One of the big changes from the old OrvisNews.com to this new, redesigned site is that we did away with the Women in Fly Fishing blog and simply rolled those posts over here into Fly Fishing. This decision was based mostly on feedback that we had received from female anglers, many of whom appreciated that we were trying to call out their participation in the sport but who ultimately felt that the best way to show acceptance and respect is to treat them no differently than we do men. “Women in Fly Fishing” is now a tag we use at the bottom of relevant posts, so if someone does want to see a gender-specific feed, they can just click on the tag.
I bring this up because several fly-fishing blogs have recently taken up the issue of women in the sport this week, and they offer varying perspectives. On Sunday, Fontinalis Rising posted “Chicks with Fly Rods,” in which he takes issue with some women who seem to be engaging in social-media self-promotion based solely on the fact that they are female and they fish:
This gal is one out of a dozen or more that have come through my social media outlets in the last year that all seem to have the same message- “Look at me, I’m a girl who fly fishes.” They offer nothing else, except perhaps lots of pictures of themselves posing with fish in smooching, pouting or even suggestive poses. This rant of mine is not against women in general, but only against this kind of shameless self-promotion that centers simply around the fact that they are female and fly fish. I fly fish all the time, so trust me, it’s no great accomplishment. Do you have opposable thumbs and a frontal cortex? Then you too can fly fish. It’s not men’s rugby after all. It requires skill and finesse, but not some sort of manly strength that any woman couldn’t handle. Promoting oneself as “a girl who fishes” can easily be reduced to the sexist “look, even GIRLS can do it.”
He then goes on to reel off the names of women such as Joan Wulff, writer Erin Block, fly shop manager Katie Ferner, and Midwest entomology expert Ann Miller as a way to show that there are already tons of women making an impact on the sport.
In response to the Fontinalis Rising post, writer Dan Nelson offered a different view on his blog, Adventures Northwest, in a post called “Women Fish!” He begins by pointing out that there is still tons of sexism in the angling world, in the generally dismissive attitude many anglers display toward women to the sexist language in the angling press. His reading of the Fontinalis Rising post is critical:
While the blogger refrains from directly discouraging woman from fishing, he suggests they should stop expressing their woman’s point of view on the sport. “Please – keep fishing, keep sharing your pictures and story. Just take the emphasis off your gender.” I think that’s wrong. Not the part about the fishing and sharing of pictures and stories. No, what’s wrong is the idea that gender should be ignored.
He concludes by arguing that the opportunity to read “about the experiences, joys and triumphs of other women” may make the sport seem less intimidating to women who would like to get involved.
I have been very fortunate in my career to have spent a lot of time around remarkable female anglers, many of whom are better anglers than I am. I would not want to make an on-stream bet with the likes of Cathy Beck, Lori-Ann Murphy, or Rachel Finn. And it’s not even close when it comes to salt water: Diana Rudolph or Sarah Gardner would kick my ass. Really, if I start counting all of the expert female anglers I know, i run out of fingers and toes pretty damn fast.
However, it is important to remember that not all women are the same. The question that seems to be posed by these competing views above is: Is there a right way and a wrong way to go about presenting yourself as a female fly fisher? If so, why?
What do you think?