On women and fly fishing

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My wife once asked me, “What do you guys do after you’re done fishing for the day; do you give each other back rubs?” I consider this question so profound that I still ponder it after these many years. What statement throughout history could better exemplify the male-female dialectic! Obviously, she thought this a reasonable question rooted in her experience, while I just as obviously found it of jaw-dropping absurdity. “Of course we don’t give backrubs! We eat, drink, tell bad jokes and stuff” (and quietly suffer our aching backs in manly fashion). If the sexes are this far apart in their understanding and world view, how or why can we tolerate each other, let alone fish together? My consciousness has since been raised a bit from those earlier times, and I now not only appreciate their viewpoint, but enjoy fishing with women. The backrub thing is still out, however.

Okay, let’s discuss the matter of the participation of the female sex in the art of fly fishing. Our club currently has over 40 members, of which exactly two are female. The reasons for this are complex and undoubtedly beyond my limited comprehension. Still… fly fishing is not a contact sport. It is not championed by swole-muscled, brawny headbangers. No, this sport lends itself to the more delicate of sensibilities and that most rare of masculine traits, patience. Fly fishing is not open field tackling – it is ballet. Casting a fly cannot be accomplished through brute force. It must be done through a delicate maneuvering of one’s musculature that requires timing, restraint, imagination and finesse – right-brain stuff – all female traits. And yet, where are the women, and how did we get here? Why is there not at least an equal participation by both men and women? Certainly, some of this results from anachronistic sex-role beliefs that should by now have gone the way of the great buffalo (contrast the past actions of the expectant father in smoking cigars in the waiting room as his wife gives birth, and their present-day roles as active participants). But fly fishing seems to be evolving at a slower pace. Sure, there are several prominent women fly fishers (notice I have abandoned the term “fishermen” here) active in the sport, mostly associated with off-season ski areas. But the rank and file female remains woefully underrepresented in the sport.

One of the goals of our club is to increase our female membership. We offer not only a fun group of like-minded enthusiasts, but training and mentorship to get anyone started in this wonderful sport. Many of our excursions are to trout waters with helpful guides and very accommodating lodges – no hard-core camping required (unless that’s your thing). Those of you interested can dip your toe in the waters by coming to any of our bimonthly breakfasts at Stone & Barrel. For information, please contact Randy Smith at [email protected], telephone 480-371-8406 or visit our website at www.sunlakesflyfishing.com.

There. Got that off my chest. Now back to belching, telling bad jokes and smashing beer cans on my forehead.