Fishing is one of the most accessible outdoor sports. Any gender, age, income level and fitness ability can fish. It’s not the boys club it once was, and women are becoming more visible and enthusiastic within the world of fishing. They are also taking on more leadership roles within the fishing industry. I will say that I have experienced rude comments, and disapproving stares from men on the river a few times, but with more women being involved in the sport this will hopefully become less frequent. Everyone can benefit from being outdoors enjoying nature with friends and loved ones, the fear of not being good enough should not prevent people from trying the sport. As with any sport it takes practice and patience, before long anyone can become confident and skilled while enjoying the peace, beauty and serenity of nature.
When I started fly fishing I didn’t worry about judgements, I just knew that it made me feel good. It gave me a break from managing my chronic pain, the rush of adrenaline and feeling of accomplishment after catching a fish became my favorite pain killer. Endometriosis made me feel helpless but fly fishing empowered me to keep going and fight for the care I deserved. Personally, fishing has inspired me to be a stronger person mentally, emotionally and physically. It tests my patience and it pushes me to get outside even when I don’t want to because I know I’ll come home a happier and healthier person. Fishing is so much more than just catching fish, there are so many benefits that come from the act of fishing as well as just getting outside.
Fishing can provide as much or as little physical activity as you want. Whether it’s a path along a river, a remote pond, or hiking to an alpine lake, it can improve your fitness; therefore your health. When I started I struggled to hike a mile to the river, but slowly built up strength and stamina to hike 9 miles one way to an alpine lake. Fishing is also one of the best ways to get Vitamin D. You can get it from eating your catch and soaking up the sun, but don’t forget your sunscreen! If you plan on eating what you catch, fish are rich in calcium, phosphorus and a great source of minerals like iron, zinc, iodine, magnesium and potassium.
As a woman I love that fishing gives me a way to get exercise without worrying about how my body looks. Getting dressed in my fishing gear makes me feel confident and it doesn't accentuate my shape unless I want it to. In the winter I wear baggy clothing and gear while fishing because I dress for comfort and movement. Sometimes I like gear to fit a little tighter and accentuate my curves, it's beautiful and freeing either way. Thankfully there are some companies offering women’s fishing gear and clothing, but we still have hurdles to overcome when it comes to equal representation in the fishing industry.
Mental Health Benefits
As someone that deals with depression and severe anxiety I have noticed a difference in my self-esteem and resilience through my fly fishing journey. Just looking at the water, hearing the flow of the river or the birds chirping can change your mood. Fishing increases time outside and repetitive actions like casting can be therapeutic. Most fishing trips require a fair amount of mindfulness. Waiting, methodically casting, and drifting your flies in an attempt to get the perfect drift or presentation which requires patience and focus. Fishing is a form of meditation and I think we all know how beneficial that can be for our mental health. This is why I come home feeling happier than when I left.
Another benefit to fishing is connecting with other anglers on the river, on social media and in gatherings for the fishing community. It’s easy to make friends when you share common interests, and you always have something to learn when it comes to fishing. As more people join the fishing community, we have more opportunities to connect. What really inspires me is seeing how many women are starting to fly fish and all the women’s fishing clubs that have formed to make other women feel more comfortable trying it. I have made so many female angler friends on the river, at an event or through social media and it is so empowering to see women thriving in the fishing industry.
Fishing also gives us opportunities to bond and experience new things with our friends and family. Now that I’m a mother, I’ve started bringing my daughter on fly fishing trips. These trips look a little different, but we still enjoy all of the benefits. When we take the time to teach our children how to fish, they develop a love of the outdoors, hopefully a love of fishing and memories that will stay with them forever. I’m excited to watch her journey with fishing and hope to inspire her to do what makes her happy.
In honor of Women’s History Month, I want to encourage everyone to try something new outdoors. Learning to fish can be intimidating but there are so many resources out there to help you feel comfortable. Fishing changed my life for the better and I’m so grateful. If you feel stuck, lost, anxious or depressed, fishing could do the same for you, or at the very least it could get you outdoors for the day and that accomplishment alone will make you feel better.