The Company You Keep On The Water

An ode to all of our best fishing partners and all that they've taught us.

Talk with any angler and you’ll notice a pattern: their stories all begin with, “I was out with (so and so) one day and...”

Over the course of your fishing career, you’ll meet some characters, if you haven’t already. Some of these folks may change your outlook on, say, a certain species of fish, or how to target them. Some fishing partners you can unequivocally be yourself around, regardless of what you're discussing. In any case, you’re bound to come out of a fishing experience with more than just a new boat partner, more likely a friend for life. 

You’ll experience new things with angling friends or do things you’ve always done that are now somehow ten times the amount of fun because they're shared with the right people. You may even find yourself discussing life’s greatest hurdles and how to overcome them—I know some of my biggest problems have been solved over casting chat on the water.

Without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to just a few faces I’ve had the fortune to fish with.

man fishing from canoe
Steve hooks into a feisty smallmouth on the fly in Haliburton. Photo: Alyssa Lloyd

Steve Galea

Okay, if you think I’m just using this as a way to name-drop, you may be right. Steve is an accomplished fly angler, fly shop owner, outstanding hunter, and prolific writer. You may have read his name in some 200 issues of Ontario OUT of DOORS, but I’m not here to gloat about the company I keep. Aside from their character.

Steve has been a mentor of mine from the moment we met in person and even a bit before that. Having him help me with fly fishing was an exceptional motivator and reminder that not everything is perfect, nor does it have to be.

Our time on the water taught me life’s trials could be challenged with humour, and that humour will almost always win. Every single time I step into a boat or canoe with Steve, I know I’m going to come back from that outing with a clear sense of my next step.

woman angler holding bass
Kelly holds up two smallmouth bass on her first outing using a fly rod. Photo: Alyssa Lloyd

Kelly McNay

Where do I begin with this woman? Kelly and I met over a year ago now, and ever since we just got one another. A bonafide bush woman, Kelly is as hardcore as it comes. So much so that she’ll go out cutting ice with a chain saw to make a four-by-four hole to fish from. Trapping, hunting, and living off of the land—she’s as independent as they come and I admire her for it.

After not seeing one another for months after we first met, Kelly joined me this summer for a muskie and smallmouth bass marathon. The best part about fishing with this lovely lady? I can be 100% myself around her. When I'm with Kelly, my guard is down, I can be cheeky, and I can make mistakes knowing we’ll laugh about them for ages afterward.

As a side note: we also pack the most ridiculous lunches I have ever had on my boat when we go out together. For instance, we've brought out an entire chicken—and, her favourite, a ring of shrimp.

angler casting
Aaron casts for muskie on the fly in the Kawarthas. Photo: Alyssa Lloyd

Aaron Jolicoeur

Odds are that you’ve seen his name in my articles, and odds are they were about muskies. Aaron is a seasoned muskie angler I had the pleasure of learning from following our outings in the Kawarthas and Lac Seul. 

Aaron has a knack for proving anything he says is true. For example, where my first muskie on the fly would be caught, or how if I targeted panfish once in a while I may actually enjoy it. 

As anglers, we get stuck in our own ways, using a particular Red Shad—I mean, bait all the time, going to the same places over and over again, only doing certain things at certain times. Sometimes it’s great to have your boat partner playing devil's advocate. And hey, if I’m proven wrong by catching fish? I don’t want to be right.

woman angler holding walleye
Jenn holds an 8-pound walleye from our Bay of Quinte outing last year. Photo: Alyssa Lloyd

My Walleye Women

I met this crew over a women’s walleye weekend on Bay of Quinte last season. Organized by none other than Ashley Rae, I have her to thank for all of these incredible ladies.

Ashley, Lori, and Jenn were all automatically in my good books. And since when we fish together we usually go as a crew, it felt only right to include them together in here.

woman anglers drilling ice hole with auger
Lori and Ashley plan out where to drill a hole next while brook trout fishing. Photo: Alyssa Lloyd

What do I love most about these women? That the adventure is limitless and they are always keen to try something new. We learn as a group and that’s inspired me to say yes to a lot more experiences, and will continue to. They motivate me as an angler and as a freelancer. And since we learn together, we can be as earnest and as open as we want with zero judgement. Complete freedom.

woman angler holding brook trout
Lori holds up a brook trout caught during our first hard water outing of 2017. Photo: Alyssa Lloyd

There are countless anglers and non-anglers I’ve spent time on the water with that I could mention in this article. Unfortunately, I don’t think the bandwidth for this site is large enough.

Whether you’re learning life lessons, adapting to change, or just figuring out how not to take life so seriously—be sure to thank your boat partners for their positive impact on your angling and life.

About Alyssa Lloyd

Alyssa Lloyd is a photojournalist based out of Kenora working with Ontario's Sunset Country. The outdoors has been the center of her work and personal life for as long as she can remember. As an angler, Alyssa spends most of her time time chasing multiple species on both conventional and fly gear. 

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