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Cast a Wider Net: Is Fly Fishing the New Yoga?

Women are the fastest-growing demographic among fly-fishers. Here’s why.

Fly fishing on the river in a rural place in the summer, young fishing woman standing in the water.Unrecognizable people in the background; Shutterstock ID 673626853; Notes: . Shutterstock / Avatar_023

Are you ready to trade in your yoga mat for a fishing rod and waders? Women are embracing the sport of fly-fishing like never before, and they’re doing it for some of the same reasons that yoga retreats took off. “Today, it seems to be more important to women to be able to unplug and be immersed in nature,” says Christine Atkins, from The Orvis Company and a co-leader of the 50/50 On The Water project, the outfitter’s campaign to increase the number of women fly-fishers to 50 percent through offering women-only classes, events, and trips, and fostering a sense of community. “The adrenalin piece of catching a fish is nice, but there’s so much more to it. It’s pretty meditative.”

Women are the fastest-growing demographic in fly-fishing, thanks to the introduction of better gear, the rise of digital media delivering captivating images, and efforts by entities such as Orvis. According to the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF), 31 percent of American fly-fishers are women, which reflects a double-digit jump over seven years.

“Today, it seems to be more important to women

to be able to unplug and be immersed in nature.”

 

Regardless of how quickly fly-fishing reaches equality on the water, the women who love it will see it as much more than a hobby. “Fly-fishing is such a personal experience,” says April Vokey, the Canadian founder of the 11-year-old guiding operation Fly Gal Ventures. “I like it because I can personalize it to what I need at that time. If I need to reflect and reconnect with myself, I find an intimate trout stream or a misty lake accessorized by calling loons. If I need invigoration and excitement, I raft the whitewater of wide, rugged British Columbia rivers in search of silver steelhead fresh from the ocean. But mostly, if I need to find myself, fly-fishing allows me to do so while trekking through the bush in search of fish, animals, foliage, and experiences… it’s the perfect symbolism.”

There are several opportunities to learn fly fishing, from Orvis’s all-women fly-fishing trips to Belize (the next one is planned in October 2019) to private guides at luxury resorts, including The Resort at Paws Up in Montana, which employs women fly-fishing guides. “On vacation, it’s the perfect time for them [women] to step out of their comfort zones and experience something brand new or improve a current skill that they don’t get to do every day,” says Alison Lewis, an executive at the resort.

“We have had women at the lodge who have never cast a fly rod before, and with some instruction, have success on the first day,” says Shauna Daughters, owner and operator of Cedar Lodge, on the South Island of New Zealand, who notes that the resort is planning a women’s fly-fishing week for March 2019. “One of the wonderful things about teaching women is they are very good listeners, and novices don’t come with any bad habits, so it’s really fun to watch their success.”

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