My fishing journey began with my grandfather, who showed me how to use a simple worm, hook, and pole. Slow-paced days and quiet conversations on the lake with Grandpa evolved into early summer mornings with my father, fishing the rocks and looking for surface feeds.
Seeing the feeding stripers is a memory I’ll never forget. As a little girl, I remember thinking that the fish looked like raindrops on the water. I watched my father effortlessly bomb out a cast and saw the pure joy on his face when he hooked up. In that moment, we were both giddy children.
Dad got me on the water at a young age and helped me experience the wonders and beauty of the ocean. Over time, these experiences fueled a lifelong passion for fishing.
Over the years, I’ve found that the disconnection from everyday life that fishing provides is equally as important to me as catching “the one.” While landing fish brings a rush of excitement, fishing offers a sense of purity and stillness that can only be experienced outdoors—and more women are finding beauty behind fishing, as well as the thrill of the bite.
In recent years, opportunities for women on the water have greatly increased. The Outdoor Industry Association’s 2018 Special Report on Fishing noted that 31% of the fly-fishing industry is made up of female anglers. This percentage is predicted to rise since women are the fastest growing demographic in the sport. The American Sportfishing Association reported that women account for 45% of new fishing participants in 2017. Are women key to the future of fishing?
Opportunity for women on the water is enhanced when you put a rod in your daughter’s hand and she gets her first chance to hook into a striped bass. Or, you simply take her on one of your fishing adventures so she sees first-hand the fascination and excitement that fishing brings you. By being introduced to fishing at a young age, she’s more likely to become an angler, and more likely to become an outdoorswoman—a woman who has an appreciation for nature and wants to spend her days on the water instead of staring at a screen. In teaching them young, children can better understand the importance of ocean conservation, protection of natural resources, and the proper handling of fish. In turn, the fishing industry has a better chance of thriving in years to come.
While women’s involvement is increasing, opportunities are still essential for further growth. More women should be encouraged to get on the water with a rod in hand. Whether it’s from shore, kayak, or boat, showing a novice female angler the ropes can have a huge impact because, in general, women are still learning from others who exemplify a passion for fishing rather than discovering it on their own.
It’s important for any new angler to remember that tangled lines, wind knots, and lost flies are part of the journey. Mistakes like these happen, even for an experienced angler, especially when adrenaline is pumping and fish are feeding. For anyone new to fishing, the learning curve can be long, but with adequate time spent on the water, the “ah-ha moment” is just around the corner.
The truth is, fishing isn’t about speed, strength, or endurance. Fishing levels the playing field, creating an opportunity for the female angler (and all anglers) to become knowledgeable and seasoned within the sport. The feeling of the strike and screaming line gets an angler’s blood pumping every single time. Anglers feed off the same shared emotions; they cling to the thoughts of adventure, optimism, patience, frustration, and the unknown. It’s those indescribable moments of catching a sunrise on the open ocean, witnessing bait being pushing out to sea, and the thrill of fish feeding. Some of the most unique, remote, and beautiful places around the world can be experienced through fly-fishing. of life.
Greats like Joan Wulff and Helen Shaw paved the way, leaving a legacy for female anglers who share their passion. Over 70 years later, the industry is seeing a rise in the number of women on the water, pursuing fly-fishing as a lifestyle, and for some, even a career.
Female anglers have gravitated toward several different roles: conservationists, guides, entrepreneurs, artists, and industry leaders. Women are starting our own fishing companies, landing record-breaking fish, and making their marks as highly respected and sought-after captains and guides.
What’s in store next for women on the water? Female anglers will continue to break through uncharted territories, and offer guidance to any angler looking to get out on the water. I feel inspired by the growth and enthusiasm surrounding women in the fishing industry—let’s continue to make waves.
Female Anglers To Follow:
A lifelong fly-fisher, Jenny recently started FlyandFlow, a company aimed at encouraging more women to get on the water with fly rods to experience all the destinations opened up by a passion for fishing.
Morgan travels the Northeast in search of stripers on the fly and targets trout in her home state of New Jersey between trips to the salt. Instagram:@morgan_mattioli
Captain Elena is part of the Reel Deal Fishing Charters crew, targeting groundfish, striped bass, and giant bluefin tuna out of Cape Cod.
Daphne fishes Rhode Island’s salt waters hard, working as a deckhand, pin hooker, and full-blown fishing addict for everything from tog to tuna.
Phoenix fishes all over, but home base is Martha’s Vineyard, where she fishes for stripers, blues, and false albacore.
Andrea is a passionate freshwater angler in Connecticut, targeting big bass, pike, and panfish year-round.