Dave Micus, Plum Island Sound

September 13th, 2004

The Lady or the Fish?
By Dave Micus

Up in my neck of the ocean I don't see many women fly fishers. I'm not sure if it's because it's salt-water fly-fishing, or is it that there just aren't a lot of women interested in the sport. I suspect it's the latter. If you survey the covers of fly fishing magazines, however, you'd get the impression that no one but women fly fish, as almost every cover is graced with an attractive young lady holding a trophy trout. A closer inspection often reveals brand new waders, a vest without gink spots, large hoop earrings, perfect teeth, and a few other things that suggests 'model' not 'fly fisher.'

It's likely a marketing ploy to attract men, and it probably works. But this is not to say that there are no women fly-fishers. What is considered the very first book written about fly-fishing, A Treatyse of Fysshynge with an Angle,/b>, was written by Dame Julianna Berners, the Prioress of the Benedictine Nunnery of Sopwell, in 1496. Let's hope she fished better than she spelled. Some more contemporary women fly fishers are author Margot Paige, the granddaughter of Alfred Miller (a.k.a. Sparse Gray Hackle) and wife of Tom Rosenbauer. Cathy Beck is a renowned female fly-fisher and author who was once kind enough to personally answer an inquiry that I sent to her website asking about fishing the Florida Keys. Paige Rogers is well known on the East coast for her fly-fishing and fly tying, and no discussion of women fly fishers would be complete without mentioning casting guru Joan Wulff. But while there is a fair share of famous fly fishing women, you just won't find many women streamside.

My wife doesn't fly-fish, and there are times when I've regretted this, feeling that she'd understand my passion a bit more if we shared it. But when I read Margot Paige's "Little Rivers" and noted that she and husband Tom Rosenbauer argued over who would watch the baby while the other fished the evening hatch, I realized that, like most couples, my wife and I don't need yet another thing to fight about. My fishing provides "normal distance," a term used by psychologist to describe that occasional sanctuary a married person needs from his or her spouse, and I'd bet that my wife appreciates my fishing almost as much as I do. Maybe more.

In my own experience when a woman is present on the stream it changes the dynamic, and guys, being, after all, guys, are quick to introduce themselves and offer advice to the ladies where, if the intruder were a man, he'd be treated like a worm dunker. I occasionally attend fly fishing seminars at a local shop, and there is a woman who attends now and again. In normal circumstances she would be considered plain looking, but grubby fly fishers are nothing if not great contrast gainers, and in this setting she's a super model. We respond to the Pavlovian bell and edge closer to be near her so we can share our clever observations and pithy insights, and I'd suggest to any woman seeking male companionship that she would have the selection to herself at these fly fishing events. Realize, though, that while the odds are good, the goods are odd.

I enjoy the company of the opposite sex at least as much as the next guy, but I've come to believe that there are some interests that just aren't meant to be shared, like watching the three stooges. Plus I don't need the distraction. I bumble enough when I luck onto a pod of feeding fish; who knows what I'd do if an attractive woman was watching. And if there were more women streamside I'd probably feel that I should wash my fishing hat, replace my tattered fishing shirt, coordinate my outfit-do a 'queer eye for the fly guy' thing, and that's really not my style.

So I'm glad that I don't see more women fly-fishing, and as I write this I can't help but realize, damn, I'm getting old... ~ Dave

About Dave:

Dave Micus lives in Ipswich, Massachusetts. He is an avid striped bass fly fisherman, writer and instructor. He writes a fly fishing column for the Port City Planet newspaper of Newburyport, MA (home of Plum Island and Joppa Flats) and teaches a fly fishing course at Boston University.


Previous Dave Micus Columns

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