Ladies, have you ever watched someone casting flies on Spring Creek or wondered if the sport of fly fishing might be for you?
Here is a local opportunity for women of any age to learn about fly fishing. A totally free ladies-only introductory fly fishing course will be offered at the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Stackhouse facility on Sept. 22.
Stackhouse is located at Fisherman’s Paradise along Spring Creek, south of Bellefonte. Your rod, reel, line, leader and flies will be provided for the day, as well as lunch. The PFBC has even waived your need to purchase a fishing license and trout stamp in order to participate in the day’s on-stream activities.
According to Amidea Daniel, the PFBC’s lead instructor for the course, the agenda includes a wide variety of topics, as well as ample time for on-stream practice. She outlined the day’s activities.
“We start by explaining the difference between fly fishing and spin fishing. Instead of casting the bait or lure, fly anglers actually cast the line,” Daniel explained. “The participants will also learn the basics of fly reels and rods and what I call, ‘decoding’ all of the information associated with fly-fishing tackle, such as the different types of line, leaders and rod weights. These are things that they need to know before walking into a fly shop for the first time.”
The students will spend about a half-hour learning to tie three basic, but essential knots — the nail, surgeons’ and improved clinch knots. In the fourth session, the group will discover how to identify aquatic macroinvertebrates by studying live aquatic insects in a pan and using a simple guide to aquatic insect identification.
“Based on comments from women who attended our first Ladies Fly Fishing Course, held at Gifford Pinchot State Park (York County) in June, they really liked the aquatic insect identification part of the class,” Daniel said. “We had lots of positive feedback about that session.
“As far as the imitations go, we cover mayflies, stoneflies, caddis, and really we touch on everything from woolly buggers to freshwater shrimp,” she added.
After lunch, the group will receive instruction in casting techniques, including the roll cast and overhead cast. Following that, they will rig their rods, tie on a fly and head to the stream for casting practice and trout fishing in Spring Creek.
“Our Ladies Fly Fishing Course is a pilot program and an outgrowth of our Family Fishing and Family Fly Fishing initiatives,” noted Carl Richardson, PFBC Manager of Public Education. “I think that it is important for us to offer female-friendly programs. ‘Becoming an Outdoors Woman’ brought to the forefront the need to have women teaching women. It is important for them to see someone like themselves enjoying fishing, and we can offer that.”
Daniel also stressed the importance of setting the right tone for instruction and learning.
“We are trying to create an atmosphere where women can feel comfortable, be more laid-back and learn,” she said. “I want to level the playing field so that they can make mistakes and share stories without being judged. The class is also a great place for women to meet and make connections with other ladies who are interested in fly fishing.”
In addition to the nuts and bolts of the course, Daniel truly loves fly fishing and helping to get others involved with the sport. She wants to share her passion and excitement with other women.
“As a new mother of two, I can better appreciate the total package that fishing offers, Daniel added. “I notice more things now — like feeling the coolness of the water lapping up against my legs, watching mayflies take off, or just the smell of the fresh breeze as I am fishing.”
Developing and offering this course and the other “family fishing” events is no accident. The sale of fishing licenses has been steadily dropping since 1990 — down over 30 percent in those 22 years. That spells a serious problem for an agency that gets approximately 75 percent of its revenue from license sales.
The Fish and Boat Commission is looking for ways to increase participation in the sport and boost license sales. Several efforts are in the works to reverse the decline, including the Ladies Fly Fishing Course and other similar efforts to teach new anglers and entice their engagement with the sport.
“A lot of folks see declining license sales and want to look at our youth. The reality is that there are an awful lot of adults — men and women — who would like to learn to fish,” commented Richardson.
“If you look at the data, girls under the age of 16 are participating in fishing at about the same rate as boys, but the girls drop out at a much higher rate,” Richardson stated. “Women make up over 50 percent of our population, but less than 20 percent of license buyers are female. They are an underrepresented audience that is actually growing, so it is important to offer fishing programs for women.”
The Ladies Fly Fishing Course is set for Sept. 22, and runs from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. All equipment, a fly-fishing packet of information and lunch will be provided. Space is limited and will be
assigned on a first-come, first-served basis. Ladies are encouraged to register by Sept. 14. Registration can be completed online at www.fishandboat.com on the calendar of events.
It is suggested that participants dress for the weather and bring water, sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses and waders or hipboots if they have them. Questions about the program should be directed to Daniel at 359-5127 or by email at email@example.com.
Mark Nale, who lives in the Bald Eagle Valley, is a member of the PA Outdoor Writers Association. He can be reached at MarkAngler@aol.com.