- ENJOY & EXPLORE
Guidelights – Darlene Johnson
While “Guidelights” is the name we’ve chosen for this collection of Blog posts, it may not always be technically accurate, as is the case in this instance. Because this post isn’t necessarily about a guide, and occasionally you will find that Guidelightswill not be focused on a guide so much as someone in the industry, a professional, or someone making a name for themselves through writing, or manufacturing, or tactics. And because today is National Girls and Women in Sports Day, this tale is about a person who has highlighted a special place in the fishing world lately, the place where females make a name for themselves and claim their spot, which has always been there, in the fishing world. And as a proud Grandfather of two little girls, who I can’t wait to watch grow up fishing, I’m glad that today we introduce you to our “F-cubed”- or our First Female Fisher Friend – Darlene Johnson.
We started following Darlene about a year ago on social media, watching all the fish she caught, the places she was going to catch them, the attitude she brought along with her, and it all made sense that this was a perfect role model for young girls who liked something a little more than barbie dolls and perfume, not that they are exclusive, after all, you can still be a “girl” and like to fish. So we tracked her down, and when we caught up with Darlene, she was nice enough to chat with us about what drew her to fishing and what keeps her coming back.
According to Take Me Fishing's 2021 special report 19.7 million females went fishing in 2020, a 10% increase in comparison with 2019, and in a report published by Ladies Let's Go Fishing, 47% of first-time fishing participants are female. "Overall fishing participation grew to 47 million in 2017, helping RBFF near its goal of “60 in 60” — having 60 million anglers over the course of 60 months. In the last five years, participation was up 8.2 percent, and in the last 10 years, it was up 20 percent."
Born in Anaheim California, she now resides in Fort Collins, CO. Standing only 5’5” with long brown hair and a big inviting smile, “Fisherman” isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you see her. And fishing isn’t all she does, in fact, she’s what they call an anticoagulation nurse, in her real job, and if she's not fishing, she enjoys being with her family and doing other outdoor activities like camping and hiking.
Darlene had cared for and raised two children from a previous marriage and felt like it was time to test the waters again when she and her husband, Edwin met in 2018 through social media and the connection was, at least initially, mainly because of their mutual love for fishing. Edwin was living in South Africa at the time, and after a two-year long-distance romance, Edwin was able to join her stateside where, I guess you could say, she reeled him in AND NETTED HIM. They bought a boat together last year and fish together every chance they get, along with their 18-month-old German shepherd mix, Rigby.
Q: Darlene, I know you’ve been fishing a long time, what “lured” you to fishing? (If you’ll pardon the pun):
A: I started fishing when I was around 4 or 5 years old. I grew up in a family of five with just one boy. He was always going on fishing adventures with my dad but I really wanted to go as well so my father finally took me and I loved every bit of it. We would do all night fishing trips, deep-sea fishing trips, or just short day trips. My father was definitely the person that influenced my passion for fishing most.
Darlene grew up fishing from the age of three and says her dad was her biggest influencer and it shows.
Q: What do you like most about the sport?
A: My favorite part about fishing is that it is meditative for me. I can be outside in Gods beautiful creation and just fish. As I mentioned before it is my outlet. I also love the amazing people I have met for my love of fishing, including my husband. My favorite time to fish is the evening and into the night. I’ve caught my biggest fish during those hours.
And teaching the younger generations how to fish is another part of fishing I love. We volunteered for the C.A.S.T. For Kids event last year and hope to continue this every year. Having the ability to take kids out on a boat fishing for the day who may not otherwise have the chance, is a true joy. (sidenote: BFC will be hosting a C.A.S.T. for Kids event in October 2022)
Q: What lake or river do you call “Home”?
A: I don't have a particular lake or river I call home. We are constantly fishing new bodies of water and expanding our knowledge. This past year we purchased a bass boat and joined our local bass club. It has been a big learning curve fishing these new bigger bodies of water such as Horsetooth Reservoir and Pueblo Reservoir. I love fly fishing the river for rainbows and browns and bank fishing local ponds as well for largemouth bass…we fish equally from boat and shore. If we’re not out with the boat, you can bet we are either on a pond or river.
"I love fly fishing the streams and rivers for rainbows and brownies"
Q: Have you fished many tournaments?
A: Last year I competed in the Nationwide Lady Slayers tournaments. We had one per month for six months. I did not fish the final two since I was visiting my sister and fishing in Alaska for one of them and visiting my brother for the second one. I did humbly well, still managing to finish 8th in the nation overall, so I was thankful for that. Edwin and I also fished many tournaments with our bass club. We learned a lot and hope to continue to learn.
Q: Speaking of tournaments, what’s the “Dink” award?
A: The Full Moon Open was quite the experience. It is the largest open water tournament here in Colorado. There were 51 boat teams that fished sundown to sunup. We managed to catch the smallest legal fish of the tournament, winning ourselves the “Dink Award”.
Q: What’s your PB?
A: 7 lb Bass, caught in a local pond.
Q: What are your goals for the year ahead?
A: I love challenging myself to fish for new species and continue to mark them off the list. From fly fishing for salmon and Dolly Varden in Alaska to hopefully catching Tiger fish in South Africa. Edwin is from South Africa so we are flying there to visit, fish, and hunt for two weeks. Fingers crossed we have some luck. A couple of my favorite catches have been catching arctic grayling on the fly rod and this past year caught a beautiful 25 inch cutbow while using light tackle fishing for smallmouth from the boat. It was a pleasant surprise and heck of a fight.
My goals for this year are to continue to participate in tournaments and grow as an angler. I continue to learn every time I fish. I also have a goal to fish with as many anglers that I can, who I’ve met on social media. Looking forward to the many adventures and lasting friendships this will bring. I love seeing other women out fishing. I hope the trend continues. There are many women I have met that are very passionate about the sport and I love the comradeship between us. It is hard to relate when others don’t understand our passion.
Q: I was always intrigued when you’d tell us about the rod with which you landed your most recent conquest, the type of rod you were using at the time. I’ve noticed your network of relationships growing in the industry and anglers, like most other sports, have these relationships with manufacturers and vendors. I saw you are part of the Pro Staff of several including WOO Tungsten, Mossy Oak Fishing, and one of our partners, C & N Custom Baits, can you tell us more about that?
A: Recently I have signed on with KastKing as a brand ambassador. I was already using their gear especially their reels, so the partnership made sense. I help promote their brand and in return get discounts on all their gear. I also recently signed on with Dark Horse Tackle. They are a very neat company who utilize only American Made small business baits in their subscription boxes. They also raised money during Christmas to give back to children who were in need. Again, I help promote and spread the word of the brand and get free subscription boxes and apparel in return.
Q: What’s your favorite piece of equipment?
A: I have to say right now, that my favorite piece of equipment on the boat is the spot lock trolling motor. It has drastically improved our ability to fish well.
When I first asked Darlene if we could do a spotlight on her and her fishing lifestyle for our Guidelights blog at Boating Fishing Camping, she was out on the frozen tundra of a lake, in an ice shanty with a hole drilled in the ice, fishing for lake trout and perch, and I guess whatever else would bite!
When I last talked to Darlene, she and Edwin were boarding the first leg of their journey to South Africa to visit family, and undoubtedly chase down another species, in another area, on another body of water, testing another method or another rig, to catch that elusive giant lurking somewhere in the depths.
Thank you, Darlene, for chatting with us, and best wishes for your continuing career and presence in the fishing world.
Godspeed and tight lines.
Written by: Kem Oliver, BFC News