Despite a few notable lady anglers of old, fly fishing was largely a boys-only scene until recently. Women lounged on the beach while the men chased bonefish, or lunched stream-side while boys hunted trout.
Those days are disappearing fast. Women have taken their rightful spots in the stream and industry leaders are hustling to accommodate a growing demographic — one that likes to shop.
“There’s a lot of media attention right now on women’s fishing trends, products and personalities, but this attention is rooted in authenticity. Women have been fishing forever,” said Montana-based Hilary Hutcheson, co-star of Trout TV. “[It] is great to help advance the industry in meaningful ways like driving attention for conservation and women’s organizations like Casting for Recovery.”
Mia Sheppard, conservationist and championship spey caster, says the current generation of women’s specific gear places function above fashion.
“The industry was stuck in fly-fishing fashion 1.0 in the early 2000s; the trend of waders and gear cut for the New York runway just wasn’t cutting it. It was fashion and not function.”
The new generation of fishing gear for women, which she calls “fly-fishing fashion 2.0,” is durable and functional while addressing the fit and fashion women want.
“My first pair of waders were the Simms Headwaters, because it was tough to find women’s waders in fly shops and women’s waders weren’t made with the same durability as the men’s; fabrics were too thin or the color was too girly,” Mia adds. She changed to her first pair of women’s-specific waders in 2013, when Simms released a women’s wader with the same durability as the men’s.
“Women really do fish and need durable and functional gear. Research and development teams are listening to feedback from the women professionals, but we still have a ways to go before we get to FFF 3.0. Women want product that has function, fit, and hints of fashion all in one—we are a tough crowd to please!”
Rising to meet the challenge, Orvis last year added a Women’s Silver Sonic Convertible-Top Waders — designed and field-tested by a female anglers. Simms continued to add to its burly women’s line, and Redington released the Siren wader, boasting two fits — one narrow and the other cut for curvy figures — and the Willow River Wader.
Patagonia introduced a line aimed at the female angler this spring, offering waders and casual wear for the fly rod-carrying lady.
“I look up to women who are business owners, guides, casting instructors, professional fly designers, writers, photographers, gear developers and conservationists,” Hutcheson said. “They are impacting the industry, even if it’s by influencing the men who lead manufacturing, branding and business development at fishing brands. Men are still driving this thing, and the good ones are going straight to the source when it comes to giving female consumers what we want.”
The fishing industry has heard the footsteps of a new demographic coming down the pipeline, one that switches seamlessly from heels to boots and waders, is ready to welcome the new customers.