This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

January 21st, 2002

Women Who Don't Fish

Dorothy Schramm has a neat article in the current issue of the FFF magazine, in the 'Women's Education' section, titled, "Calling in Well" and it has to do with setting priorities to find the time for the fishing gals to get out and fish. Since I fall under that category, I read it with interest, and her suggestions are really good. But that's not the problem.

About 8% of the readers of Fly Anglers OnLine (FAOL) are female. Does that strike you about the way you see it? Just this fall, fishing our late salmon run, out of 50 or more anglers of all types (spin, cast, fly) I was usually the only woman. I did see one other gal there once this fall.

The problem isn't getting women who already fish to actually go - it's getting women interested in fishing at all.

In my case, my dad and grandfather fished. I graduated high school during the 50s, and the world was much different then. The family pretty much WAS a family. Divorce and single-parent homes were not common. Fewer wives worked. Outdoor activities were very accepted. Kids were encouraged to go outside and do stuff. It might be a pick-up football or baseball game, bike riding or a host of other 'outdoors' stuff. Families spent vacations together, renting a cottage on a lake and fishing was common too.

The world of the 50s was not overwhelmed with television (yes it was there, but no one arranged their lives to fit a program schedule) computers consisted of huge Univac things which took up a city block. And for those who don't really think I am older than dirt, I actually learned slide rule to get through some college math and chemistry classes.

It was still common for dad, grandfather, or 'uncle' to take the kids fishing. Or hunting. We admired our elders. We were not interested in trashing or suing them. Like I said, a different time. The biggest problem in my high school was gum chewing.

I am an only child. My father and his dad were both outdoors men. I begged to go along. I fished with a bait rod until I was 11 and grandfather gave in and taught me to fly fish. I hunted too.

The problem is we don't have as many grandfathers who are willing to take a young girl fishing for anything, much less fly fishing. Mom and dad, if they are still married (remember the divorce rate is about 52% in the U.S.) are swamped with their own 'agenda' and the kids noses are pressed to either the tv or computer screen. Suggesting the kids go outdoors and do something is taken as punishment and restriction of their privileges to indulge in all the sex and violence the television and computer games are all too eager to provide. It's even tougher for single parent families.

The RBFF (Recreation Boating and Fishing Foundation) - funded by your sports excise dollars - has been running ads on tv to encourage people to 'Go Fish.' The prime place they placed those ads was during televised professional football games. Really? Duh.

Frankly, if you are a fisherman (male) and you wish your lady or wife would fish with you, invite her to go. Be serious about the invite, and you might mention you will include dinner on the way home. (How would like to fish all day, get home and then have to cook and clean up?) If you have young kids, make arrangements for a sitter - or YOU must be prepared to fend for the youngsters while she has some time to try fly fishing without the kids depending on her for anything.

Show her the basics, if you spend more than 10 minutes on this it's too much. Point her in the direction of fish and leave her alone. Do not hover. Do not coach (unless asked). And if asked, answer the questions simply, without preaching or treating her like a dork. You are trying to gain a fishing buddy, not teach corporate law. If she expresses an interest, get her her own set up - do not give her the old set up you can't stand. This is not the place for cast-offs. (If she doesn't like fly fishing, eventually you can glom onto her set up or sell it.) Teaching someone to fish with junk is like trying to teach someone to bowl with a square bowling ball.

Do not, DO NOT, under any circumstances make fun of her. If she is laughing about something fine, laugh with her. Do not laugh AT her. We are touchy about that.

I've heard men are more sensitive than women. Boloney. Especially not when a women is trying to learn her man's favorite sport. Praise anything she does right. Do not yell, "NO! That's not the way to do that!" Take the phrase, "That's Wrong!" out of your vocabulary. Instead try, "It might work better for you if, . . . " In a calm, even tone, thank you. If she gets the hang of it you're in for a real treat, we can be wonderful fishing companions, and if encouraged can even speak the language. I will warn you though, equipping two to fish is not cheaper than one.

The chances of you single guys finding a women who already is a fly fisher are slim. You might try your local fishing club, fly shop, tying class, or haunt the banks and parking lots of your favorite fishing spots. If you happen to run into a gal fly fishing, be pleasant. It could be a very nice experience.

How do we get more women fly fishing? You and I can encourage women to give it a try, but frankly if there isn't some inherent interest in the outdoors it isn't going to happen. Well, maybe if Robert Redford makes another "movie." ~ LadyFisher

If you would like to comment on this or any other article please feel free to post your views on the FAOL Bulletin Board!

Archive of Ladyfisher Articles

[ HOME ]

[ Search ] [ Contact FAOL ] [ Media Kit ] © Notice