While I truly resent stereotypes, I will be the first to admit that I can be complicated and indecisive, and my husband is sometimes confused about what I really want in a given situation (though the feeling is often mutual). Understanding what a woman (or a man) really wants can be an arduous process, but I want to share some great news: when it comes to fishing, this process is very simple. All women really want on the water is. . . respect. As a female angler, I am constantly reminded of the biases that should have been eradicated when pioneers like Joan Wulff shattered the glass ceilings that kept women out of the sport for so long. Unfortunately, many of our fellow anglers still view fly fishing as a “man’s sport,” and this attitude is often most noticeable in interactions on the riverbank. I recently endured the cold stares and snickers as I walked into a local delayed harvest section, chose a fly, and tied it on without any assistance. As I very quickly landed a feisty rainbow, I admit that I relished in the revelation that one of the judgmental anglers had positioned himself closer to me in an effort to see what I was using. I would have been more than happy to tell him if he had asked, but he was clearly not interested in interacting with me.
I understand that this is one small isolated incident, but I also understand that female anglers in this region are constantly met with various types of contempt. Women, however, have so much to offer the sport of fly fishing. Many of us are skilled in the art of both patience and technique, and all we truly want is to be a part of the beauty of such a timeless sport. I feel no shame in asking a man or a woman for help, on or off the water, for I believe we can learn something from every person we meet. Because of my own desire for independence, I am certainly not advocating for men to give women special treatment. In fact, I am advocating for quite the opposite. As I step into the water, give me the same respectful nod that you give my husband as he steps in behind me, OR if you are the type of angler that doesn’t typically interact with men on the water, please do not make an exception for me simply because I am a woman. We all enter the water for different reasons, but I believe that we all deserve to be there. If we choose to empower and respect one another, our sport will be better, our rivers will be cleaner, and our world will be a little better because of our efforts.
Kacie Kisielewski is a guide for Southern Appalachian Anglers, LLC.