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Women Are Fishing More Than Ever — And They’re Not Going Anywhere

Women are everywhere on the water. Fishing has long been a male-dominated pastime, but that trend has changed. Fly fishing, and fishing in general, is no longer your father’s sport. It’s your mother’s and your sister’s. It is, in essence, for everyone, male or female.

Few have really studied this phenomenon. Steve Kantner was astute enough write about it in depth with his new book, Fifty Women Who Fish. Published by Wild River Press, the book features lengthy profiles of some of the most famous women anglers, including legendary caster Joan Wulff, television host and guide April Vokey, DUN Magazine editor Jen Ripple, longtime Miami Herald outdoor writer Sue Cocking and world-record holder Meredith McCord among others.

TFO blog editor Mike Hodge reached out to Kantner at his Fort Lauderdale, Fla. home to discuss his book, which is his third. The other two are The Ultimate Guide to Fly Fishing South Florida on Foot and Backcountry Flies: Tying and Fishing Florida Patterns, from Swamp to Surf.

Fifty Women Who Fish is due to be released later this spring. You can order copies here.

Below are excerpts from the phone interview.

TFO: Here’s a simple question: How long did the book take, from start to finish?

SK: “Well, from its actual conception to its actual delivery, I started in January two years ago, and now we’re going into April, so you’d say about 28 months.”

TFO: Was this book more difficult than your first two books?

SK: “The level of depth. … You’ll see.”

TFO: The fly book is somewhat formulaic. But this is a series of in-depth profiles, right?

SK: “It’s a 200-and-something-page book. And you have to try do it right. A lot of the fly book, the problem was that I’m a lousy photographer, and I had to try to get all the photos done. … But here you’re talking about sweeping concepts and people’s lives. One girl was locked inside of her house until she was 9 years old.”

TFO: The profiles, did they take a long time to write and to do the interviewing?

SK: “The thing I worry about is sometimes you get to know these women and you’re talking to them, I wanted them to be comfortable. That’s why I let them see things as the process evolved. I didn’t want them to be afraid because this would have some longevity. It’s not like a Facebook post. No one knew them better than they did. I didn’t want the profiles to be press releases, but I wanted the women to be confident in what was presented.”

TFO: What was the most rewarding aspect of the process?

SK: “I got to know and understand women a lot better. I think the most rewarding thing is I gave these women a voice to their concerns and to their fears and to their aspirations. I tried to let them be all that they could be.”

TFO: What was it like talking to Joan Wulff?

“That was a couple times. (My publisher) Tom Pero knows her pretty well. I talked to her a bunch of times. Her stich is the First Lady of Fly Fishing. I’ve known her for years. She came pretty clean with her life. She’s a lovely lady, 92 years old. She was big not only for women’s fishing, but for everybody. She came from a large family. Her father was Jimmy Salvato. He had a sports store in a suburb of Patterson, N.J. That was back in the day when you sent your sons to college, but not your daughters. She always had a little edge about that. … From the first time she went fishing, she knew it was for her.

“I didn’t know her (late) husband Lee. But the guys that I know that knew him either liked him or they didn’t. Most of them really liked him a lot.”

TFO: Were most of the women pretty receptive to being profiled?

SK: “Yes. Once they realized I was authentic. In the beginning, imagine how it would be when someone calls you up and wants to ask you secrets? I came on slow, deliberately. You look at all the weird stuff we have in our society. I don’t know about you, but I get about 10 crank calls a day — ransom ware and locking up your computer. Imagine what it’s like getting a call where they might not know you.”

TFO: Did you have trouble coming up with 50 names to profile?

“No. The problem I really worried about was there’s one who’s particularly deserving that I would have liked to have added, but you can’t have a title like 51 Women Who Fish. I didn’t know this woman personally, but if there’s a sequel, she’s on my list.

“I’m kind of a sucker. I was sending stuff out and I really had to ride herd on it: ‘Are you interested. If you’re not, say so.’ But you know how it is, it’s not normal thinking. They don’t say, ‘No thanks. Not interested.’ What I was afraid of was getting 51 responses and I would have to tell someone no. That would be devastating. I would then defeat the purpose that I started out to do, which is to give them a fair shake. Fortunately everything fell into place.”

The Complete Cast Can Help You Become a More Complete Angler

It’s late June and getting warmer by the day, so the fishing in the North Carolina mountains has slowed to a trickle. Recent rains have filled the lakes to the brim, so our tailwater rivers are running full bore; and the mountain streams, while bulging, are a bit too warm for trout.

