An angler holding a fly rod was a fine choice for a senior photo.
This was the first time I had seen a senior portrayed as a fly fisherman until I clicked through images of high school graduates on my son’s web page.
Instead of holding a football helmet, basketball, or positioned beside a farmer’s rustic barn or field of flowers, this senior chose what has been and is likely to be a lifetime hobby, maybe more.
Photographer Steve Davis (Aperture) of Onalaska met Robbie Ruprecht and his parents, Jeanie and Rob, at their cabin along Seas Branch trout stream in Vernon County recently.
“There was never really any other option than me fly fishing because it was such a huge part of my life,” said Robbie, 18, a senior at Onalaska High School. “It seems I’m either wishing I were fishing or thinking about fishing, so it was natural that my senior photo would show me that way.”
“The one we put up on our wall will be one of Robbie fishing the stream by our cabin,” his mom said.
“My photographer had to be in waders, in the water,” Robbie said. “He was down on his knees, to get a reflection. He needed to be in a clearing so everything had to be in the right light.”
Like most outdoors senior photos, this one was timed to be taken with end-of-day light.
“Many young anglers tend to grow away from things like fishing; I see getting more and more involved as I go on to college and get older,” Robbie said. “Maybe a degree in fisheries biology, some guiding, and working some in a fly shop, as I’m doing now at Driftless Angler in Viroqua. I think I can start that career at UW-La Crosse or Viterbo University in La Crosse.”
Robbie’s uncle, who has a fly-fishing business in De Pere, put a custom-made fly rod in Robbie’s hands at his first birthday party. It was the first birthday present he remembers getting, he said.
“He started seriously teaching me when I was 4, and now I’m trying to get my parents to do more fishing,” Robbie said. “My younger brother, Charlie, is likely to get more involved, too, maybe even working a fly shop.
“It’s the beauty of trout, particularly brook trout, which make fly fishing so magical and on top of that they’ll take a dry fly.”
Robbie is not a note-taker. So far he keeps his memories “upstairs.”
One of his most memorable days was catching his first muskie with a fly.
“It wasn’t a big fish, maybe 30 inches. I remember it being toothy and somewhat scary, but not a lot of fight,” he said. “But the water exploded.”
Robbie and the photographer thought about getting a trout in the photo, but both figured it may wreck the essence and distract from the surroundings and person.
This young angler admits to tying flies — he’s had a tying vice since he was 4 — but he is more of a fisherman. His favorite fly is the Milwaukee leech, which he says can be fished nearly anytime during the season, particularly spring and summer and after a big rain.
Sometimes Robbie fishes alone, but often with others.
The Ruprecht family’s wall hanging depicts the beginning and also perpetuity of this angler.
Jerry Davis can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.