Honoring Mom: a tribute to Sylvia Bashline

Zoa Bashline Kile

by Zoa Bashline Kile

Context: After seeing our segment on Channel4, Terry Kile, Zoa Bashline Kile’s husband, contacted us. He said the TV segment reminded him of his mother-in-law’s legacy as an angler, writer, and woman of the outdoors. Zoa Bashline Kile  then wrote a piece to honor her Mom, Sylvia Bashline. As women continue to lead innovation, conservation, and outdoor adventure, we shall take time to reflect and give thanks to the brave women before us. Enjoy! – April Archer, CEO/Founder, SaraBella Fishing 

I think a lot about Mom in the spring because, like most gardeners, it was her favorite time of the year. Redbud trees in bloom, tomato plants in the ground and cut daffodils in the house. Of course, spring also means mayfly hatches and rising trout.

Sylvia Bashline, 1970s

My mom, Sylvia Bashline, grew up in Potter County, Pennsylvania. It might just be the perfect place to live if you’re going to learn to love fishing and hunting. She started fishing at a young age with her Dad — heading out on the first day of trout season with a bamboo fly rod and worms from the garden for bait.   Her mother taught her to bake pies and take down a grouse with a .410 shotgun.

Sylvia & Jim Bashline on the Miramichi River, Sept 1992, approx. 20 lb

When she and my dad started dating in high school, many of those dates took place on a trout stream. Sadly, we moved away from Potter County when I was in 2nd grade, so my sister and I were never bitten by the outdoor bug as badly as they had been, but we reaped the benefits of their upbringing. Not too many of our pre-teen peers knew how to tie a fly, debone a brook trout, or identify edible mushrooms in the wild.

Mom was also a writer, penning magazine articles about her passions: the great outdoors and the food it provides. She authored three cookbooks about the “Bounty of the Earth” (the name of her first) and of course, all of those recipes had to be tested.  We had great family dinners of squirrel, bluegills, grouse, watercress salads, and more. I knew my world included outdoor knowledge beyond that of many my age when I had all these great things to eat that my friends thought were cringe worthy. My pickled venison heart sandwiches were not the hit of the lunch table. I didn’t really care. They were good.

Having a mother who fished and hunted also made me appreciate early on the fact that gender was not to be considered a restriction. In the 1960s, girls were still not allowed to wear pants to school, only dresses or skirts. So waders and holsters were uncommon fashion accessories for other moms. She held her own in all-male fishing camps and was a welcome participant, because she knew her stuff.

Mom mentored others in her field easily. As food editor for Field and Stream magazine, President of the Pennsylvania Outdoors Writers Association and later, the executive director of the national organization, the Outdoor Writers Association of America, she relished the chance to be an advocate for women in a male-dominated field.

My parents were fortunate enough to live for over 10 years, toward the end of their lives, on Spruce Creek in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania. It’s one of the best and most well-known trout streams in the Northeast, and is famous for being where President Carter used to fly fish when he wanted to escape Washington D.C. They also took yearly trips to Little Southwest Miramichi River in New Brunswick, Canada, to fish for salmon. Their writing and photos supported this much envied lifestyle.

Sylvia Bashline, 1933-2011

Mother’s Day doesn’t provide me with any grave to visit, but that’s okay. Mom is, literally, a part of a Redbud tree in the front yard of our old house, a spawning bed in the Miramichi and her favorite trout stream in Potter County. (Though, if asked, I will deny knowledge of how any of this happened.) It’s just where she would like to be on a Spring day, when flowers are blooming and trout are rising.


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