Keith and Jeanette Gallaher of Fayetteville have found a terrific way to strengthen their marriage while adding adventure to their individual lives.
They travel all over the country, fly-fishing and spending time viewing the spectacular wonders of nature instead of a television screen. They watch honest-to-goodness reality shows that include waterfalls, wild animals and colorful skies.
“The fishing or the hunting gets me out of bed,” he says, “earlier than I might usually get up. But you hear a turkey gobble or watch a hawk fly over, and it’s great to be out there. There was this one time, I had a great day hunting turkeys, and I never fired a gun.”
“The fishing is fun,” she says, “but it’s not just the fishing that is so enjoyable. When you go out early, you see the sunrise, hear the birds and watch the fog rising off the water. It is magnificent.”
The Gallahers have fly-fished for sharks in the Pacific, rafted for 12 days and 187 miles through the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River and rented a houseboat for a week on the Rideau Canal (connecting the cities of Ottawa and Kingston) in Ontario, Canada.
Keith, a neonatal doctor, grew up near Philadelphia and became acquainted with hunting and fishing at an early age.
“I have always liked the outdoors stuff,” he says. “My dad got me started, and then I got addicted.”
“I was in Girl Scouts,” Jeanette says, “and went camping, but not fishing. We lived in Baltimore and later in Washington, DC, so we were pretty urban.”
The couple had five children from previous marriages. While dating, they were looking for things to do along with the kids. After becoming a family, they camped some, going up to Jordan Lake with a little pop-up tent.
Then Jeanette took a fly-fishing class.
“It wasn’t until I was an adult that I had an interest in fishing,” she says. “The reason for the class was so I could introduce fly-fishing to the kids.”
“And she thought it was something we could do together,” Keith recalls. “It got me going with fly-fishing again. I had done it when I was younger, but life got in the way, and it had been years.
“It turned out that fly-fishing was not only something we could do, but Jeanette’s interest gave me the freedom to do it. Because we were taking the trips together, I could do something I enjoyed without feeling guilty about leaving her at home.
“I also started tying flies again, something else I had done when I was growing up. Our son, Brad, found my old fly-tying kit in the garage, and he got really good at it.
“I got back to doing it, and everything Jeanette and I have caught was on something that I tied. Plus, tying is very relaxing for me. When I’m tying, my brain, is completely absorbed with what I am doing … and the trip I’m getting ready for.”
Most of what they have caught, they have thrown back. There have been large fish kept because they were good eating, but mostly the Gallahers do it for the sporting aspect.
“One of the things that is special about fishing,” she says, “is that it’s the only time you entice a wild animal to you, get it and then let it go. There is something magical about that.”
One of their most exciting trips was to the West Coast, with the goal of reeling in some Mako sharks.
“We planned that one for two years,” Keith says. “We were determined to get a specific guide, go at a specific time and fish at a specific place. That was off the coast of San Diego. Using foot-long flies I had tied, we fished off of a boat for three days, about eight hours each day.”
“Each of us caught 10 sharks,” Jeanette says, “weighing from 70 to 110 pounds apiece. We turned them loose while they were in the water. You don’t want a shark jumping around in the boat with you.
“There are some thrills in what we do, and catching those sharks was definitely one of them.”
She sits out the hunting trips her husband takes. While he goes after deer and wild turkeys, there have been bigger, more ambitious challenges as well.
“I shot an eight-foot alligator with a bow and arrow in South Carolina,” Keith says, pointing to the gator’s skull sitting on a shelf. “I plan to have gifts made from the skin—belts and billfolds, things like that.
“Brad and I went on a five-day trip hunting black bears in the mountains of Montana in the spring of 2014. He got one, and I didn’t. But I got one in the fall.”
Some of the Gallahers’ exploits are strictly visual. They own a tract of land in Harnett County that includes a millpond and a beaver pond, and both Jeanette and Keith treasure the peace they find.
“I love being there,” she says. “It’s another world. Last week, we went and picked blackberries together. That was fun.”
“I saw two different kinds of turtles laying their eggs,” he says. “Recently, after not going there for a while, I was excited to take Jeanette and show her all the things that had changed. We see and hear a lot of turkeys.”
Displaying a picture of a gobbler sticking his chest out, she laughs and says, “He’s showing off for the ladies. Males are the same in any species.”
The couple has a boat docked in Morehead City, where they do a lot of salt water fishing. Conventional fishing, they call it, for dolphin, wahoo, king mackerel and false albacore.
“It’s all about the experience,” Keith says. “If you just go fishing to catch, you are not going to have much fun. We always have fun.”
“Because being out there – in a mountain stream or the ocean … wherever – is real.”
“It is real,” Jeanette agrees. “A person can go and look at the Grand Canyon. But to be down there in it, on those rapids in the Colorado River and looking up … Wow!”
Mumau has been a writer for more than 48 years, covering some of the sports greats, including Michael Jordan, John Wooden, Jack Nicklaus and Dean Smith. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.