by Susie Kane…
(To coincide with TV3 showing the NZ Women’s Fly Fishing Team last night, this is well-timed. I tried to find this old TRM report from 2014 in time for the recent women’s tournament but only located it after the event. So better late than never…)
One of the major draws of the Tongariro River is its accessibility – it is largely owned by the Crown, meaning that its waters are accessible to anybody with the relevant fishing permit. Celebrities and oligarchs rub shoulders here with ordinary folk from all walks of life. Including women.
The Archetypal Angler
Angling has traditionally been viewed as a male preserve. We all know the image of the archetypal angler – a man, typically beyond the first flush of youth, escaping wife and domestic scene to steal sneaky days by the river where, if his bar-spun tales are to be believed, he battles monstrous scaled beasts the like of which the Earth has not seen since the time of the dinosaurs. It’s an adamantly male image, and the idea of a female angler does not immediately spring to mind. Despite this, however, more and more women are taking up tackle and heading to the trout pools.
Female fishers are by no means a new development. Ladies of the aristocracy have long joined and surpassed their men in the outdoor pursuits colloquially put together as ‘huntin’, shootin’, fishin’’. They have brought all their trademark determination and vigour to the fore in order to outdo their menfolk on these scores. Legions of determined tweed-clad ladies of high breeding have been striding out across the moors of Britain and wading the creeks of Europe for centuries, pitting their wits against the fish of the lochs and streams, and returning triumphant to present their catches to exasperated cooks (“fish again?”). While the lower classes had to conform to certain stereotypes, the upper classes could do much as they pleased – and what pleased many upper class ladies was fishing. This is reflected in the names of Tongarino’s pools and tributaries, many of which are named for prominent people who fished there, and several of which bear female monikers – ‘The Duchess Pool’, for example. Now that we live in an age of more equal opportunity, plenty of other women are coming to appreciate what this eponymous Duchess did, and turning to angling as a sport and leisure activity.
Grace, Elegance, and Sex Appeal
It’s hardly surprising, when you think about it, that many ladies should love fishing so. Despite its masculine image, there is something very feminine about the act of angling. The casting of a line is a graceful motion, rippling out across the water in a sinuous arc. The act of waiting for a fish has a stillness and calm to it which many women greatly appreciate, and the chance to be in beautiful surroundings like that of the Tongarino river is sublime for the lady with an eye for the picturesque . Even the act of playing and reeling in a fish – which men tend to describe as a ‘battle’ – can be seen as a ‘dance with Nature’. It’s a skilful process of give and take, in which line is played and pulled back until the fish is finally reeled in and submits to the lady who has caught it (the parallels with marriage are striking…) It’s even quite sensual in its way – even sexy. This may be pushing the point a little far, but it is true that plenty of clothing companies are now waking up to the potential offered by female anglers and producing some truly attractive items of clothing for the purposes of fishing.
Quite apart from the aesthetics, however, there is a lot about angling which appeals to humanity in general, regardless of the gendering of its constituent parts or the proportional attractiveness of its clothing. Fishing provides a chance to get close to Nature in all her glory, and engage directly with the rivers and their denizens. It’s relaxing, it’s invigorating, it allows an escape from the human world and a reconnection with the environment which plenty of us are in desperate need of. Humans are always drawn to water – it is theorized that our love of shiny things like glossy lips and twinkling diamonds stems from the ancient and deeply ingrained joy we see when we see the sunlight sparkling on life-giving water. Not for nothing are coastal and water-based trips so incredibly popular – and it’s not just the coffee which draws people to canal-threaded Venice. The chance to be so close to the river pleases us on an ancient and subliminal level which we cannot quite explain, bringing about a sense of calm and peace which most anglers will freely admit is the main draw of the sport.
Fun For All
Many are put off by the intense seriousness with which many people declaim their love of angling – some have a tendency to get bogged down in unappealing technical details regarding kit and so forth, which sounds horrendously complex and is deeply off-putting to some beginners (although others relish the minutiae of rod and tackle types) . However, the simple fact is that fishing should be – and is – first and foremost a fun activity. The New Zealand tourist board promotes fly fishing as being ‘Naturally Rewarding’ – and it’s a reward which anyone can enjoy, regardless of gender.