Because having to completely strip off your waders every time you have to pee isn’t the hardest part:
Just the other day I was fishing by myself when I had an older man float by me and call me “blondie”. He then proceeded to stop his boat and give his own commentary on every single fish I would hook into. Call me crazy, but I don’t think he would have done this to another male fly fisher. The truth is that I hear these types of stories from women fly fishers all the time. Just yesterday I was talking to a friend who is a guide on the North Platte and was told by a client, “you tie that knot really well for a girl”. To be honest, being a woman in the fly fishing industry isn’t much different than being a woman in everyday life. We are outnumbered, out powered, and subject to patriarchal mannerisms. There are many men who honestly believe women cannot fish as well as they can. Don’t get me wrong- I am not in any way trying to go on a feminist rant here. I have met so many amazing men in this industry- ones who fully support the female angler. However, it is the honest truth that a female can walk into 99% of fly shops and maybe find ONE shirt and ONE pair of waders for them while there are mounds of men’s gear everywhere. I would also like to point out that one major brand didn’t even start making women’s wading boots until this year. It is embarrassing. It is embarrassing walking into a fly shop, getting stared at, and then realizing they have nothing for you. It is embarrassing having men comment on your appearance rather than your fishing abilities. And it is even more embarrassing that sometimes women in this industry don’t support other women. Statistics are now showing that 1 in 3 fly fishers are women…so it’s time we all strive to make a change.
I’ve had two guy friends voice the same frustrations to me. They both said that it is way easier to get recognized or sponsored by a brand if you are a female who fly fishes. My reply was the same both times…it’s about damn time women get recognized in the sports industry. I do believe that this brand recognition is helping women empower other women all over in the industry. What my friends didn’t consider is yes, we may get more attention on social media, but that doesn’t change the fact that we still have to deal with being a woman in a male dominated industry. We have to deal with walking into a fly shop that doesn’t carry women’s apparel, we have to deal with the stares we get on the river, and we have to deal with the men who undermine our fishing skills and abilities because of our gender. I’ve also come across many men in the industry who love to discuss how attractive certain female anglers are. By doing this you are discrediting her fishing skills- so cut it out. Don’t be that guy who “slides into the DMs” or comments how pretty she is on her photos. I think I speak for all female fly fishers when I say we are here to catch fish, not to find a boyfriend.
We have to deal with a lot. The kicker is that not only do women take heat from men, but we also take heat from other women in the industry. Women by nature can be competitive with each other. I think this competition makes us judgmental. If you’re a female fisher reading this and shaking your head in denial, then you are part of the fundamental problem. We judge each other based on skills, based on the size of the fish you catch, based on Instagram followers or being a brand ambassador. We’ve all done it, we’re all guilty of it. You would think in an industry so highly dominated by men that us women would ban together. So, that’s my goal here. Out with the judgement, in with the empowerment. I know so many incredible fly fishing females who inspire me daily. I’m positive that if every one of us could fish together then all judgement and pre-conceived notions would dissipate. It’s time we lift each other up, not drag each other down. The above photo shows my girl squad fishing together a few weeks ago. We had nothing but pure joy and excitement for each other every single time one of us caught a fish- and that is what fly fishing is all about.
So to all my fly fishermen- support your local female anglers. Put yourself in their waders for a day. Don’t sexualize them or discredit their abilities. Treat them the same as you treat your fellow fishermen. And to all my fly fisherwomen- reach out to someone you’ve never fished with before and ask them to go. I guarantee you will learn something new about that person and you can both be excited for each other when you catch that fish. Always remember that girls compete, women empower. In order to make a change we all need to make a group effort. At the end of the day, it really isn’t about gender, how big of a fish you caught, or how many Instagram likes you have. It’s about being out in the wilderness and sharing your passion for something you love.