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Don’t call it a man’s world; Women can fish as well as men

Alice Owsley, owner of Riverside Anglers, and Mia Sheppard, owner of Little Creek Outfitters, fish Montana’s Yellowstone River from a drift boat. Photo by Marty SheppardAlice Owsley, owner of Riverside Anglers, and Mia Sheppard, owner of Little Creek Outfitters, fish Montana’s Yellowstone River from a drift boat. Photo by Marty Sheppard

When it comes to fishing, the lyrics to the James Brown hit song that “this is a man’s world” has historically been pretty accurate. With several notable exceptions, fishing was primarily the passion of males … but that was then and this is now. Fishing is becoming more popular with women, making the next lyrics in Brown’s song, “it wouldn’t be nothing without women or a girl,” a more accurate description of the sport of angling today.

This increased interest from women in pursuing fish with line and lure is easily documented. Over the last couple decades there have been numerous articles that look at women’s participating in fishing and fly fishing specifically, more women fishing guides, more manufactures and retailers developing practical lines of waders and other fishing gear for women, more fly fishing blogs written by women, more women’s fly fishing clubs, more women’s fishing charitable

organizations, more women’s fishing events, and women are now making a name for themselves in pro fishing.

Despite the increased popularity for the sport by women anglers, participation by women as a percentage of total anglers has held fairly steady for the past 20 years. Statistically, 27% of all anglers are women, according to the most recent National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, which is about the same it was in 1991 (28 percent) when the survey was first conducted. According to the Outdoor Foundation’s most recent Special Report on Fishing and Boating, that number is higher at 34%. The same report notes that women make up 24% of all fly anglers.

Women’s fishing participation may not be up significantly in the past 20 years, but the enthusiasm and passion for the sport from women who fish is undoubtedly at an all-time high. Unlike other sports where size, strength and speed may provide an advantage, in fishing those attributes rarely matter. Fly fishing especially has everything to do with skill, patience and even grace; arguably giving women an advantage.

When I decided to write about women’s involvement in fishing, and fly fishing specifically, it seemed a lot more appropriate for the story to come from the

perspective of women, so I interviewed three different women fly anglers to get their thoughts on the sport and their advice for other women who are interested in learning to fly fish. The voices for this article include two respected women guides who have established reputations in both fly fishing and fish conservation, along with a woman who just started fly fishing this year. They represent for the West Coast, East Coast and the middle of the country.


Read the rest of the blog at Wildlife Promise. 

About the Author
Russell Bassett

Russell Bassett is the National Wildlife Federation's online campaign coordinator for hunter and angler outreach. Before joining NWF, Bassett was the executive director of NWF’s Oregon affiliate, The Association of Northwest Steelheaders. He has worked with other conservation organizations, as a public affairs supervisor while serving in the US Army in Korea and Iraq and for newspapers as a reporter, photographer and designer. 

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