Tressa Allen is like every serious fly fisherman/woman we know: “I won’t tell you my favorite places,” she says. Where Tressa differs is, her favorite places are truly secret streams that few others know about. Tressa is a third-generation Jacksonite. She grew up fishing (and rowing) alongside her grandfather, Leonard “Boots” Allen, who was one of the valley’s first guides (he started guiding in 1927) and had a fly-tying business. “He knew all the spots and showed us,” Tressa says.
Tressa and her three brothers grew up near the Rodeo Grounds, on Flat Creek Drive, named for one of the most iconic trout streams, not only in Jackson Hole, but in the West, and which was only a two-minute walk from her family’s house. “Fishing was like walking for me,” she says. “It was natural.” Tressa says that when she started guiding for Reel Women Fly Fishing Adventures in 1996, the company taught rowing, fly-tying, and casting skills to women, and she was incredulous. She thought, “How do you teach rowing? You just do it.” Tressa says, “I grew up pushing one oar until I was big enough to push on two, and because it had become second-nature, I never really thought about it.” And casting? “I started fly fishing when I was about ten, and after watching my family for so long, I didn’t have to think much about that either.”
But it didn’t take long for Tressa to realize most people, especially women, didn’t have the benefit of an upbringing like hers. She learned how to teach fly fishing skills and loved watching clients, both men and women, learn to enjoy and improve at the sport. When asked about any differences she’s noticed between genders, Tressa says she thinks women have more patience when learning how to cast, as well as a more natural appreciation of the “art of the cast.” “Quite often, women approach the sport without any prior biases or influences, they’re pretty raw,” she says. “Men have often already dabbled in it or knew about it through a family member, so they have preconceived notions, maybe even bad habits.” Still, Tressa maintains “as long as people are willing to learn, are open-minded, and they listen, they’ll succeed.”
And she believes learning is worth the time and effort. “It gets you out there and in a place that is out of your scope and boundaries; whether you’re wade fishing, and you find yourself up some stream, or you’re in a boat, drifting downriver, it is very relaxing,” she says.“You’re more acutely aware of the nature surrounding you, not just the fish in the water, or even the fly you’re using to attract that fish. There is a rhythm to casting, and when it and everything else comes together—picking the right fly, the perfect cast, the perfect presentation of the fly on the water—it is truly spectacular. It all coalesces in a very peaceful place. Many who fish forget about the other things in their lives. It really takes you out of your everyday element.”
“In reality, any day fly fishing is a good one.”
While Tressa retired from guiding in 2016, she still enjoys time on the water. “I have a boat and get out on the river as much as I can,” she says. While she won’t reveal her secret locations, she will share some of her favorite “known” spots. “I definitely like the Green River, in the Pinedale/Daniel area,” she says. “It’s a spectacular stretch of water and is still pretty quiet and off the beaten path.” Also, “The canyon section of the South Fork is a spectacular place to do an overnight. Spending multiple days on the river allows you to take your time and fish every aspect of the river.”