Texas Women Fly-fishers Are Angling for Respect
“They’re changing the state’s male-dominated fly-fishing scene.
On a Wednesday morning in mid-December, Cari Ray drives her dark green Toyota Tundra into the parking lot of Lazy L&L Campground in New Braunfels. There’s a hockey puck–size Zen Fly Fishing sticker on the outside of the truck. Inside, each nook and cranny is jammed with rods, waders, and gear. “My truck looks like a fly shop exploded in it,” Ray says as she hops out. From her home in Granite Shoals near the shores of Lake LBJ, she owns School of Zen Fly Fishing, a school and guide business. Ray is also a member of the Texas Women Fly Fishers (TWFF), a 22-year-old club that organizes trips and retreats throughout the state and to places like Broken Bow, Oklahoma.
As someone whose knowledge of fly-fishing was limited to its achingly cinematic depiction in A River Runs Through It, I was in New Braunfels to see another side of the sport. I wanted to experience a version of fly-fishing that doesn’t star handsome white men in Montana, like “that movie,” as many fly-fishing diehards call it. Women like Ray and TWFF president Joan Swartz are working to smash gender stereotypes. Rejecting the notion that the sport is reserved for the Brad Pitts and Robert Redfords of the world, they welcome new members and lend out gear to keep it affordable. About 31 percent of fly-fishers in America are women, and TWFF has 139 single memberships and 43 family memberships. Those numbers are growing, but not as quickly as they would like. “Every female fly-fisher has been harassed,” Swartz says. “It’s like a locker room culture that the guys have.”
As one of the few female guides in Texas (she credits local female fly-fishing pioneer Raye Carrington as an inspiration), Ray has plenty of stories about that macho culture. She’s been heckled online and in the water. In fact, later that day out on the Guadalupe, we’ll paddle by a pair of fishermen who glare at us so intently, I’ll swear their disdain radiates through their polarized sunglasses.”
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Photo Credit: Original Author