I frequently use this type of downtime to work on a particular angling skill, usually either fly tying or casting. I recently chose the latter.

It didn’t take me long to find quality instruction. TFO offers The Complete Cast, a three-and-a-half hour DVD that covers all aspects of fly casting. TFO advisors Lefty Kreh and Ed Jaworowski are the instructors.

TFO, unfortunately, because of Lefty’s passing, has sold out of the DVD; however the digital version is available on Vimeo, which was perfect for me since I didn’t want to wait to order by mail. I grabbed a credit card and $39.95 later, I was immersed in one of my happy places, fly-casting geekdom.

I love fly casting. I can cast in the yard for hours and not get bored. Sometimes, Waylon, my young English Cocker Spaniel, will watch from the hill above our house. He’s as loyal as any dog I’ve owned, but even he can only take about 45 minutes of back casts, reach casts and curve casts before fleeing for the front door.

During my nearly 30 years of fly fishing, I’ve taken casting lessons from some of the best in the business: Joe Bressler at the Western Rivers (Orvis) Guide School; Bob Cramer of Mossy Creek (Va.) Fly Shop; Enver Hysni of Tampa Bay on the Fly; Mac Brown of Bryson City, N.C.; Henry Williamson of Brookings Anglers in Cashiers, N.C.; Billy Kingsley of the Blue Ridge Angler in Harrisonburg, Va.; and Dayle Mazzarella of Tampa’s Plant High School among others.

If there’s a fly-casting video in existence, I’ve probably seen it. Years ago, I used to watch Lefty, Mel Krieger, Billy Pate, Joan Wulff and Jack Dennis. When YouTube was born, I turned to Bill Higashi, Steve Rajeff and Davin Ebanks aka Mr. Windknot.

Suffice it to say, I’ve seen just about every shred of info there is when it comes to fly casting. Still, it was not enough.

I can now add The Complete Cast to my vast fly-casting/fly-fishing library.

Here are my thoughts. Keep in mind this DVD is nearly four hours long, so there is no earthly way to summarize the content in a single blog post. That said, here goes:

  • The Complete Cast is comprehensive. It covers freshwater and saltwater casting with in-depth instruction from two voices. Don’t expect to grab a beer after work and knock it out before dinner. Cherry picking the best parts or the parts you think apply directly to you probably won’t work, either, because you need to see the entire DVD to comprehend an overview of the concepts. It’s best to see the forest first, then the trees. My advice: Watch it in sections of an hour or so.
  • Lefty is a fine caster, a great fisherman and a phenomenal teacher. There are a handful of folks who have a good grasp of fly casting, but Lefty separates himself from the pack with his communication skills and analogies. Both Jaworowski and Lefty are big on sports references. Lefty often uses baseball comparisons. Jaworowski uses golf to get his point across. Both are spot on.
  • There are no absolutes. Obviously, the fundamentals of fly casting are pretty rock solid, but one of the themes in the DVD is that the angler’s objective and how the principles of fly casting are applied often hinge on the fishing situation. For instance, we all want distance, but how much is enough? That, of course, depends. If you’re in your yard trying to impress your spouse, 80 feet might work, but if you’re fishing for bones in the Florida Keys against a nasty headwind, 30 feet might just be the ticket.
  • It pays to have a firm grasp of the obvious. I, for one, could never really master a good steeple cast or a roll cast. With the steeple cast, you have to point your rod and hand toward the sky as if you’re casting the fly (with a forward cast) toward the heavens. I did the reverse (using a back cast) for years. On the roll cast, I usually pulled the rod downward instead of forward. Actually, I give myself partial credit for figuring the roll cast out before watching the DVD. The info merely confirmed my flaws.
  • Practice makes perfect. Featured are drills for loop control and accuracy. Casting through a hula hoop develops loop control; casting toward a hula hoop on the ground, by contrast, helps with accuracy. To up the ante, Lefty is shown casting toward a mousetrap.

 

The Complete Cast is a good DVD with a ton of quality information. It doesn’t matter if you fish for brook trout or bonefish, there’s something for every fly fisherman, from the beginner to the expert. To purchase digitally, go to Vimeo’s website: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/thecompletecast/

And, as always, let us know what you think with a comment on one of our social media pages.