Allison Helen Hendricks’ father tied his own flies and made his own fly rods. He put one in Allison’s hands when she was five years old.
Despite her fly fishing legacy, she didn’t make a cast in her teens or much of her twenties. It was not until a decade or so ago, when she agreed to go fishing with a friend and heard the song of the fly line under load, that all that fly fishing represented to her — childhood, rhythm, the outdoors, her father — rushed back up her arms and welled in her body.
She had found, more like remembered, her calling. It was all Allison wanted to do.
Allison gave up her career as a surgical nurse and dedicated herself to fly fishing.
A native of Pennsylvania, Allison lived all over the country, including stints in Idaho and Indiana, before landing in the Tampa Bay area.
“I wade guide on the West Coast of Florida,” she says. “I’ll target a certain species if it’s what a client wants, but I just fish to fish, whether it’s in my waders, from a boat, or getting a bass to hit my fly on a freshwater pond.”
She also writes (she’s been published in Dun Magazine and elsewhere), teaches the art of fly fishing, and works with respected brands like Monic Fly Lines and RiverBum fly gear.
“I work hard for my clients and with companies in order to live the way I do,” Allison says.
She helped RiverBum redesign their women’s line of apparel, and she tests Monic’s fly lines.
“The way I fish, it’s not like being in a boat, the line is in the water the whole time. I can use Monic’s intermediate all day long, and it holds up under both inshore and offshore conditions — and that’s music to my ears.”
Before moving to Florida, Allison guided for redfish out of Galveston, Texas.
“We don’t have exactly the same kind of fishery here,” she says. “But in Texas, we’d use a crab or shrimp pattern to target big reds. A Clouser pattern also worked well.”
As a wading fly angler, Allison sees more snook, permit, speckled trout and the occasional tarpon in the Tampa area. Unless she’s with a client, though, what’s on the end of her line doesn’t matter.
“For me, fishing equals family,” she says. “It’s a way to hold my father’s hand, God’s hand and to feel at peace.”
Now that Allison has come full circle and rediscovered her true calling, she doesn’t believe that she could ever return to how her life was before.
“I’ve never looked back,” she says. “I’m a joyous and happy person since I started fishing. Hearing the sound of the line… for a musician who never practiced music, it’s the most peaceful thing. Tranquil. Nothing can get to you out there.”