Britannia may have ruled the waves, but men rule the fly fishing waters. And for the
most part the whole fly fishing industry, from concept, design, manufacture and sales.
Let's face it, men do not look at women as having attributes they lack. Rather, men
look at women as lacking physical attributes they possess. As far as fly fishing is
concerned it is not viva le differance!
Someone asked me recently if I wasn't intimidated by fishing with men. Good grief.
Mostly I am honored they will fish with me. If the candy bars out there claiming to be fly
"fisherpersons" would be honest enough to take a good look at themselves they might
see how ridiculous they look and sound. They may be "wantabees," but they are not fly
Back in the time when "we" were hunter-gathers, men did the hunting. It is a gene
thing. Maybe women hunted saber tooth tigers, who can say for sure. None of them
seemed to survive. The whole hunting arena from day one has been male. Early history
and art all picture men as hunters. Occasionally a woman was mentioned, usually as an
oddity. I just finished reading a piece by John McDonald on Dame Juliana Berners in
Fisherman's Bounty. McDonald explains, in detail, the myth of
Dame Juliana. He claims it is likely she never existed, yet homage is paid to the myth.
Let's make some comparisons. If a man thinks fly fishing might be interesting, what
does he do? He talks to friends who fish. He might read a book or two on fly fishing, pick
up a fly fishing magazine, or rent a video. He might borrow a fly rod, and ask a friend to
take him along the next time he goes fishing, make a visit to the local fly shop just to look
around, or find out if there is a fly fishing club in town. He might even go to a meeting.
Who knows, someone might tell him where to fish.
What does a woman do? She sees the film "A River Runs Through It," and falls in
love with fly fishing. It looks so graceful. Since she is a woman, she decides she will take a
casting class - for women - or book a trip where they also teach - women only.
A man seeing the same film will wonder where they are fishing, what fly they really
used, who made the rod and where did he learn to cast like that - a totally different
Many men see fly fishing as a hunting expedition. Women see fly fishing as a
wonderful way to commune with nature. After all they love the outdoors and fly fishing is
something else to do while outdoors. This goes back to the theory that men would prefer
to watch something blow up, while women would rather watch a sunset - at least most of
What ever happened to real life? If women want to fly fish, fine. Go fish! I have no
problem with that. Years ago another lady who really fishes mentioned how awful waders
were. To the effect that the old Hodgeman type made a woman look pregnant. My reply
was, "They made everybody look pregnant." Maybe I missed the class on what to wear.
What women don't yet understand is that they can't change fly fishing. Who wears
what depends on how much marketing hype a person buys into. Rods, reels, lines and flies
are tools, not adornments. You don't buy a rod because you like the color. Tools which
have been chosen by an individual are based on personal preference, knowledge and
experience. The fish don't care. In fact, they really don't seem to be very impressionable
at all. Fish are simply attempting to survive in their world.
Fish do not take note as to which gender is fishing. They don't take a fly because a
man cast it, nor refuse it because a woman did. You already know my take on *special*
women's classification for IGFA records too - don't you? Yes, fish are selective, but not
about who the fisher is.
Fly fishing for many fishermen is also their attempt to survive in their world. Those
who understand that are willing to give a little privacy space on the stream or lake to the
other fishermen. It may just be a quiet evening spinner fall - or a trip of a lifetime, but the
fly fishing experience is feeding of soul - more important than food or comfort at that
For the greatest part of my life, I have been proud to say that fly fishermen are the
cream of civilized society. And I don't mean the richest, although it can happen too. Fly
fishermen, in at least what I call the now past Golden Age, treasured their rods,
meticulously cleaned and dried lines, shared their knowledge, and had a comradeship that
is mostly lacking today. Great discoveries in fly fishing happened then. Advances in fly
tying occurred and fireside discussions of a particular hatch were popular topics.
Maybe the world was more civilized then. Perhaps the micro-speed of our present
world has driven manners, courtesy, ethics, and morals out of existence. You know you
are in trouble when folks teaching casting classes also feel the need to include stream
etiquette. Seems today's fishermen have missed common courtesy in their education.
If you want to be a fisherman, go fish. So you don't catch anything at first, who's
keeping score? Fly fishing is not about catching fish, it is the total experience. It seems
what is lost here, and not just to women, is that fly fishing is an ongoing string of learning
experiences. We learn something each time we go, if we are paying attention. Sometimes
the experience is the knowledge that you just made the same mistake - again. Some
people spend a whole lifetime in their fishing journey, and it still isn't enough. This is not
instant gratification; rather a stream of satisfying instants.
For most, just being there is enough. Everything else is icing on the cake. For the
naiveté, it is just an exercise.
If I've hit a hot button you can't fault me for honesty. There are enough problems in
the fly fishing world. Degradation of watersheds, down-sizing of fish, over-harvest,
pollution, hazardous waste, whirling disease, clear cutting, irrigation, loss of insect life and
more important things to worry about.
A divided sport, - read that women only - is not a strong sport able to address any of
the problems. Instead of folks working together, it becomes "Me" first. Everyone is so
involved with their own selfish agenda that they are not willing to commit to doing
anything together. If the shoe fits . . . ~ The LadyFisher
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