Sunday, 13 May 2012

Women Anglers

Babs Kijewski
The question of why men fish, or participate in the sport with such passion, is one that has been contemplated for centuries; the poet and philosopher Henry David Thoreau went as far as saying "Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after" and yet, despite such serious deliberation, no definitive conclusion to why men fish has been found. There is of course a copious amount of theories on why men enthusiastically sit by the water, enduring all weather, to catch a creature that is supposedly of lower intelligence; mans primeval urge, his inherent affinity with nature, water and his evolutionary relationship with our aquatic cousins have all been considered, but such theories tend to hint at predominantly male traits and do not fully acknowledge women’s passion for fishing, nor the role women have played in the development of the sport.

Of course statistically far more men tend to enjoy fishing as a pastime than women and I appreciate the fact that it’s rare to see an equal amount of women setting up their ‘bivvies’ around a water, but that is not to say that women can’t share the same passion for fishing as men. From its earliest beginnings women have played an active role in the development of the sport; it may come as a surprise to learn that the earliest English essay on recreational fishing, “Treatyse of Fysshynge wyth an Angle”, was written and published in 1496 by Dame Juliana Berners, a nun and a noblewomen, and many more female anglers have greatly influenced the sport ever since:

Mary Orvis Marbury (1856 – 1914) – The daughter of Charles Orvis, Mary took charge of the Orvis fly department in the 1870’s and went on to publish a milestone encyclopedic reference book on fly patterns, “Favorite Flies and their History”, in 1892. The book became a best-seller and set the national standards for 300 distinct fly patterns. When she died in 1914, the English Fishing Gazette acclaimed her as “the most famous but one female angling author.” (The ‘but one” was Dame Juliana Berners).

Helen Lerner (1902 – 1979) – A world class angler and one of the founders of the International Game Fishing Association, Helen Lerner set many firsts for women anglers around the world.

Sara C. Farrington (1908 – 1992) – Known as “Chisie,” Sara Farrington set 11 IGFA world records, appeared in 11 films about big-game fishing, wrote for Harpers Bazaar, Vogue and Mademoiselle and authored the book “Women Can Fish” in 1951.

Joan Wulff (1926 – present) – Known as one of the best fly-casters on the planet, Joan has been writing columns for “Fly Rod & Reel” magazine for 22 years and has authored a number of books on fly fishing, the most well known being “Fly Casting Techniques”, “Fly Casting Accuracy”, and “Joan Wulff’s Fly Fishing”. She was the US National Casting Champion from 1943-1960 in ‘distance casting’ against an all-male competition, once making a record cast of 161 feet, and was inducted into the IGFA Hall of Fame in 2007. In 1996 she established the Wulff School of Fly Fishing, which is still in operation today.

Babs Kijewski
Today even the humble fishing programme, a bastion of the male presenter, has been infiltrated by female anglers, Barbara Kijewski being the most well known throughout Europe, most especially in her home country of Germany. Also known as ‘Babs’, Barbara has been fishing all her life and is an accomplished specimen hunter, fishing for an array of species, with a personal best carp of just over 60lbs. With her good looks, angling knowledge and bubbly personality, ‘Babs’ has already featured on a number of German TV programmes, conducts fishing seminars and looks set to become a ‘pin up’ for the sport.

So why do men fish? Who knows? Perhaps the answer to that question will remain one of life’s mysteries or perhaps there are too many good reasons, different for each and every one of us, to be able to provide one definitive answer? One thing’s for sure, the reasons are not necessarily exclusive to the male of the species, so the next time you’re planning a carp fishing trip, consider your partners, wives and girlfriends...the enduring carp widows; rather than attempting to explain the unfathomable urge that drives you to sit by the water for days on end, invite them along and see if they enjoy it...unless of course they happen to be one of the good reasons why you fish in the first place?

(Check out all of Babs Kijewski's fishing photos at

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