This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

August 2nd, 2004

Hey, You're 26% Female!


Occasionally something shows up in the snail mail which really is interesting; mostly getting any mail at all is in itself interesting, small towns can be fun.

This week brought a six-year report on American Recreation Participation from the Outdoor Industry Association. The lead paragraph of the report, "Reaching 145.7 million Americans, the outdoor recreation population has grown larger, younger, and become more dedicated over a six-year study period."

Still quoting, "An analysis of outdoor recreation behavior in 21 human-powered activities performed by Americans 16 and over, the Study focuses on the growth of casual "participants" as well as devoted "enthusiasts" since 1998.

Adding 16 million new faces since 1998, outdoor "participants" now compromise two-thirds of the national population. Within that group, outdoor "enthusiasts" have surged more than 25 percent to 46.8 million people, indicating a shift toward more frequent and more dedicated outdoor use."

The total report, 267 pages in length, covers everything from bicycling to rafting and nordic skiing.

Some of the interesting items which are relative to our sport - it has been pretty much 'flat' for the last two years, figuring a downturn in the economy and 9/11 travel for fishing was down for last year as well. The good news is travel to fish and for fishing vacations is up. Which perhaps indicates a comfort level with the current terrorism threats.

The study considers "participants" as people who went fly fishing at least once during the year (13 million). "Enthusiasts" as those who went 15 times or more (2.5 million). Both based on over 16 year olds.

The study claims 26% of fly fishing "participants" are female, with about 5% being "enthusiasts." From my personal experience, observation and the stat programs on FAOL, the numbers of total female participating in fly fishing is closer to 8%. This seems to be the only area where we are divided on our data.

The study also shows households with children at about 50% in fly fishing which the study projects as an indication of a fertile future for fly fishing. I sure hope so, but the competition with TV, Internet and Video games is so blatant in their face, it is going to take some real work to get the kids out of the house. And in my opinion, the millions spent by the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (your excise tax money) has been mostly wasted.

Something very surprising - the greatest majority of fly fishers live in the south, followed by the west! In the South, participants 35%, enthusiasts 34%. The common and popular assumption is that all the 'serious' fly fishers are in the east. The figures for the Northeast? Participants 20%, enthusiasts 17%. Just so you don't feel felt out, Northcentral: Participants 20%, enthusiasts 24%. In the West, Participants 25%, enthusiasts 26%. Those numbers should be of particular interest to fly fishing manufacturers and where they are directing their marketing.

Looking at the report from the fly fishers view, things are stable but the number of folks fishing is about what it was in 2001. The number of people involved in outdoor recreation is up - I mentioned adventure/sports travel which took a nose drive following 9/11 - that is up 14% in 2002 and up 39.1% since 2001.

Having two-thirds of the American population involved in any outdoor activity means more people are aware of the world around them and we hope that translates into doing the right thing in being stewards of the environment.

As often happens, technology from one sport translates into new products in other sports as well. Who knows what neat goodies will appear.

We do need new people in fly fishing. The age of the "enthusiasts" is 50% over 40. 12% are over 60. Our stats show the average age of folks coming into fly fishing at 45. (It was 47 when we started). We try and make the transition from spin to fly fishing as easy as possible with our Fly Fishing 101 section, and those new folks who find our Bulletin Board are generally treated with care and respect by the other readers. Unfortunately that isn't always true on other websites where the trout elite rule. They may be very shocked to learn they are in the minority!

I've just scratched the surface on this report - I will get back to you when I've absorbed more.

At the very least, it sure is interesting... ~ DLB

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

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