Kathy Kim: OSU’s Fly Fisherwoman

KathyKim2Kathy Kim’s passion for fishing is all too evident, which is something I learned recently over a cup of coffee. While giving the barista her order, she leaned in and asked, “Have you gotten a chance to go fishing recently?” Now that’s dedication.

Kim moved to Corvallis three years ago and has been teaching fly fishing courses at the university since 2014. But how does one end up with such a job? As a child in South Korea, Kim’s family wasn’t into fishing, but she confessed that it had always seemed like it would be fun. While on a trip to Yellowstone National Park in 2000, Kim witnessed a fisherman enjoying what appeared to be very peaceful solitude. To Kim, a Southern California resident at the time, this perceived state of being was in direct contrast to the busy life she led. It became a symbol of escape. That winter, Kim enrolled in a fly fishing class and she was instantly hooked, catching eight fish on her first go.

”When I fly fish, it’s not about the number of fish I catch, it’s about the experience. It is about immersing yourself in a natural world, understanding and solving the mystery of the aquatic environment, enjoying the solitude and finding adventures,” Kim said of the sport.

After her first outing, Kim’s interest quickly ramped up. She found herself on fishing trips to many places, including the Eastern Sierra, Montana, the Bahamas, Patagonia, Chile, and Argentina. As the frequency of the trips increased, so did the insistence from those around her that she begin instructing fly fishing classes. To hone her skills, Kim joined the Long Beach Casting Club and started reading informational books and attending seminars.

“The best way I can explain it is that a golfer practices his swing before playing a game. I practice my cast as often as a golfer would practice perfecting his swing,” she said.

In 2009 Kim became a certified cast instructor, and though she claims not to be a good teacher, she has a love for learning that shows. In possession of an bold drive to learn and improve, Kim is currently studying for certification as a master casting instructor.

Though the fly fishing industry in general often conjures an image of old white guys in large rubber boots, Kim said, “I thought there would be some perceptions about me being a petite, Asian woman fly fishing, but the industry has been open and accepting.”

It’s because of the industry’s openness that Kim encourages a new generation of fishermen through her classes. Part of that includes teaching the importance of conservation, and an understanding that the rivers and fish aren’t just there for us to consume—that we must do our part to treat the environment well so that we can continue living in harmony with it.

“If I’m doing a little piece to educate responsible fly fishermen, I feel great about that,” said Kim.

For anyone interested in fly fishing, Kim recommends taking a look at Izaak Walton’s The Complete Angler, Ted Lesson’s The Habit of Rivers, and Norman Maclean’s novel A River Runs Through It. In addition to her classes at OSU, she also teaches at the Watershed Fly Shop on NW Buchanan here in Corvallis.

By Liz Sterling