Salt Fly Ladies

Kristina Royter reports on a gathering of fly gals at Hinchinbrook.

Saltwater fly fishing. It doesn’t get much better than that, does it? Well, actually yes… yes it does. How about a group of women on a SWFF adventure in Far North Queensland’s gem, Hinchinbrook… this could well be the pinnacle! Well, in my opinion anyway. Women’s fly fishing in Australia and New Zealand is on the rise, and it’s an absolute blessing for the sport as a whole. With numerous government initiatives specifically aimed at getting more people fishing, it seems to have — at long last — become apparent that recreational fishing is in dire need of more anglers. And, there are just not enough male anglers to make a difference! Cue: women in fishing! For so many reasons increasing the number of recreational fishers is a key political demographic, benefiting the sport, the economy and in turn promoting environmental advocacy and healthy lifestyles across the board. ESCAPE My idea for an Australian women’s fly fishing trip was born from the same logic, except starting small and in my own backyard. My passion for fly fishing is based on an objective to promote fishing and encourage others to join. Having carried out some research, it became apparent that Australia already had a well-established network of female fly anglers of ranging skill levels, and building on this network was a no-brainer for me. Opening a line of communication and offering an opportunity to get together with like-minded anglers was all it took. And so the Ladies SWFF Escape came to be. PRESSURE TO PERFORM I’ve found that introducing anglers to fly fishing can be a sensitive task, especially for women. It’s long been a gentlemen’s sport and although there is little resistance to having more women fly fishing, there are still some preconceived notions and pressure to perform. I should say, however, that any such pressures aren’t isolated to women! We know it all too well — pressure to cast ‘properly’; to know about flies and how to tie them ‘correctly’; to know your gear intimately enough to be able to rig yourself from start to finish. So finding the right guiding service to help banish those pressures was key. Thanks to Australian Flyfishing Outfitters, the Australian Fly Fishing Lodge and our guides Dave Bradley, Clint Isaac and ‘Famous Amos’, our group of six fly anglers had very little to worry about. I personally don’t have years of saltwater fly fishing experience under my belt, and even less experience fishing Australia’s wild and rugged FNQ. I found I wasn’t alone in this either, with a couple of the gals also wondering what the hell they were doing on a challenging mission like this; although, with good acquaintances and a supportive crew, you quickly find your feet and jump right on in. The support and helpful advice coming from all sides kept our whole party relaxed, an important trait when fly fishing under pressure — the pressure being the only one worth having, Mother Nature herself! All of a sudden, our level of fly fishing skill no longer caused nerves — it was coming down to just being another angler facing fly fishing Mecca. CHALLENGES Our group was confronted by challenging conditions, being December and the last clients of the year for our professional guides. The heat, sweltering and even less forgiving, was put to the back of our minds once we started seeing fish. There were so many firsts for these ladies — first barra, mangrove jack, tarpon, queenfish, and trevally of all sorts — all on fly. Our anglers were developing their skills with countless casts at snaggy mangroves and the precision casting called for when you find yourself ‘face to face’ with the fish of a lifetime on vast flats after seeing nothing for hours. Mentally keeping it all together and then producing the goods is never easy, and hearing the voice of a fellow fly gal at the back of the boat, egging you on and congratulating you on a job well done — whether successful or not — was the reason for this trip coming together. CARING As our four days of fishing went on, it became apparent that the support and never-ending care the girls showed each other was the real high of this trip — bonding as friends and networking as fishing colleagues when the going got tough on the water. As fly anglers, we know the intimate relationship we have with the destinations our sport takes us to, and even more so the experiences we live. From all walks of life our ladies came together as one, because fishing doesn’t discriminate. Exploring new places, and ourselves, came so naturally, perhaps through being so removed from our ‘real worlds’ for those few days. For women there are many pressures on a daily basis coming from society as a whole — to look or to behave in certain ways — and we find ourselves striving for something we may never feel able to achieve, or that may be taken away in the blink of an eye. There is a bravery in women which, given the chance, shows itself in moments least expected. There are hardships anyone may be going through at any point in life, and we might never know. The women I was surrounded by on this trip challenged themselves by stepping out of their comfort zones, with people they had never met, and in places where they had never been, and excelled through their passion for fly fishing. Who knows, that pat on the back after landing a fish, or the high five for presenting that perfectly placed cast, might have been just the moment that kept any one of us going. THANKS Before our trip had even commenced, our group was shown the utmost support and love by Brett Clarke (BWC Flies), Joel Norman and Shannon Kitchener, who organised special fly boxes engraved with a custom (Shannon) image of a fish and filled with all of the saltwater flies we would need on this trip or future missions. To these guys, thank you for your kind and thoughtful gesture, and for showing support for not just the gals on this trip, but the unconditional support for women in fly fishing as a whole. To our guides I express gratefulness and thanks for taking part in this inaugural event, celebrating women’s fly fishing. And to all of the gals who partook: Brooke, Cherie, Belinda, Vicki and April, thank you. Memories were made and experiences shared. As anglers, we know, and cannot express enough to anyone looking to understand themselves, that the places fishing takes us and the people we meet along the way, enrich our lives now and always. To future Ladies SWFF Escape participants, and more so to all of the female fly anglers around Australia and New Zealand, keep on inspiring each other to enjoy fly fishing and continue creating memories, which will last you a lifetime.

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