Words by Bridget Moran
“Women in fishing deserve their sacred spaces”
Women are held in different regards when it comes to fishing. In some places, I’m condescendingly questioned and tested, as if I couldn’t possibly know what I’m doing. I walk into a fly shop with my boyfriend, Colin, and ‘Chad’ behind the counter pushes past me to cater to Colin (poor guy couldn’t care less about fishing). In other places, a singular woman gets invited as a last minute addition to a trip (or a film…) so that organizers can check the “diversity box.”
Neither of these approaches sit well with me.
Women in fishing deserve their sacred spaces—environments where they can shamelessly flaunt their identities, insecurities, dance moves, beer belches, and record-setting catches; places where they don’t have to compete (if they don’t want to); and most importantly, spaces where they don’t, for a second, question their own safety. As it stands, the male-dominated culture of fishing can’t always be that place for women.
I also want female anglers to be the norm. We’re not something to be shown off, nor are we to be tossed in for the sake of ‘diversity.’ Not all of us want to be separated from the general population of anglers. Sometimes I just want to go on that salmon trip with the guys I trust and not have to do an interview about how this trip is different for me because I’m a woman.
These two things—having sacred spaces and seamless inclusivity—aren’t mutually exclusive. We can have both, and until the dominant culture can ensure our safety, we’ll need those sacred spaces. But I also believe that we can celebrate women’s inherent uniqueness as anglers without holding them at an arm’s length from the broader conversation. The fishing community is figuring this out, slowly but surely and certainly thanks to thousands of women willing to push the envelope every day.
So, what can our well-intentioned gentlemen do to help move the needle for women anglers? Foremost, dedicate yourself to continued learning and don’t get wrapped around the axle if/when you make a mistake. Ask women you’re close to (not random ones on the street or at the coffee shop. They’re busy. Please do not bother them—especially the ones with headphones on) what it is they want or need to make them feel empowered on the water, and then do those things. Think critically about what you and your buddies do or do not do that would make someone feel unsafe or unwelcome. Key into things that make women uncomfortable and call those things out. Women have to do a lot of heavy lifting in terms of general survival, so any effort men can make in terms of checking unsafe rhetoric/behavior would be much appreciated.
What’s cool is that there will probably be women who disagree with me. Women aren’t monolithic. Our needs and preferences differ. Honor that. While the approach may vary, the goal is always the same: help us feel safe, welcome, and rad.
*Writer’s note: when I say ‘women,’ I mean trans women just as much as I mean women assigned so at birth. I mean Black women, Indigenous women, Asian women, Latina/e women, recognizing that race, sex, gender, age, socioeconomic status, and many more elements of people’s identities intersect in different ways to create different experiences.
Bridget grew up squid fishing in the Puget Sound with her dad on cold, wet school nights. After nearly three decades in Western Washington, she remains an avid angler and coldwater conservationist. Bridget works for American Rivers, focusing on hydropower reform and federal river protection campaigns in the Puget Sound and Columbia River basins. She is also the president of North Sound Trout Unlimited and has published the occasional piece of writing in Dun Magazine, The Flyfish Journal, and Moldy Chum. When her head’s not buried in conservation projects, Bridget lets loose in rivers with rods and in the mountains on bikes and skis.
A note from DRYFT
On this International Women’s Day, let’s commit to working towards a world where everyone has equal opportunities to explore and enjoy the great outdoors. Let’s continue to challenge ourselves and others to break down barriers and create more inclusive outdoor spaces. Together, we can make a difference and create an inclusive future for all.
Outdoor activities such as fishing and hunting have historically been dominated by men, making it difficult for women and other underrepresented groups to feel welcome or have access to the resources they need to participate.
As a company that makes women’s specific fishing gear, we’re continually taking feedback and making improvements, and continuing to learn and grow towards the goal of making the outdoors a truly open and inclusive space for all to enjoy. The work is ongoing, but together we can make progress. Thank you for being here and showing up to help by supporting all women in the industry, in the workplace, out on the water, and everyday.
-Nick, Sam and the DRYFT Team.
“I did a ton of research before choosing these waders. I’m 5’5”, plus size, and the search for inclusive sizing was daunting. I’m sick of sportswear companies that think only straight-size people enjoy the outdoors. So glad I came across Dryft! … Feels good to support a business that cares about the environment, nails customer service, and is in touch with real outdoor adventurers and their needs! 10/10 would recommend!”
Verified Purchaser 1/25/23