Real Women Do Fish (and Why More Should)

by Sherri Haigh

The First Catch

If I close my eyes, I can almost feel the tug on the line.

I was ten years old and it was my first fish—a Northern Pike pulled out of Bear Lake near Sudbury, Ontario. It changed my life.

Young Sherri holding a pike in front of her parent’s camp on Bear Lake

I think back on how it happened. It started with the discovery of a rod and reel in the shed at the back of our family’s newly purchased cottage (called “camp” in the North). I then spotted the Daredevil lure dangling from the line, calling my name.

The decision that day to grab the rod and head to the water has led to a lifetime of treasured memories. Over the decades I’ve caught Trout in New Zealand, Sailfish in Mexico, Peacock Bass in Panama, Atlantic Salmon in the Miramichi, Barracuda in Florida and, of course, many amazing fish right here in beautiful Ontario.

Sherri fishing for Barracuda in Florida.

A Sport That Gives Back

I think for many of us, our eyes will light up when asked about the first fish or the most exciting catch. It is a sport that gives back in so many ways, whether it is the potential for time in solitude, bonding with a friend or family member, or just the chance to appreciate nature. It inspired me to begin a lifelong quest to encourage others to try the sport.

A number of years ago, I helped start a free program for children that allowed them to experience the joy of catching a fish while teaching them proper fishing etiquette and nurturing an appreciation and respect for the outdoors. Since then, thousands of youngsters have benefitted from the program.

In other instances, I offered to take a daughter or son of a friend out for a day of fishing if no one else in the household fished. My hope, and it often worked, was the child would develop an ongoing interest in fishing.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is getting other adult women interested. Despite more and more females taking up the sport, I still get odd looks from both men and women when I talk about fishing.

Real Women Do Fish

On girl getaway weekends to cottages, I was always on my own out on the water with rod and reel. I think some of them secretly would have liked to join me, but society, in many ways, still looks at it as a male sport and women as not feminine if they participate.

Hogwash! I have no problem putting on a ball cap, taking a hook out of a fish or digging around for worms and then heading home, showering, and dressing up for a cocktail party. Some of us may recall the book “Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche” satirizing stereotypes. Well, it’s time to dispel the same notion when it comes to fishing: “Real Women DO Fish.”

Why should more women fish? Well, let’s get started!

Fishing Is A No-Brainer

First, this isn’t about muscle. We can do it just as well. In fact, what’s so great about fishing is anyone can do it regardless of their size or physical ability. It is likely one of the most accessible sports you can enjoy.

Everyone needs time to relax and escape, especially now. For anyone feeling cooped up these last few months, what better escape is there than being out on the water with a gentle breeze, birds singing, and the sound of waves lapping up on shore? A spa will charge you at least $100 for that same soothing experience, so I think fishing is a no-brainer option.

As we all struggle to find things to do during the pandemic, fishing will always be one of the best ways to enjoy the outdoors while social distancing. Maybe the fish don’t agree.

As the owner of my own consulting business, I tend to be on the competitive side. So, for all those successful ladies out there, this is another great way to feed that competitive spirit. My first childhood friend was a guy named Rob. We became friends due to our mutual passion for fishing. Our families’ camps were on the same lake, and we loved to head out in the boat together to see who could catch the most fish. Forty-five years later, we are still friends despite living in different provinces.

Sherri and childhood friend Rob relaxing after an afternoon of fishing

That brings me to one of the highlights of fishing, regardless of who you are: the chance to bond, build friendships and create special memories.

Fishing Memories

I had little in common with my dad, but fishing became the one time when it was just the two of us, and we would talk about things that just never came up at the dinner table. In fact, I don’t think he cared much for fishing, but it became our “thing”, and I will never forget those conversations.

As someone who has travelled extensively and writes a travel column, there is no doubt that the highlight of any trip for me is when I can include a fishing experience.

This past January, I travelled to Panama and enjoyed the wonderful people, the breathtaking scenery, and the chance to fish in the Panama Canal. Here we were in a tiny fishing boat, navigated by a young local guide, slowly motoring past gigantic ships while I am wondering if the wake from these boats will capsize us. The Canal can accommodate boats up to 106 feet wide. (The Titanic was 92 feet wide.) Somehow, we managed to get through and veer off to an adjacent lake, which, to my immense pleasure was filled with Peacock Bass. The adventurous ride, the beautiful scenery and the great fishing made that day the highlight of our trip.

Sherri on her travels in Panama enjoying the breathtaking scenery.

Share the Joy

Clearly, there are so many reasons to fish. But perhaps the best part about fishing is the chance to give someone else the opportunity to share in some amazing experiences, whether it’s a spouse, daughter, son, mother, father, or friend.

To my fishing colleagues, next time you are heading out with rod and reel, bring someone new to share in the joy of the sport.

To all the women who may have never considered fishing, take a chance and just do it.

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