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'Go Fishing Ladies,' Says U.K. Government
'We need women instructors, and need to be much more inclusive in this sport'
Graham Mole (graham)     Print Article 
Published 2005-11-02 15:51 (KST)   
©2005 Eric Lubbers
Lots of women want to fish, but few do. Now there are moves to change the image of a pastime seen as stuffy, male and very old fashioned.

Days spent fishing don't count against the lifespan according to a Chinese proverb- words borne out by the late Queen Mother, who fished for salmon into her early nineties. And now the Environment Agency wants to encourage tens of thousands more women to take up fishing and experience the health benefits for themselves.

As male domination goes, angling is hard to beat: 98 percent of the four million people who went fishing last year were men. These are few famous female enthusiasts including actor Diana Rigg, chef and businesswoman Prue Leith and former ITN newsreader Fiona Armstrong. But only two percent of those who bought a fishing license last year were women, and angling was a lowly 28th in a list of the most popular recreations among women in the government's last General Household Survey.

Hooked on Angling

Did you know that the following celebrity women are all hooked on angling?

Actor Diana Rigg and Hollywood Stars Jamie Lee Curtis, Andie MacDowell, Jane Fonda and Meryl Streep.

Also, historically women have been better at fishing than men: Georgina Ballentine landed the biggest salmon ever caught on rod and line, weighing 64lb, in 1922. Clementina Morisa took a 61lb salmon in 1924 which was the largest fly-caught fish, and in 1923 Doreen Davey caught the record spring fish at 59.5lb.

Women beat men into print on the subject too with the first fishing book printed in English -- "A Treatise of Fysshynge wyth an Angle" by Dame Juliana Berners in 1421 -- 200 years before Izaak Walton's "The Complete Angler." / G. Mole
The Environment Agency, in a move intended to banish the sport's image as a male preserve, seeks by 2015 to double the number of women who fish. "There are benefits to fishing, including health, and we want more people, particularly women, to share in those," said Dafydd Evans, the agency's head of fisheries.

It has decided to try to boost female participation after conducting research showing that five percent of women are interested in trying angling, but few ever do so. After consulting women who already fish about how to realize this potential, the agency is considering moves such as increasing the tiny number of female coaches, changing the "laddish" atmosphere at watersides, mounting advertising campaigns, building more ladies' toilets and introducing girls to the sport when still at school.

"The strongest feelings we've had from women anglers so far is that, as most coaches are men, they need to modify their behaviors to encourage women, try to create the sort of welcome, supportive atmosphere that women would feel comfortable in, and be aware that you can't go on as if it's a bunch of lads," said another agency official. It's "Angling in 2015" strategy document, due to be published, will spell out its plans in detail.

The Salmon and Trout Association already has 1,400 women amongst its 15,000 members. It has just recruited a former army major, Terry Atkinson, as a development manager to increase the number of anglers, especially women and people from ethnic minorities.

"We must get fishing into the media that women already read," said Atkinson. "And we need women instructors, and need to be much more inclusive in this sport."

Veronica Kruger, a consultant to the association, got hooked on fishing 27 years ago on her honeymoon when her husband John insisted they spend all their days fishing from a boat around the South Uist in the Outer Herbrides. "I can't think of a more spiritually reviving experience than sitting on a riverbanks quietly watching the wildlife while you breathe in the scent of the country," she said.

Lesley Crawford, who teaches fishing in Caithness in the Highlands, said: "Other women go for spas- fishing is my hydrotherapy. It's a real escape from family and maybe work commitments, so women appreciate it a lot more when they go out."

Helen Donohoe, head of policy at the Women's Sport Foundation, said women faced quite a few practical barriers to getting involved in fishing: the same it takes to go on an angling trip; having to juggle family commitments; needing a car; and feeling vulnerable as a lone women in a secluded place.

Fishing will need to change dramatically if the agency's initiative is to succeed, said Donohoe. "Angling is recognized as being so male-dominated that females may feel intimidated in the fishing environment. It's not associated with a young, modern lifestyle, isn't an inspirational sport for young people and isn't very fashionable."

Prue Leith, who fishes regularly for trout and salmon in rivers throughout Britain says; "The activity is good because it's just enough to be interesting and not enough to be exhausting. Being out in the fresh air is good for the appetitive. And it's never boring."

'There's also a wonderful camaraderie and you can sink into a comfortable ritual, knowing that you'll always talking about the same sort of things -- I couldn't do without it.'

Fiona Armstrong likes the fact that fishing is such a gently pastime, can provide a dinner and also "the social side- fishing people are such good company. There's nothing quite like being out in the open air and then when you get a fish, you have to think how your going to cook it. There's nothing quite like it for relaxing."

'It's Been Like Therapy for Me'

Lucy Bowden, 18, left, is a leading advocate of female anglers and runs her own fishing website-cum-clothing and equipment service. She lives in Northumberland, U.K.
I've been a keen anglers since my dad, Chris, introduced me to fishing when I was five. At first my sister and I used nets to catch minnows in the local river, but on my first proper fly-fishing trip, when I was eight, I caught an 81b rainbow trout and was absolutely hooked.

Two years ago I was diagnosed with post-viral-fatigue, better known as ME. Fishing was one of the only things that got me out, giving that I'd had to give up school sport and nights out with friends. I launched my Fishingforeveryone Website three years ago.

I used to get annoyed there were to few females in fishing and decided to try and combat this issue. I've spoken at a conference to encourage more women to give fishing a go, and founded a girls' fishing team from my old school and took some of the girls fishing on a lake near Newcastle.

I hope to produce my own range of clothing for women anglers and sell it through my Web site. It's dedicated to getting more people into fishing, especially women. There's a saying that women often make the best anglers!

Fishing is like therapy to me. This is why I want more people to get into angling. The feeling is amazing. It's not even about catching a fish. Instead. it allows you to just walk out of the door and head out to your nearest water, relax and be at one with nature. Surely everyone needs to do this once in a while?
This article first appeared in The Observer, a national Sunday newspaper in the U.K.
©2005 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Graham Mole

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