It can be a little lonely being a woman in the fly fishing industry, when your fishing buddies, your co-workers, your fellow guides, your clients and your customers are all men. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, I love men, the no drama attitudes, bravado, exaggerations, humour (or lack thereof), tall tales… But spending so much time in testosterone rich environments can be a little rough on a girl.
I particularly noticed it the other night while having dinner and drinks with friends and their friends. The women were talking about their children, pregnancies, high school reunions, homes; the men were talking about sturgeon, boats, and last week’s fishing trips. There I was stuck in the middle, not sure which conversation I fit in to or which one I wanted to join. I drifted back and forth, always with one ear tuned to the other conversation. I find this happens to me quite regularly at social gatherings, where I need the girl talk but am unable to drag myself away from the boy talk. I hear conversations about fishing or boats or gear or archery and suddenly I can’t hear anything else. Getting time to spend with my girlfriends is rare, and when I finally do I always seem to get pulled away.
I do have some amazing female fishing buddies, but the few that live close to me have weekends off, which I rarely do. The others are in northern BC, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska, so our opportunities to fish together are few and far between. So that leaves me fishing with the boys the majority of the time. Which is great, but there is a completely different vibe happening, and sometimes that testosterone is just too much. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told “sorry, my wife/girlfriend wouldn’t understand”. My co-workers here at the shop go fishing with some of our better long time customers, but so far that’s a line I haven’t crossed. Nothing would ever happen, it’s just that I’m female and they are male, and therefore it’s a no go.
I was even told I couldn’t stay at a certain slumber lodge on our favourite steelhead stream because “the boys won’t be comfortable”, despite the fact that the majority of the “boys” that stay there know me quite well and consider me to be just another angler.
I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by supportive and helpful men since I started fishing, which is not always the case for a lot of women. But every so often somebody will phone the shop, and, hearing a woman’s voice, ask to “talk to one of the guys who can help me out with rods/reels/waders (whatever)…” “You can talk to me” I always sweetly reply. “Oh…………okay……….well…..” and then they tentatively start asking their question. It makes me feel great to help them out, but it annoys me to have to prove that I know what I’m doing, whereas it’s just assumed that the guys do. The most common question I get from customers actually in the shop, is “So, do you fish?” Fair enough question, I suppose, except once again, it’s assumed that the male element in the shop does, why is it not assumed that I would too?
I guess when it comes down to it, you’ve gotta follow your passions and deal with those little annoyances as they come up. It’s nice to see more and more women getting involved in the sport, with events, courses, trips and gear designed specifically for us. With roll models like Hannah Belford, Kate Taylor, April Vokey, Whitney Gould and Mia Sheppard (among many others) blazing a trail for young women everywhere, the world of fly fishing is no longer such an intimidating place. In the end, if you love to fish, gender shouldn’t matter.