Why Women Should Fly Fish #5050OnTheWater


Written by: Isobella Ash

Earlier this week Claire Zambuni was interviewed by Matthew Wright and the team on Talk Radio about the Orvis #5050onthewater scheme that encourages women to try fly fishing. We want to make it easier for women to get into this typically male dominated sport as this can often leave women to feel unwelcome on the riverbank. Our goal is to have as many women as men on the water, bringing home the…fish.

Claire explained that this campaign is “all about transparency, we don’t want it to be exclusive in any way shape or form so we’re encouraging more women, kids, partners, and couples to get on the water and try fly fishing. We’re trying to make it more accessible and break down the barriers.”

Claire Zambuni, demonstrating her beautiful skills!

Traditionally fly fishing has been a very male dominated sport meaning that the female perspective is likely to feel that “it’s been filled with crusty old bores” Matthew pointed out.

However, as Claire mentioned, times are changing, we’ve got some incredible women out there, pioneers like Tiggy Pettifer and Gilly Bate. One of these ladies was discussed for having a particularly close bond with the sport and for good reason. Matthew said that “Gilly Bate is one of the many women out there that would advocate for fly-fishing being a very useful thing for women who recover from breast cancer.”  

This topic lead to Claire mentioning the amazing organisation called Casting for Recovery. She said that; “they provide these private retreats for women who are suffering or have suffered from breast cancer and so it gives them the opportunity to get together on the river bank and share experiences.” Matthew agreed with this and highlighted that “It’s not just the social side it’s the casting action which is a sort of fairly gentle movement of the arm and is supposed to be very good for tissue if you’ve had a mastectomy or any kind of partial removal of the breast.”  It’s no wonder many of these women have taken it one step further and have become guides and making their living.

No matter what someone is going through, the sport benefits those in different ways. Claire described the sport as “exhilarating and relaxing at the same time. You’re completely absorbed in nature. We all live this hectic life where we’re glued to our iPhones and we’re running around looking at what everyone else is doing in a kind of vacuous way. So, when you’re on the river bank, you’re literally just absorbed in your immediate environment. All you’re focused on is the next catch, how you’re going to facilitate that, how that’s going to happen, what you need to do it. “

Not only are the therapeutic and health values benefiting women but as Matthew pointed out “It’s one of the few sports I can think of where men and women can compete on completely equal footing.” This is a really good point, as then Claire began to discuss how she is always encouraged by women’s inspirational stories in fly fishing and went on to discuss Orvis UK’s very own European Account manager: Rachael Brady. Rachael did not come from a fly fishing background and only started fly fishing 3 years ago. Now she’s representing England women in the common wealth games in 2020 in New Zealand.  

Rachael Brady fly fishing for Grayling

As it turns out Matthew Wright had a similar experience in his introduction to fly fishing. He had been coarse fishing for a long time however he did begin fly fishing after learning how to do so from a book in his local fly-fishing shop. However, we at Orvis UK have a better way to introduce you to fly fishing. We hold regular sessions for free all through the summer and Spring. Claire mentioned: “We teach people how to cast and it’s incredible, we have all the Orvis instructors there, the kits all provided. “

This conversation, then lead on to discuss how Claire had begun fly fishing herself: “I was very much a townie, an urban girl, come from running clubs and festivals and all those sorts of things, so I’m not really someone who should be in field sports. I was introduced to shooting which is slightly more contentious but what I found was that it took me to the outdoors. Suddenly, this magical new world opened up to me. Somewhere where I just relaxed, I felt free. I remember the day really clearly. It was about 10 years ago now, I was on a chalk stream river and had to pick up children and dogs, so I had to leave at 5:30pm. I remember turning around to my Ghillie and saying what time is it? Thinking it was probably about 4 o’clock and I was in time to do everything and he said it’s 8:30pm. I was so absorbed!”

Claire Zambuni – showing us how it’s done!

Matthew agreed and mentioned how fly fishing has helped him and countless others with stress. It can be difficult to try and find an activity to help you avoid the work stress you’re under so for Matthew, fly fishing was his solution.  “I found it much easier to say I have all this work-related stress here, and what I’m going to do is I’m going to switch my brain from thinking about that stress to stressing about whether I’m going to catch a fish. Which after a couple of hours you think, what a plonker? What am I worrying about it’s only a fish. It doesn’t matter if I can’t catch one, but I find it easier for my brain to fixate on something neutral than to stop thinking. Instant relaxation.”

Not only has this benefit Matthew in terms of his stress levels but this is also an activity that he can participate in with is family. In fact, his wife may even be a better fisher than himself! He said: “Mrs Wright fly fishes as well and she currently hold the wright household record for the largest trout, a fish so stupendous in size that there is a photo of her on the mantelpiece of the bar at the Gliffaes fishing hotel in Wales. I have spent thousands of pounds camping out in the same spot, sleeping in the back of my car desperately trying to match that fish. “

It was at this point that Claire revealed that it is in fact a woman who holds the world record for the largest ever rod caught fish. Georgina Ballantine 1922 64 pounds.

Not only is this woman famous for fishing but there are many well-known women that you may not know have an affinity for fly fishing. Matthew mentioned that the queen mother was a huge fan and Claire revealed that Bette Davis is an unusual person who was crazy about fly fishing as well as Emma Watson.

They finished the interview by Matthew addressing the listeners stating: “It has been a lifechanging experience for me, I wouldn’t say it’s saved my life, but it certainly has helped my mental health and I think you’d love it. “

If you think you might be interested in giving fly fishing a try, then go into any Orvis store and ask to do a free fly-fishing course. We’ll take you out and teach you casting for free. On top of this we have a whole schedule of events that’ll be up on our website soon and on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram channels. So, keep an eye out!

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