After the snow melts and rivers open up, novice and intermediate steelheaders will head to the banks of the Baptism River to learn the fundamentals of fishing on the North Shore. Women on the Fly, part of Minnesota Steelheaders, will hold their second annual streamside clinic May 20 for women to gain knowledge and experience fly fishing.
Lisa Murphy, an eight-year steelheading veteran, is one of the directors for Minnesota Steelheaders and Women on the Fly. Last year, there were five women who participated in the streamside clinic; this year, there are 16 signed up. Three out of five participants caught fish at last year’s clinic, and most of them continue to fish today.
“We had to add a second clinic this year—and also have a long waiting list. It’s encouraging because there is a lot more interest than anyone realized.” Murphy said.
When she first started volunteering for Minnesota Steelheaders, she noticed there wasn’t information and resources specifically for women on their website. She had recently moved to Silver Bay from the Twin Cities with her fiancé to be closer to the rivers that they loved; she also wanted to share that passion with others. So in April of 2016, Women on the Fly came to be.
“I know that I am not the only woman who loves this. If we can provide the resources and skills, we can get so many more women involved,” Murphy said.
More women are catching on—according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the amount of female anglers has slightly increased in the last five years. In 2006, there were 7.6 million women fishing and in 2011, that number rose to 8.9 million.
The goal of the streamside clinic is for women to have the confidence to fish on their own. For the average fly fisherman, fishing alone is sometimes preferred. Although it depends on the river, most can agree that shoulder-to-shoulder fishing typically doesn’t amount to much but frustration.
Murphy says that it is very rare to come across a woman fishing alone.
“There is no feeling like conquering a river, it’s a fantastic feeling and any woman can do it. They just have to have the confidence and the know-how to do it.”
That’s what the clinic is all about. To teach participants about migratory trout and salmon fishery so they know where to go, what to look for, and how to develop their skills and confidence navigating the water.
Plus, the clinic is free. Minnesota Steelheader staff volunteer their time to put it on—they do accept donations, though. Any donations received go toward funding future educational programs, community events, habitat projects, and their conservation mission. Throughout the year, Minnesota Steelheaders offer multiple events, from streamside clinics to a steelheader meet and greet. The purpose is to continue the fishing heritage in order to pass on the passion to future generations.
There is also desire to get more local women out on the water. Murphy says that many of the people coming for the clinics are traveling from the Twin Cities. While they are more than welcome, she’d love to see the impact of the streamside clinic locally as well.