Narrowing the gender gap in fly fishing

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

Published in Outdoors

She found a local co-ed group but worried about the competition that men might bring. She found the Pikes Peak Women Anglers to be "extremely friendly and supportive," she says as she rigs her line by the stream. "Everybody wants to help everybody else."

In this group, no one keeps secrets about the flies they use. No spot is reserved, though it can be annoying when a man so casually enters their space.

"I've seen them kind of butt in because they feel like you're just a woman, you're not gonna catch that fish anyway," says Deb Wetherbee, among those introduced to fly fishing through the group. "So they try to squeeze you out. Try to."

Other men express how impressed they are -- reactions that Wright and Dougherty don't remember much from years ago. Still, those are surprised responses, and they are problematic.

However much it seemed the sport wasn't meant for them, the two guides persisted on their career paths. The "intimidation factor" was there, Wright says. "The good ol' boy mentality" was apparent to Dougherty, who would go into fly fishing shops with her dad and ask questions, only for the answers to be returned to her dad, as if she were invisible.

"I didn't really care that it was male-dominated," she says. "I was proud of that ponytail sticking out of my hat."


She started going to Denver's Fly Fishing Show and felt more inspired: "I'd look around, and there wasn't a lot of women around, so I thought I could throw my hat in the ring."

She's seen more women attend over the years, with the introduction of the women's showcase. Still, she goes and wishes for more technical presentations. "It's all still about being a woman in fly fishing or being safe on the river, which is good, but ..."

But she wants to be taken seriously. As does Jen Lofgren, who manages an Orvis store in Denver with 30 years as a guide and retailer. While the industry clearly is trying to draw women to fly fishing, she's worried that the focus is on fashion more than function, perpetuating a stereotype.

"I don't want a pink vest; I don't want pink waders; I don't need pink," Lofgren says. "That to me sends a message that you don't think I'm serious about what I'm doing."


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