Written by: Jean-Marie Bousquet
It’s no secret that men have always dominated the fly-fishing world. Women for a long time have been the minority in this field. The industry is fortunate to now have female pioneers like Camille Egdorf, Maddie Brenneman, and April Vokey paving a new path. Thanks to these female leaders, we are now seeing a significant increase of women who want to become involved in fly-fishing.
It’s not that we have anything against the boys, or that great male guides and anglers don’t exist, because they most definitely do! There is something special about fly-fishing with fellow lady anglers, whether they are your closest friends or just meeting for the first time, maybe it’s the endless laughs, inappropriate jokes and sense of comradery that comes from a male dominated industry. Or maybe it is knowing that we are making an impact for future female anglers to come.
With the help of non-profits such as SheJumps, an organization that offers women the chance to learn about the outdoors alongside other women, and the support of local fly shops, the opportunities are becoming more readily available.
Recently, I had the opportunity to guide a Women’s-only Intro to Fly-fishing events. Long-time Steamboat local and SheJumps Ambassador, Laraine Martin, partnered with Alice Teasar, an avid angler herself and Steamboat Fly Fisher employee, to gather a group of four knowledgeable and passionate female anglers to share their love for fly-fishing. Registration opened exactly one month prior to the event date. Flyers were hung and media posts blasted to social feeds. Just 72 short hours later, the event was full. With 30 participants and an even longer waiting list.
Living in the mountains of Colorado above 6,000 feet, is a sure way to guarantee unpredictable weather, especially in October. Sure enough, the night before the event we received rain, snow and howling winds. Seasoned anglers typically don’t mind a little bit of weather, it makes for better fishing. But, 25 inexperienced anglers attempting to cast their fly rods for the first time in the wind left me with the painful image of pulling hooks out skin. I settled in for the night, with the wood stove crackling awaiting what I hoped would be a warm and sunny morning.
I awoke the next morning to the valley covered in a fresh blanket of snow. The air was chilled, but the skies were clear and calm. As I pulled out of my drive way and headed for town, I was stunned by sight of crimson red and orange leaves peeking through the snow. I arrived at Steamboat Flyfisher, just before 8am. I met up we rest of the guide crew, all excitedly waiting to begin the day. Thanks to the rain or shine mentality from our fearless leaders – Laraine and Alice – the event was underway!
Within the first five minutes of introductions at the event, the mission was clear. These women wanted one thing: independence. While there were quite a few “never evers” at the event, many of the attendee’s had been fly-fishing before either with a guide or their significant others. However, many of them had not been taught how to set up their own rigs or which flies to use, when and why. They wanted to feel confident and able to fly fish alone. They asked questions like “Which flies do I use, when, why and how?” and “How do I properly catch and release a fish?”
The day was structured around classroom sessions in the morning at Steamboat’s local community fly shop, Steamboat Fly-fisher. During our morning education sessions, we covered gear, reading water, knots, and entomology. During the afternoon, the women practiced casting techniques and then hit the water. By noon, it was time to leave the comforting warmth of Steamboat Flyfisher and brave the cold on the river. The energy in room, as we geared up to hit the water was nothing short of contagious, I watched as many women enthusiastically shared their recently discovered flies and helped each other deciding what to rig up with first.
We arrived to what would be our stomping grounds for the day – ascenic stretch of the Yampa river which boasts awe-inspiring views of Mt. Werner. We secured spots along the river and checked to make sure everyone was rigged up properly. It wasn’t long before we needed our nets. The emotions ranged from excitement, to panic, to confusion and back to excitement as fish were caught. I could feel my grin reaching ear to ear. I don’t know what is more exciting, catching your first fish or watching others catch theirs.
Not only did I get to spend time introducing women to my passion that consumes my every thought, but I was also introduced to incredible women that, despite living in the same community, I had never met. Although we were all seeking independence, ultimately, we discovered something just as meaningful. We found community. Despite living in the same town for several years, I met some amazing anglers who I fully intend to call during the next hatch.
Big shout out to all of the sponsor who made this event possible, Steamboat Flyfisher, Redington Drunken Onion, Big Agnes, Smartwool, Kleen Kanteen, JanSport, Rep Your Water, Simms, Krimson Klover, Grass Sticks, EcoLips, Treeline Coffee Roasters, Mountain Khakis, Western Rise, Freshies. This event would not have been possible without your support!
About Jean-Marie Bousquet
A Colorado native, Jean-Marie is all about the Mountain lifestyle. She has combined her enthusiasm for the written word with fly-fishing. When she’s not behind the desk at Smartwool, Jean can be found sipping on a good cup of coffee, fly-fishing or cooking up a gourmet meal over a campfire.
Featured Photo by Jean-Marie Bousquet