by Beau Beasley
More times than not when folks learn I’m a fly angler I hear a statement like, ‘I’ve always wanted to do that, but never took the time to learn.” This is a real shame since most of us work for decades at jobs that we might not like because it pays well, (or perhaps because it doesn’t). This can leave you with a sense of wanting to be out doing something you really enjoy instead. The problem is we often wait too long to pursue our passions.
One thing I’ve noticed lately is lady anglers aren’t interested in taking a back seat in this sport, or waiting for someone else to lead them. In fact, lady anglers are entering the sport of fly fishing at a rate that might surprise you. Need proof? Let’s take a look at a few lady anglers in the fly fishing industry and you can see for yourself what I mean.
This coming April the Virginia Fly Fishing Festival (www.vaflyfishingfestival.org) is offering more classes taught by female instructors than ever before. Why? Simply put, the demand is there, and as a fly fishing festival that want’s to grow, they are reaching out to lady anglers. Last year the VFFF saw female attendance increase, and their experience varied from seasoned river guides to brand new anglers. The festival saw an influx of women that were already interested in spending time outdoors, but wanted to find a new way to connect with their husbands or boyfriends on the water together. To them, fly fishing seemed like a perfect fit.
Women from their late teens to mid-60s can easily get involved in fly fishing, but their key to success is often good instruction. To that end women often want to learn from other women because their learning styles are often different from men. Like all of us, women are much more likely to ask questions in an environment where they feel safe. I don’t mean physically safe, I mean safe in the sense that at times having a female instructor makes them feel less intimidated when it comes to asking questions that might seem silly to us, but are real to newbies entering the sport. The truth is some men also prefer female instructors because they feel less of a need to be a know it all. Let’s face it fellas, we rarely want to ask anyone for help, especially another man if we think we might be viewed as less than the perfect outdoorsman. Don’t believe me? When was the last time you stopped someone and asked for directions!
Three lady anglers I know that are making great strides in the fly fishing world are Wand Taylor, Tracey Stroup and Kiki Gavin.
Wanda Taylor and Tracey Stroup make up the “Fit Fly Gals” and are touring the country on behalf of their sponsor, nationally known rod maker Temple Fork Outfitters (www.tforods.com). These ladies give classes custom made to help new anglers learn how to cast and be better prepared for taking on a day on the water. Wanda hales from Tennessee and is a nationally recognized casting expert who has worked for years as a professional guide. She is the first women in the country to earn the title of Certified Master Casting Instructor from the International Federation of Fly Fishers. I’ve been a fly angler for many years and consider myself a pretty good caster. I have to be honest though and say I don’t hold a candle to Wanda, she’s just that good. To make things even better, Wanda has no ego about her abilities and she’s a joy to be around.
Tracey Stroup is formally educated in the fitness field and provides advice on healthy living, as well as good fishing form. She calls Pennsylvania home and lives within a stone’s throw of the famous Little Juanita River. Tracey specializes in helping anglers prevent injuries while on the stream or helping them adjust to injuries which they may already have. She takes on health related issues such as chronic shoulder pain, tennis elbow, and chronic knee problems which often plague anglers and keeps them off the water. Her business Trained by Tracey (www.trainedbytracey.com) has been so successful she currently working on a book to help even more anglers get on the water.
Kiki Gavin owner of Ms. Guided Fly Fishing (www.msguidedflyfishing.net) a well-known fly fishing guide and physical trainer living in northern Virginia who does custom fitness training at her client’s homes. Thankfully she’s just as comfortable guiding her clientele for trout on a mountain stream as she is giving them tips on how to stay in shape. Kiki is a superb angler and travels widely pursuing her passion of fly fishing from chasing smallmouth bass in the waters of Virginia, to tracking down trout out west on famous rivers like the Madison and Big Horn. Kiki is the type of angler that wants to share what ever information she has to next person on the stream. In a nut shell, Kiki is precisely the type of angler I want to be around.
Just like men, women connect with being in the outdoors and getting away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Once they take the plunge, you may find that lady anglers will go from being mildly interested in fly fishing locally to going on exotic locations to fish for specialized species like tarpon or bonefish. I only have one word of warning; if the lady in your life takes up fly fishing, watch out. In a few short years she may be able to put you to shame.
Let’s be honest guys, fly fishing isn’t really hard, it’s just different. Like any other sport it takes time and effort and there’s simply no reason that women anglers can’t join the ranks of fly fishers if they wish. If you’re a lady angler and you’ve decided you want to try something new, then put yourself out there and go for it. Don’t know where to begin? Try contacting your local Trout Unlimited Chapter (www.tu.org) or the International Federation of Fly Fishers (www.fedflyfishers.org) in your area. Either one of these fine groups would love to help you get into fly fishing. I can assure you that women are more than capable of being excellent fly fishers, and the three ladies above are living proof that women can hang out on the stream with a fly rod, right along with their male counterparts.
Note: Beau Beasley (www.beaubeasley.com) is an award winning conservation writer and the author of Fly Fishing Virginia and Fly Fishing the Mid-Atlantic. He’s a captain with Fairfax County Fire and Rescue where he serves on Engine 427. Beau is also a member of Local 2068.
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