The Ripple Effect: Women in Fly Fishing by Alleigh Raymond

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“Alleigh Raymond (Reelgirlonthefly) is a woman in the competitive angling scene. I have been following her on Instagram for awhile now and asked her to do an article on women in the competitive scene. It became apparent rather quickly that there were not enough women in the competitive circuit to do a full article on. As a result, we changed the topic to why more women should get into competitive fly fishing as well as the sport in general. Alleigh is a passionate, skilled young woman who is sure to enact change in our sport. I could not think of a better ambassador to write this article.” - Ben Wayne

The Ripple Effect: Women in Fly Fishing

It’s no secret that fly fishing has been a mainly male-dominated sport for the extent of its existence and that has unfortunately turned into the standard for the sport in general but, more specifically the competitive side of fly fishing. My name is Alleigh Raymond and I’m a 15-year-old young woman living in Western North Carolina. My involvement in the fly fishing industry stretches back to almost 6 years ago, but it wasn’t until a little over 2 years ago when I started taking part in competitions. My experience with competing is multifaceted. Part of me feels that it is a great way for the angling community to come together as one, enjoy a little friendly competition, and expand our knowledge. The other part of me is sad to express the following sentiments but feels that they need to be shared.

  Often, I’m the only female competitor at most of these events and representing women is an undertaking I don’t take lightly, there are a number of challenges that I’ve encountered, most notably: unnecessary and hurtful remarks such as “a cupcake in waders”, constant doubt of my skills from my male counterparts, navigating the pitfalls of social media, and one specific incident that happened when I competed in the USA Youth National Championships last November as the only female competitor. I had just finished my last session and was stepping out of the water, I looked up and noticed an older man standing in front of me as if he had something to say. I asked this man “Can I help you?” and he replied with, “Why don’t you just stop and leave the comp fishing to the real boys, little girl.” I later found out that this man was the father of one of the teenage boys who was also competing in this event. These are some examples of occurrences that at times, have caused me to question myself, my ability, and my worthiness of participating. However, a question I’ve continually asked myself while at these tournaments is, “Where are all of the women?” I’ve competed in a fair number of competitions, and more often than not the leaderboard of competitors doesn’t reflect a lot of gender variety, most often displaying maybe 1 or 2 women signed up, with myself usually being one of them. I then began to notice such a disheartening absence of females, and from that point on I made it my mission to raise awareness of this issue. How is this an issue?

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   The outdated gender stigma, subconsciously held in the majority of many people’s minds that it is abnormal for females to participate in the more difficult, masculine sports like fly fishing, let alone doing it competitively, is ever present in today’s society and causes many female anglers to shy away from the competitive fly fishing scene. We all know that fly fishing is an incredible sport with many facets and quirks that make it easy for someone just getting into the sport to become quickly overwhelmed, so where does the disconnect between females and fly fishing come about? It could be as simple as networking. Female fly fishermen could simply be less vocal about their love for the sport, but the more likely answer in my experience has proven to be that women, of any age whom are just trying to get involved and often feel intimidated, embarrassed, unwelcome, and to a large degree by some men, bullied.

I know I certainly did.

What does this have to do with competitive fly fishing? Fortunately, we’re headed in the right direction with many inspirational and influential women making an impact in the sport. Here I’ve listed just a few of these incredible women with follow-up links below this piece:

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Joan Wulff, April Vokey, Nicole Darland, Camille Egdorf, and Heather Harkavy. Also, with movements like Orvis’s 50/50 On the Water campaign, articles and write-ups from magazines, blogs, and other social media outlets about women in fly fishing the sport can only get better from here. However, the female's side of competitive fly fishing still remains concerningly dormant. In my opinion, the main thing that causes women to hesitate from becoming involved in competing is that there are little to no women currently in the public eye of competitive fly fishing displaying the capability of female angling. We need our fellow lady anglers to see more women actively competing and to think, “If she can do it so can I”. That is what I want this generation of female fishermen to strive for. In today’s society, the barrier’s between men and women are constantly being broken down in so many fields and the fly fishing industry is no exception. As a young woman who rarely sees a fellow female competitor, I know that having more female competition in the field would encourage so many women and cause the competitive circuit to grow and benefit enormously. I don’t know about you but I don’t want there to be a shred of doubt in any of our minds that exercising our skills in a competitive nature is something that we shouldn’t enjoy. So what’s the harm in just giving it a try? If I can recruit more females into this incredible sport, so can you. Be the difference in your area, in your community, and in your state. Make what you're doing count. You have the power to do so.

The fact of the matter is that female involvement in fly fishing is the natural progression of the sport and I believe it’s just the right thing to do.

So the next time you notice a woman who may be interested in fly fishing, meet her for a day on the water... Who knows? Maybe she’ll even out-fish you.

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