Fishing should be a recreational past time that is accessible to all: men, women and children. So how do we fare in the fishing equality stakes in Australia?
Well let’s start with the media. Australia has an abundance of fishing shows, IFish, Hook Line and Sinker, Fishing Australia, Escape with ET, Creek to Coast, Fishing Australia, Fishing Addiction (and the list goes on!). These shows all have one thing in common, they are hosted by men and filmed from a male perspective using male gender noun and pronouns. Rarely do you see women on these shows and if you do catch a glimpse they are usually either bikini clad models or introduced as somebody’s wife.
So, what is my point? Well guys believe it or not women can fish (in their own right, on their own, without male assistance) too! Now do not get me wrong, I am not a raving feminist that thinks all men are oppressors of the female species. Quite the opposite actually. I have a very supportive husband who is very patient with my fishing obsession event though he does not share my degree of passion for the sport (he is long-suffering). I also realise that physically there are some things I cannot do as well as men (such as use brute strength to undo a jar of jam). But I can fish! I love fishing, I would be out on the water 24/7 if my bank balance (and marriage) allowed.
So, what can we do to address the gender inequality in the fishing world?
Let me share with you my experience of being a woman who lives and breathes fishing in a male dominated region of Australia.
I found my love of fishing in Darwin. We moved to Darwin in 2007 and no sooner had we settled in we decided that we should buy a boat. Well why not? The only safe way to enjoy the water in Darwin is in the confines of a boat (due to the big lizards with teeth they had up there). In truth I did not know that many people in Darwin and certainly knew less about fishing.
Once on the water I quickly realised that fishing was my thing. I would convince my husband to take me out as much as possible onto the pristine waters of Darwin Harbour where we fumbled around trying to work out the best places and ways to catch fish. I must say not many fish were caught in the four years we were in Darwin, but it did confirm my feeling, that fishing was my passion.
I would do anything to go fishing (well almost anything!). I was lucky enough to have a couple of work colleagues who also went fishing with their partners so I could share fishing stories and ask for tips and pointers on how to improve. After a few years the girls at work decided that a day out fishing (girls only) was just what we needed. After organising who, where and what we were going to do we left the fellas at home and headed out bright and early one Saturday morning to a beautiful billabong for a day’s fish.
Bang that was where I caught my very first Barra, thanks to an all girl crew, and become even more obsessed with fishing!
This was when I realised girls can do this stuff! It was also when I realised that the boat needed to transform and I needed to lift my game in the fishing stakes.
We moved to Townsville in 2011 and I got very worried. I had left my fishing chicks in Darwin and moved to somewhere that was so much busier, too many boats on the water. How was I ever going to find the right places to fish, where could I go, who could I go with. My trusted husband was there of course and he put a lot of time and effort in to get me out on the water and find me places to fish. In fact, he was the one that suggested we join a fishing club, so that is exactly what we did.
We joined the Townsville Fishing Club and I became very aware that there were only a couple of women in the club who actively fished (and enjoyed it!). I became firm friends with one of the women and also made friends with a few of the fellas. When a few of the members moved clubs, we joined them and became members of the Alice River Fishing Club. This, again, was a male dominated club but I was made to feel welcome and slowly the club evolved into a more female friendly environment.
Clubs are a great way to meet like-minded individuals that share your passion. It can be daunting to join a club that is male dominated, but there is just something about fishing that makes most men forget your gender and talk to you like a normal human being. My advice would be to go and get involved, go to club meetings, speak to people (including the dreaded men) and get as much information from them as possible. Many times, I have been in a situation where my love and passion for fishing has seen me meet new people and break down the stereotypical views that some men hold on women and fishing.
I was a little fortunate in the fact that I learnt a lot of my boat driving skills in Darwin where it was sparsely populated and so I did not feel the pressure as you would on some of Queensland’s busier waterways. I learnt very quickly how to drive the boat on the trailer, due to a healthy respect for the big toothed lizards in the water up in Darwin. This would stun a few blokes at the boat ramp (especially the ones that were holding and manually winching their boats on to the trailers). I have lost count of the times some bloke stopped and stared as I drove the boat up onto the trailer, some congratulating me on my skills, some just too dumfounded to speak (omg it was chick that did that!). For me, to be able to do these things is a matter of female pride and I have to admit I get a great sense of achievement when I do it right. I do not always get it right though, I still miss the mark sometimes and pray that no one is watching, but I do breathe a sigh of relief when it all goes well when I have an audience. Although, I must admit that I am absolutely hopeless at backing the trailer down the boat ramp! I definatley need a lot more practise at that before I am allowed to do it in public, (typical female I hear you cry!)
I also had to learn to look after my own tackle and tie fishing knots. As previously mentioned my husband is not really that keen on fishing, so he would drive the boat and I would rig his rods and lures as payment for his services. I spent a lot of time practising knot tying and I must say some have failed me through the years. I also spent a fair bit of time in my local tackle shop (Fishing Warehouse in Townsville). Now I have to say these guys at the shop are amazing. They give me so much assistance and impart their knowledge to me on what bait/lure to use, where to use it, how to use it etc. They are an amazing friendly bunch even if they are all blokes!
It pays to get in with your local tackle store. They have a lot of local knowledge and will even assist you in how to rig your bait, lures and line etc. Make the most of the “woman” thing and pump them for their expertise!
Find a Friend
Fishing is always better when you can enjoy it in good company. I have been fortunate enough to have a few good female friends who love to fish. I met my current fishing buddy through friends in Townsville. Mad Mel they call her (and for a very good reason I might add). She is your typical independent, passionate fisher. She is very outgoing and is not afraid to get out there and give everything a crack (so much so she scares me at times!) She owns her own boat called Miss Adventures, because she is very accident prone and goes fishing on her own a fair bit.
Now we are polar opposites. I am an original pom, not too fit, bit of an academic, work in project development, base career is an accountant, outdoorsy in a comfortable way. She on the other hand is an original true-blue Aussie, gives everything and anything a go, pretty fit, very independent, scrubs dunnies for a living (her words not mine) and calls me a bit of a princess (just because I have my finger nails painted on the boat!) We only really have fishing in common, but the friendship works! We work well together on the boat (that is mainly because she bosses me around and I let her!) and we get out there and have a crack.
We started entering fishing competitions together and I must say we have an absolute ball. Many of the fishing comps in our area are male dominated so we take great pleasure at turning up on sign in night to see a room full of men go silent as we walk in. You can almost hear a pin drop and you can see what is going through their heads … “hey love, looks like you are in the wrong place!” or “well this should be fun, what would chicks know about Barra fishing!”
But being the fearless ladies that we are we get in, get on and mingle with the guys. I must admit that once they are aware of how much we love fishing we become part of the clique in no time. Luckily neither of us are shy so we just start talking to the other competition entrants and eventually get accepted. I do have an ulterior motive in that these guys usually know a lot about fishing so playing the unknowledgeable female can usually score me some good tips and pointers.
And the Point Is?
The morale of the story? Ladies put yourselves out there! There is nothing in our DNA as females that stops us from learning how to drive a boat, back a car, rig rods, tie knots or find fish. If you love fishing and want to enjoy the great outdoors, as Nike said, JUST DO IT!
And if you need any help or a bit of encouragement, I am willing to impart my vast array of knowledge (just joking I don’t know that much, I will refer you to Mad Mel).
Check out Mad Mel Fishing facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Madmelfishing/