A couple of weeks ago I (Chloe) had the pleasure of hosting the Mountain Girl Ladies Who Cast Fly Fishing Clinic. Seven women from across the state gathered on the lawn and in the shop to learn the basics of fly fishing and more importantly, to gain confidence and break down barriers for entry into the sport.
You can teach knots, casting, technique, entomology, etc all you want, but I believe at the core of it, people (women especially) need and want to feel comfortable, welcomed, safe, and confident when fly fishing. Walking into a fly shop can be intimidating. We started off the weekend with an after hours meet up and tour of the shop, where we also had a great ‘girl talk’ session about barriers that women face. I asked the women the following questions:
What are your initial thoughts about fly fishing? Things you are excited about, nervous about?
Past experiences with fly fishing? The good and the bad!
Why do you want to fly fish? Emphasis on you and want! Fly fishing should be fun and low stress. It should be something you want to do and don’t feel pressured to.
What support do you need in your journey? What is holding you back? (examples: time, money, nerves, gear, etc).
How can the fly fishing and outdoor community help you?
Managing expectations: casting is weird and can be hard. Fish are just fish and have off days also. The river is wild and conditions aren’t always perfect.
It is easy to stand on the outside and say that there are no barriers or that fly fishing is open to everyone, but I can tell you that there are barriers even if they are our own anxieties. Hearing these women’s experiences and preconceived ideas of the industry and sharing my own was a great eye and heart opening experience. Going into the second day of the clinic I was determined to help break down these barriers and give the women all I could to get them on the water.
On day two we all cozied up in the shop for some classroom time. We went over gear, terminal tackle, and flies then learned some knots. We broke for lunch (shoutout to Apples and Anglers, it was so good!). After lunch the infamous Livingston wind died down enough for us to do some casting practice. Some of the women had never even held a fly rod before, but all the ladies had great attitudes and picked it up quickly. When everyone was feeling good about casting, we headed down to the river to put it all together.
We flipped over rocks and looked at the aquatic insects and compared them to what was in our fly box. We talked about stream access and etique, and as a group we talked about what water to focus on first. The ladies picked out flies, tied ‘em on and headed out. A few of the ladies had quick rainbows go after their fly and one even landed her very first fish! As we wrapped up, I clipped the lucky fly off her line and handed it to her and said “this belongs in your hat, you earned it!”
The weekend was an amazing learning experience for myself. My goal was to give these women the tools they need to get on the water. I wanted them to feel comfortable asking questions in a shop and to feel empowered enough to pick up a rod and head out. I was so happy to see these women become more comfortable and confident throughout the clinic. It was fulfilling watching the women pick out their own flies, tie their own knots, pick out a run, and even catch fish.
We are looking forward to more events like this next summer! If you’d like to stay in loop about upcoming clinics, please shoot me an email at [email protected]
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Special thanks to Katie Cooney for the photos!