Playing the role of supporters, second rowers, and cheerleaders for many years, some say women have been the backbone of the fly fishing industry. However, in the last five years or so, women anglers have stepped forward out of the shadows and onto the boat to enjoy this magnificent sport first hand.
Women are particularly well suited to fly fishing. “Women are easy to teach. They listen, follow instructions, and learn. Most are able to pick up fly fishing easily.” Shares Christy Carlson, Incoming President of Star Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited and Owner of Pioneer Anglers in Alpine, WY. “Fly fishing is an art form that requires a finesse that women have naturally. It is about timing and form, and many women do that so well.”
According to the US Department of Fish and Wildlife, women anglers make up nearly 30% of the 33.1 million anglers in the US. Locally, about 20% of anglers are women, and the numbers are increasing as more and more women answer the call of the wild and try their hand at fly fishing.
To that end, The Orvis Company recently launched an initiative to introduce more women to the sport and to celebrate the accomplishments of women anglers who are already making their mark in the industry. Taking aim at the old “fly fishing boys club,” this campaign encourages more women to participate in what has historically been a male-dominated industry. The “50-50 On the Water” initiative was designed to inspire and celebrate women in the sport that so many love.
As more and more women take up fly fishing, associations have been created to educate, support and provide opportunities to connect with other women in the angler world. In addition to Trout Unlimited chapters which locally abound, LAWD, Lady Anglers of WyDaho, is another popular association for women in Wyoming and Idaho to find resources, enroll in classes and meet other lady anglers. LAWD members also include anglers from other areas of the country who are planning to enjoy fly fishing on the Western Wyoming and Eastern Idaho waterways.
For those who are interested in learning more about fly fishing, local fly shops regularly offer free workshops to introduce the basics to newcomers. A great opportunity to experience the world of fly fishing for yourself, but be prepared, you may easily get hooked!
Each year, sponsored by World Cast Anglers and supported by many local fly fishing organizations, women participate in a Women’s Free Fly Fishing Day at the Snake River Sporting Club. Lady anglers receive instruction on knot tying, rod rigging and fly casting. The day provides opportunities to mix, mingle and demo the latest in gear and sportswear.
The Snake River Sporting Club is also home to the Orvis Fly Fishing School in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Angler associations are also stepping up to cater to the next generation of anglers, providing educational programs and opportunities like “Stream Girls” and “Mom and Me” outings. These youth experiences provide a great way for families to learn together and connect in a way like no other.
As one would expect, anglers and their associations are committed to giving back by caring for the fisheries and providing essential habitat restoration. They work together on service projects to restore and reconstruct river banks, plant willows, move rocks and generally care for and protect the fish to maintain a healthy environment and quality spawning areas.
Though fly fishing can be done in fresh or salt water, in our cold water lakes, rivers and streams you’ll find primarily cutthroat trout, brown trout, and rainbow trout. But not to worry, local guides and fly shops are skilled at knowing which flies to use for what fish and know right where to go.
Opportunities for fly fishing adventures abound throughout the Teton and Yellowstone regions. Experienced guides are easily found online and can help you customize a trip of a lifetime. Most offer half, full day and custom excursions, catering to newbies and seasoned anglers alike. You may choose the popular Snake, Hoback River or Salt River and their plentiful tributaries, or an off the beaten path waterway.
Whichever floats your boat, there is nothing quite like fly fishing in the Tetons. “It’s like yoga for the soul” as Christy Carlson says.
The lakes, the rivers, the streams and this beautiful art form we call fly fishing, lures those who seek peace and solace. Exhausted by a crazy busy life? Need to get away and relax? You may want to give the fly a try.