport, but because she’s a genuinely talented caster and angler and a really kind woman to boot. I admire all the fishing guides I’ve met because they are not only talented guides and anglers and know and care a great deal about their fisheries, but they are incredibly passionate about what they do. These guys work three or four months straight without a single day off sometimes. Not many people can say that!
Trophy Redfish.

Trophy Redfish.

What would you consider your home fishery and what do you find so alluring and special about it?

I live in Miami and these days I mostly fish Biscayne, the Keys and Florida Bay. From the swampy, mosquito-infested mangrove mazes of the Everglades to the breathtaking flats and beaches, there is absolutely no place like it in the world. Not to mention it is home to arguably some of the best and most diverse fishing in the whole world, and some of the largest bonefish, permit and tarpon ever caught. Once I was poling along a beach and saw what I initially thought was a decent sized juvenile tarpon. On second glance, I realized it was a three foot long bonefish. Just the other day I was out permit fishing and we came upon a huge school of laid-up tarpon, a handful of which were well over 150 pounds. Every time I think I have the fishery somewhat figured out, it throws me a curveball. I try not to forget how lucky I am to have access to this fishery, because it’s easy to take for granted sometimes.
Albie fishing in the Northeast.

Albie fishing in the Northeast.

What environmental challenges are faced by your fishery?

Unfortunately this fishery has a lot of environmental threats, many of which the effects are felt but the causes haven’t completely been identified. For the Everglades specifically (which impacts Florida Bay and beyond through runoff), the biggest issues are water quality and water quantity, both of which can in broad terms be linked to agriculture and development. The way water was mismanaged as Florida developed has become a huge problem, coupled with increased demand for water and higher levels of pollutants entering the system.

Many people think that the general water quality has significantly declined over the years, which may have contributed to a decline in the bonefish fishery in particular. Fertilizer runoff from agriculture is likely contributing to increased algae blooms, which in turn smothers seagrass. There is a lot more boat traffic and fishing pressure now than there used to be, which can certainly have an environmental impact. Coral degradation is a huge problem for the reef fisheries, and mangrove loss is having an impact on some fish like tarpon that use them as juvenile habitat. These are just a few examples of the issues faced by the fishery.

I believe that the many organizations working to solve these problems, coupled with concerned anglers and guides and management improvements, will make an impact. This is still an amazing and unique fishery and can be for generations to come, but we all have to do our part to be aware of the issues and contribute to managing them and course-correcting as best we can. We’ve come a long way–not long ago people killed pretty much every bonefish, tarpon and permit they caught and now in fly fishing they are all almost entirely catch and release fisheries and people are much more careful about how they fight and handle the fish.

When you are not fishing, what are you doing?

Mostly working full-time and traveling for BTT, spending some time with my non-fishing friends and family and my two dogs. But a lot of my free time is spent on the water. I’m lucky to live in Miami and have pretty easy access to the Bahamas and South America, so I travel as much as I can.
Bonefishing in the Bahamas.

Bonefishing in the Bahamas.

You have the day off. What are you fishing for and where?

A few months ago I would have said tarpon. Sight-fishing for them is such a rush. I don’t care a bit about landing them anymore, just like to see them eat a fly and jump a few times. That said, I’m starting to turn my focus towards permit because I haven’t caught many on fly, and they are the most frustrating and challenging fish out there. Just when I started to think I was halfway decent at fly fishing, I went permit fishing. That really knocks you down a few notches, but has also made me determined to fish for them more.

What charitable organizations or causes do you support? Why is this important to you?

Fly Fishing and Conservation specific organizations…well I have to say BTT because I work there and believe we really are making an impact on bonefish, tarpon and permit fisheries and habitats through scientific research, education and advocacy. We have some really exciting projects ongoing and upcoming and it’s an interesting place to work because we are finding answers to some of the questions about these fisheries and using that information to help guide management decisions and educate the public. I’m also a big admirer of the Everglades Foundation because they are working to protect a place that is so special, totally unique, and under great threat. The Coral Restoration Foundation is helping to restore reefs by growing coral in nurseries, which is a really amazing endeavor.

 

On the fly fishing side, Project Healing Waters is providing an important service to wounded veterans, and anyone who fly fishes knows what a calming and healing endeavor it is. I think as a country we are largely neglecting our returning veterans, particularly those with medical needs, and we all need to do our part. I am also supportive of the American Museum of Fly Fishing because I’m fascinated with the long and rich history of fly fishing, and they are doing a wonderful job of preserving and recording it.
Dancing with a baby tarpon in her beloved Everglades.

Dancing with a baby tarpon in her beloved Everglades.

Where would you go to fish if there were zero restrictions on expense, travel, etc…? Why?

Toss up between the Ponoi in Russia for Atlantic salmon or the Seychelles for an opportunity to catch trevally, milkfish and Indo-Pacific permit. Both are such iconic and beautiful places with epic fishing. Can’t beat that combination. I think I’d lean towards the latter because I prefer being warm these days and there are so many different species to catch.

 Alex’s favorite blogs, links, charities and causes…

www.btt.org

www.evergladesfoundation.org

www.coralrestoration.org

www.phwff.org

www.amff.com

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