If you ever find yourself in Minturn, Colorado on a Wednesday night during the winter months, you’re in for a treat. Here at the fly shop there’s never a dull moment. A group of bearded men sit around a big table drinking local craft beer while bantering back and forth about how their new shimmery creation is going to rip lips better than any other fly out there. Glancing into their tying boxes, you’ll notice that the materials within are supplies that you would probably find in a Girl Scout’s arts and crafts collection. It's common to find every color of the rainbow in nail polish, google eyes, feathers, fur, beads, tinsel and beyond. While tying pink sparkly fluff on a hook and discussing what to name it (maybe Sparkle Fairy Princess).
I quickly realized that any outsider walking into the fly shop would see that this sport isn't how it seems.
Over the years, fly fishing has served many purposes – whether it is putting food on the table or serving as an escape from your daily grind. I’ve seen the sport grow over the last 10 years and one of the best parts is the flocks of women entering the male-dominated sport. I get to watch women alongside their husbands and sons and out-fishing them by a mile. The sport is reliant on technique, patience, persistence, and adaptability; women were built for this. If you can hold a fly rod, you have the opportunity (or ability) to cast it and cast it well.
It was enlightening to look back at the history of fly fishing to discover the strong presence of women in the industry since the beginning of the sport. Looking at Joan Wulff and her record-breaking 161 ft. cast, she held the world champion fly casting title for almost 20 years, and against all male competitors. Currently, 12-year-old Maxine McCormick is the world’s youngest Gold Medal Fly Casting Champion. Don't let it fool you, women have been quietly dominating the sport of fly fishing since the beginning.
Being one of very few female fly fishing guides and artists in the industry, it’s been quite the adventure to discovering my place in the fly fishing world. Whether I’m creating a larger than life painting of a fly, designing fishy apparel, or building a women’s fly rod, I get to share my passion and knowledge of the sport. I’m often asked, "How is it working with a bunch of guys?" I hear the phrase, "It's a man's world, you’re just living in it."
My fellow guides love to pick but, in a brotherly kind of way. They are the most respectful, supportive, and caring bunch of guides I could ever ask to work with.
Constantly coming at me with ideas for paintings or questions back and forth about what bugs have been working, it's inspiring to see the gender barriers in fly fishing breaking down. As an angler, hard work is hard work, and if you put the time in to master your program, it’s difficult not to respect that. Every day on the water is added knowledge in your fly box. I learned that early on.
Just like a sport's match, if you let the opposing crowd's banter affect your game, then you've lost. There can be some negative push back when entering a male-dominated sport, and the only thing you can do to break down the walls is work harder, stay humble, and know your stuff. The lady anglers out there know exactly what I’m talking about.
Constantly having to prove yourself and your knowledge to strangers can be exhausting, but it keeps us sharp.
While working on my Bachelor's degree in Fine Arts, and running a fly shop, my collection of memorable conversations grew, as well as my patience. One day behind the counter while fixing a fly reel, an older gentleman approached me and I asked if I could help him with anything. His answer, "Yes, I’d like some sausage, biscuits, and gravy ... extra gravy." I suppressed my urge to share a few choice words with him and instead politely directed him to the deli where the gentleman in an apron could serve him.
Male or female, we all experience the same struggles on the water.
Ask any angler, the biggest challenge in fly fishing is change. Everything is a variable in the fly fishing equation and finding the solution can seem impossible at times. Just when you think you have it figured out a breeze blows through. The temperatures, moon phases, water clarity, CFS, and the bugs are constantly changing.
The whole act of fly fishing can be quite the production. Tying your own bugs, choosing the right one, how to make the best drift; all being decisions that lead up to the moment when it counts. At that moment, you may be thinking "Are my knots going to hold?" or "Why did I set upstream?" Everything about it can be humbling. I love being able to take the pains of fly fishing away for guests. It's something everyone should experience. I understand that not everyone gets to cast a line on a beautiful freestone mountain-fed river every day, so when my guests get the chance, it needs to count. Evaluating the conditions and applying them to your strategy, it's all part of the game and why I love to fish.
As a female outdoor enthusiast, when it comes to gear, I want something that is going to last a long time, get the job done, and fit like a glove; enough with the supermodel fit waders and pink fly rods! I'm sure we can all agree, the more time spent shopping or replacing gear is less time spent outdoors. After years spent on the water, 8 Rivers Fly Rod Company has given me the opportunity to design an All American Made Artist Series Fly Rod. With a professional and sleek design, this rod will be artist inspired. I want it to be the ultimate tool to help you get outdoors.
As a lady angler, remember, everyone started somewhere and only real anglers open their fly box to others.