Saturday, September 12th at 11 am in every time zone something incredible is going to happen. Female fly anglers from across the globe will begin posting photos of themselves at fly fishing events or doing something fly fishing related. This is the start of something great. This is International Women's Fly Fishing Day.
I caught up with Madeleine Kelly from Ireland, who is one of the two women at the helm of IWFFD. Maddy and her co-creator, Pamela Dunlap from West Virginia (USA), are about to embark on a journey that will forever catapult them into women's fly fishing history. I was excited to find out a little more about the event itself and how it came into being.
Jen: What is International Women’s Fly Fishing Day and when is it?
Maddy: International Women’s Fly Fishing Day (IWFFD) is a day to celebrate all the women fly anglers in the world. The first IWFFD will be celebrated on September 12, 2020, at 11:00 am. The goal of the day, and our Mission Statement, is “To bring women together from all over the world, virtually, for one day to celebrate their fly-fishing life and to encourage them to be role models who will support new women who take up fly fishing.”
Jen: Why September 12th?
Maddy: Since the goal of IWFFD is for women to celebrate the day by fly fishing or participating in fly fishing activities throughout the world, we wanted a day that would work for the majority of countries. Living in Ireland, my fly-fishing season begins on March 1st and finishes on September 30th. Ireland is a northern hemisphere country and while we’re enjoying what can be ideal fly-fishing conditions in May and June, countries like New Zealand can be under snow at that time. Mid-September seemed like a good start for our trial run.
Jen: How did the idea of International Women’s Fly Fishing Day come about?
Maddy: The idea for International Women’s Fly Fishing Day came about by chatting with another internet friend, Pamela Dunlap from Hurricane, West Virginia (USA). I’ve been told I’m a talker (I actually think that I’m very shy). Pam and I have spent three years sharing stories of the fly fishing days that we organize for. She set up Women, Wine, and Waders, and I set up Northern Ireland Reel Women. Though we’re separated by 3,590 miles, it turns out we have a lot in common. We are both committed to encouraging and supporting new women in fly fishing. During one of our chats last year I mentioned that we should run an event on the same day and call it ‘International Women’s Fly Fishing Day,’ and that we should get our two groups linked on a Skype call. Of course, today that would be Zoom. So, I did a bit of research, mainly to make sure that the name didn’t already exist. I have been involved in setting up National Days for various things before, so I had a bit of experience.
Jen: Given all things COVID, I’m sure the plan for your first IWFFD has changed. What was the original idea and what does this year look like?
Maddy: We were planning to spend most of 2020 encouraging experienced women fly anglers to run educational days for new anglers. However, with the pandemic situation as it is, IWFFD has instead become a day whereby women who are already fly anglers will celebrate the event by undertaking a range of activities that are fly-fishing related. While some will be fly fishing, either as individuals or with other women, others will be involved with a fly-fishing related activity.
Jen: How can people participate in IWFFD?
Maddy: We are asking women that are interested in taking part to post a photo or a video at 11 am in their time zone on Saturday, September 12th, 2020, to the ‘International Women’s Fly Fishing Day’ Facebook page that shows how they’re celebrating the special day. Some women will be fishing, but some plans will have been curtailed because of adherence to local government guidelines given COVID which are different throughout the world. Since there is also always the chance that weather may interfere with fishing plans, and some women are in a part of the world that is out of the fly fishing season, the photo or video posted can be of anything related to fly fishing: practicing casting, tying a fly, or even reading a book on the topic or watching a fly-fishing video counts! Even if women are unable to actively participate in the activity at 11 am, they can still at that time post a photo from another time showing them enjoying the art of fly fishing.
Julie Cook, Vice President of the Southland Fly Fishing Club in Invercargill is, at the minute, the most easterly woman planning to take part which means she’ll get the first opportunity to post her 11 am photo while Catrina (Cat) White from Los Angeles is the most westerly and will close out the IWFFD. It is the goal that with photos being posted at 11 am from all over the world that the day will unfold from New Zealand to the west coast of the USA over a 20-hour period.
We’re also asking women to visit the site between now and then and share their plans for the day.
Jen: Why is it important to get women into fly fishing?
Maddy: Fly fishing, and angling in general, gives so much to the angler. I took an extensive mindfulness course a few years ago and I kept thinking – wow, I get all that from fly fishing. It’s not just peace of mind, there’s also the fitness aspect. Try wading into waist-deep water – that’ll work your core. Or scramble five miles up a riverbank and back down five miles to your car with your rod and essentials for the day – that’ll compete with any gym workout. And there’s nothing like lunch alongside a water’s edge with a cup of tea and a slice of lemon drizzle cake.
I have only been in a gym once and that was with a camera crew and David Bellamy who was an amazing naturalist and environmentalist in the UK and well known throughout the world. We were shooting a video to show how practical environmental work done outside is as beneficial as a workout in the gym, and you have the added satisfaction that your work is helping the environment. A lot of anglers, as well as fishing, start to care for their rivers and waterways. They organize work parties to clean up litter, fix river banks, create and improve access, build bridges and stiles, remove fallen trees, and clear water blockages that prevent the movement of migratory fish - all very physical work.
Then there’s the workout for the brain. You may switch off and anglers will say that you are in another world and your worries and problems just slip away. But you spend the day watching, really seeing what’s there and analyzing everything - the bug life, the water movements, the feeding patterns, watching for clues that might be as simple as feeding birds.
It’s a work out in nature. Women are catching on to the secret and they’re passing on the information. So many women that I’ve talked to have told me that they’ve only been fishing for a few years. And they’ve no idea that it’s likely the result of a dedicated commitment by women to get more women involved. I personally want to see more of that throughout the world.
Jen: If we want to learn more about IWFFD or have questions about being a part of the day, how can we contact you?