Okay, so now that I have your attention, believe it or not, there’s a very serious message to be shared about the state of the fly fishing world. The sport is too male-dominated. And it is suffering as a result.
Thankfully, there are indeed many great female icons of the sport like Joan Wulff, Patty Reilly, Wendy Gunn, Lori-Ann Murphy, Diana Rudolph, lately April Vokey and others.
The root of the problem is gear, or the lack thereof for women. Okay, before you send the hate mail, fly fishing gear manufacturers, I will acknowledge that many of you do offer good products for women. Orvis has a long track record of making nice things for women fly fishers.
Lately, Redington has really made a push in the women’s product area; my wife is wearing the Willow River waders and absolutely loves them. Simms has a solid product lineup for female anglers.
But by and large, industry wide, the focus on women anglers is an afterthought. At the recent International Fly Tackle Dealer show, where all the retailers from around the world get to check out new gear, there was a vote for best products by category. In the women’s product category, “none of the above” garnered more votes than in any other category. I know, because I counted the votes.
Thing is, I am absolutely convinced that women are born better natural fly fishers than men. Testosterone is a serious impediment to catching fish with a fly rod. But when you walk into many fly shops, you have to make a concerted effort to find the women’s products, especially women’s fly rods. Think, by way of contrast, about how hard it is to find ladies clubs in your average golf pro shop. How hard is it to dial in on women’s skis? Or tennis racquets? Fly fishing should endeavor to emulate golf, skiing, and tennis in this regard, yet it isn’t even close.
Of course, there’s the “pink factor.” I certainly support any product made pink in an effort to generate awareness and funds in support of causes like breast cancer research. But my goodness, for every woman I know who can rock the pink with confidence and effect on the river (and bless them for that ability), I know at least 10 (including Mrs. Deeter) who finds lipstick pink fly gear in the name of “I am woman, see me fish” well… revolting.
I know it’s a chicken and the egg deal, and market demand drives product development. But man, we can do better. We must kill the boys club mentality before it kills the sport.