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Narrowing the gender gap in fly fishing

Seth Boster, The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.) on

Published in Outdoors

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- From Skaguay Reservoir, the women with fly rods hike about 2 miles through the valley, following upstream to find their very own place.

Meet the Pikes Peak Women Anglers, the Colorado Springs group representing fly fishing's under-represented gender.

Among American practitioners of the most specialized form of angling, nearly 70 percent are men, says the latest recreation participation study from the Outdoor Foundation. Women's participation has remained stagnant over the past five years.

Local enthusiasts sense there's a long way to go before reaching "50/50 on the water" by 2020 -- a goal announced by Orvis, fly fishing's leading retailer.

"It's not close," says Sharon Wright, known as the Fly Fishing Cowgirl at Angler's Covey, where she works.

"A long ways away," adds fellow guide Kristina Dougherty on the way to the stream.

 

If they sound hopeless, they're not. On the contrary, they see progress; at least they're not wearing men's waders and boots as they did decades ago when they were teenagers growing interested in fly fishing at a time when the industry didn't even make gear for them.

And at least today they have seven others with them -- among the most dedicated Pikes Peak Women Anglers making these monthly trips. By organizing the group, Wright and Dougherty hope they're advancing interest in the technical activity that they describe as therapeutic, an escape from the real world that women struggle in every day.

To them, it's no wonder that Casting for Recovery, the Western-based nonprofit that introduces fly fishing to women with breast cancer, has grown. Another nonprofit, the Denver-based Colorado Woman Flyfishers, is celebrating 20 years of building camaraderie on the river.

That camaraderie is what the Springs' Joan Bennett was searching for a few years ago after her husband died. She wanted to keep fishing, "but I wasn't crazy about fishing alone," she says. "I think a lot of women aren't crazy about fishing by themselves."

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