Keeping Up With The Boys
Historically women have had great success with catching salmon, Miss Ballantyne and her epic 2 hour battle to land a 64lber being one of the most famous, yet it’s still widely considered to be a male dominated field sport.
I’d really like to see this opinion changed, not in a progressive feminist way but simply because I think that if I, at 5’2” on tiptoe (less in my waders!) can do it, anyone can! And, when I say “it” I mean fishing, not only catching fish. There’s so much more to fishing than “just” catching them! Learning to cast is something that anyone, of any stature, any social standing, any age can master. You don’t have to be built like a prize winning shot putter to do well. Actually, on second thoughts…..No, seriously, find the right technique for you and the right rod/line combination that works for you and you’ll see a noticeable improvement after a short practice. On many occasions I’ve had people tell me that because I’m “vertically challenged” and of a slight build that I need a shorter rod. Rubbish! For the way that I cast I find a slightly longer rod helps me to lengthen the cast and provide neater presentation. I liken it to trying to force me to play badminton when my muscle memory only plays squash!
A classic rookie mistake that as women we tend to make, myself included when I was starting out, is that we need to cast to the other side of the river to be seen to be casting well. Obviously it depends on the size of the river, but here on The Spey, it would be a near impossible task on most beats for all but the best casters in the world. I’ve seen countless chaps puff out their chests and start forcing their cast length beyond their ability when they see a woman appear on the river bank. I tend to think of it as peacock syndrome and to be fair to the chaps, I’ve probably been guilty of attempting to “preen” my casting when a particularly fine looking male specimen appears on the beat! But, putting hormones aside, don’t try to compete with the boys when you’re fishing and casting. Find your comfort zone and stick to it. Whilst casting a longer line and therefore covering more water with each cast certainly won’t hinder your success, it’s far better that you keep it neat, keep it concise and keep it controlled.
The same applies to wading, I used to try to “keep up with the boys” and thought that by wading as deep as possible I was going to catch more fish. Not true, not only was I in danger of bobbing off down the river not to mention the fact that quite often you’d be walking on top of any fish that are lurking below but it also made me feel really unsteady and uncomfortable. As a consequence, I tensed up, my muscles tightened and everything started going wrong. I then over- analysed every duff cast and the day was ruined. Time to retire to the hut and reassess over a dram or cup of tea!
The fish don’t know whether you’re surging testosterone or casting like a lady, whether you’re male, or female, but if your fly is presented well in the water, in the right place, at the right time, you might just get that pull.