BD is excited to introduce you to Kesley Gallagher who has been busy logging miles to some amazing places all in the name of fishing. Check out her story.
BD:Where do you live?
Kesley Gallagher:Currently, I live in Los Angeles, California.
BD:What is you occupation?
Kesley Gallagher:I work for Amgen Inc. in Regulatory Affairs, Devices.
BD:What are your other hobbies?
Kesley Gallagher:I enjoy hiking and traveling.
BD:Who or what got you into fishing?
Kesley Gallagher:My father always fly-fished in Shenandoah National Park for brook trout in tiny creeks. He loved being away from Washington, D.C., where he was a diplomat for the State Department. His desire to ‘be away from it all’ to enjoy the remoteness and solitude (granted, my younger brother and I were with him), impacted me greatly; I share the same wanderlust and desire to be outdoors. His passion, too, for fishing was instilled in me well before I had memories of fishing.
I can’t recall when I started fishing. I always had the knack and seemed to always be fishing when given the chance. In Three Lakes, WI, I won ‘Fish of Week’ for a 17-inch crappie when I was 9. Mom even has photos of me in a bridesmaid’s dress fishing in Wisconsin at her wedding to my step-father.
I do recall the first time I actually fly-fished. I was 10 and we were on Trout Lake in Glacier National Park. I was with my step-father and he was a “Western Fly Fisherman”. He taught me a trout’s rises can be timed and they have patterns to their feeding. We were fly fishing from a raft and casting at a downed tree. I cast my royal wulff right by the trunk and a cutthroat trout grabbed it. It was the most breath-taking experience for me yet and I was hooked.
BD:What types of fishing have you done and where?
Kesley Gallagher:I enjoy fly fishing first and foremost. There is something magical about fooling a fish with tinsel, feathers, and/or fur tied on a hook and landing it with the long rod. Fly fishing has taken me Labrador, Canada, for trophy brook trout, to Louisiana pursue trophy bull redfish, permit in Belize, trophy tarpon in Costa Rica and Islamorada in the Florida Keys, trophy oio (bonefish) in Oahu, and carp fishing in the LA river (to name a few). Anytime I get to fly fish, no matter where it is, I am very happy. I have even been known to go grass carp fishing in Phoenix, Arizona, in August!
I especially enjoy saltwater fly fishing on the flats for permit and tarpon. Offshore fly fishing in California for tuna, yellowtail jacks, dorado, and anything else that happens to swim by is also a keen love of mine.
BD:What is your favorite kind of fishing so far?
Kesley Gallagher:My current passion is flats fishing for tarpon. Heidi Nute invited me to participate in the Ladies Tarpon Fly Fishing Tournament (LTFT) in Islamorada, FL in 2015. I had only landed baby tarpon at that point but, because I love a challenge and learning new skills, I poured my heart into the pursuit of the silver king. My tarpon education took me to Belize, Costa Rica (Tarponville), Puerto Rico, Key West, and of course, Islamorada. To see these fish grab your fly then immediately take you into your backing for a 45 minute fight while jumping and snarling at you is the ultimate in this sport. Nothing tops these fish.
BD:What are some future goals or plans pertaining to fishing?
Kesley Gallagher:Right now, I am pursuing a world record for a yellowtail jack offshore California with Captain Vaughn Podmore. The bite this fall has been off the charts with fish well over 20#. I also intend to participate in the LTFT in Islamorada next June. In 2017, I was in the tournament and won the first day (and I want more of that). I love to compete and fly fishing for tarpon is my passion—an easy decision!
BD:What part of fishing do you like the most?
Kesley Gallagher:All of it. I love sighting the fish, making the cast, getting the grab, clearing my line in time, holding on for dear life as the drag screams in agony, seeing and feeling the fish fight me, and of course, the release of the fish back to its environment. Fly fishing has taken and continues to take me to beautiful, remote places where there is only one thing to focus on and that’s the fish. No wifi, no internet, no telephones. Just the water, the fish, and me.
BD:Tell us about some of your proudest moments in fishing.
Kesley Gallagher:I have had many and each is unique; but here are my top three in no particular order:
Captain Greg Dini and I pursued a women’s IGFA record for red drum in Louisiana on 16# tippet for two years. We finally landed a record fish one very cold morning in January, 2014—he and I were shaking so badly from excitement and the cold we almost forgot to take official photos! I was able to obtain that record but it was broken about two years ago.
Another very memorable moment for me was landing a 105-pound Belizean tarpon in front of a bar during happy hour in November 2016. My guide, Bruce Leslie, had called off the day due to bad weather. I was depressed over it so I took a long walk along the beach and noticed rolling tarpon in front of the Tipsy Tuna. I immediately called Bruce and within the hour, I was casting to a school of tarpon feeding on a bait ball. I landed a small tarpon but Bruce said to keep casting for a much larger fish, which he had seen. After changing to a sinking line, I hooked that fish, she jumped three times, and the bar goers started to cheer. My guide told me I had to land the tarpon because he would never live it down if he lost it in front of his hometown. After 45 minutes, I landed her and we had many free mojitos that night.
My guide, Captain Luis Cortes, and I were on flat in Islamorada during the tournament and I cast to a sizable tarpon. A much larger fish came out of nowhere and grabbed the fly and took off. We chased down the fish, was able to leader it, and then the fight was on! My guide and I were prepared for at least one hour of aching muscles and sweat; she was so big I thought we would be in Marathon before we were done. The tarpon jumped high, clearly taller than me at 5’7”, landed on the 16# tippet and snapped it. My guide estimated the fish at 140#. Next time!
Remembering the giant fish that got away is why we always come back for more.