Reel Women Fish: A new cast on the art of the angle

Fly Fisherwoman CCFKR USFS
Sisters are doing it for themselves! Women and girls are the fastest growing demographic in the sport of fishing. Photo by the U.S. Forest Service

Pass a riverbank or bridge as dawn breaks on any half-decent fishing season morn and, to the untrained eye, angling might appear a male-dominated pursuit.

The truth is fathoms deeper. Worldwide, women, men and children traditionally cast lines side by side to provide for the table. Here in the states, you’ll find a smattering of women among angling’s elite. But they also are the largest-growing demographic  in fishing—and they are ready to teach other women (or men) to fish.

If you are a woman who’s curious about dipping into any type of angling now is a great time to cast a line at state park lakes where you can win prizes for your catch during the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s 2017 Trout Fishing Derby. The derby officially ends Oct. 31. However, lakes are still being stocked with trout. And, with the weather cooling down, the fish are bound to be biting, say WDFW fishing experts.

To top it off, there are more than 570 prizes waiting to be claimed, including gift cards, guided fishing trips, gear, boat rentals and much more! Catch a trout that has a yellow floy tag, (a brightly-colored numbered tube attached to the dorsal fin) and you could win a prize!


Michelle Pugh’s introduction to fishing was like that of many young women — trekking out with her father on a small boat in the Puget Sound when she was young.  

It was fun, says Pugh, a graphic designer and long-time outdoor enthusiast, but a little repetitive just sitting and waiting around for the fish to bite.

Then, in high school, she met a guy who really liked to fish.

“I tell (my son) my dates with dad were hacking through the blackberry bushes to find the sweet spot on the river,” Pugh says. “After a while, I just realized it was our thing.”

So Pugh got hooked on both fishing and her fishing partner. 

“When you are out there whipping the fly…It’s physical but it’s also very chill. I just love everything about it,” Pugh says.

Early on, it was a rare moment to see another woman out fishing, Pugh says. That is changing, slowly but definitely. Pugh notes many more women and girls casting flies every year and a growing number joining  groups and events, such as Casting for Recovery, which supports retreats for women with breast cancer and Sisters on the Fly, an international organization that sponsors and hosts outdoor travel and fishing events just for women.

Michelle FishingThe one that didn't get away! Like a growing number of women, Michelle Pugh pursues her passion for fishing with her family.

It’s also a relief to be able to find proper equipment, which is increasingly being offered in sizes and styles better suited to women, Pugh notes.

Meanwhile, classes for are filling up. Washington Outdoor Women (WOW), a program of the Washington Wildlife Federation, can barely keep up with the demand for workshops, from basic survival skills to big game hunting and fly fishing, says Faith Roland, WOW Director and fly fishing instructor for 20 years.

The reasons for growth are as vast and varied as the women themselves, Roland says. But overall, she sees a strong desire to reconnect with the land and their food sources.

“There is a real joy in that process,” Roland says. “It is a great pleasure to establish an identity with places and an appreciation for and with the land.”

Women Fishing Historic Lake Chelan CCFKR USFS

Once upon a time women, like these ladies fishing (successfully) at Lake Chelan in 1919, commonly fished alongside men. The sport has come full circle and many women are returning to catching and not just cooking the fish. Photo: U.S. Forest Service.

Ready to cast out your line for a new hobby that may well become a lifetime passion? Sign up for a class — or two — and then test your beginner’s luck at one of these great state parks lakes participating in the WDFW derby!

Curlew Lake State Park (Republic)
Big skies, tranquil waters and great fishing at a park with an old-time campground feel. What could be better? A prize trout! Or, if you get lucky, maybe even one of the record-breaking tiger muskie that WDFW plants in the lake annually.

Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park (Coulee City)
Both Rainbow and Deep lakes are being stocked here. Wide open and prone to great weather, this is a very nice park for camping and fishing adventures. Note: This park can get windy. Take appropriate cautions when casting and boating.

Alta Lake State Park (Pateros)
Where desert and mountains collide, you’ll find great fishing and a dramatic landscape to enjoy. Well on its way back to recovery since the Carlton Complex fire scorched the land in 2014, Alta Lake makes a great fishing vacation destination. And if they are not biting, try your luck at nearby Lake Chelan State Park!

Pearrygin Lake State Park (Winthrop)
Big skies and miles of great views are the icing on the cake at this great rainbow trout fishing lake in the Methow Valley. There’s a boat launch (fees apply), and both motor and human-powered craft are permitted on the lake. If the kids get tired of fishing, send them for a dip in one of the park’s two swimming holes (if it’s warm enough, of course).

Conconully State Park (Conconully)
Here there be paradise! This park has been a fisherperson’s favorite for decades. Two bodies of water are being stocked with prize-winners here: Conconully Lake and Conconully Reservoir. Stay the night in one of the five awesome, cozy cabins!

Battle Ground Lake State Park (Battle Ground)
A deep, placid volcanic lake set in a deep grove of Douglas-fir trees? Yes, please! This mirror-surfaced lake is for human-powered craft only. A great escape from the nearby bustle of Vancouver and Portland!

Seaquest State Park (Castle Rock)
A super camping park with plenty of fish for anglers and lots of other activities for those that are not. Enjoy a day of fishing on Silver Lake, and stop in to the Mount St. Helens Visitor Center located right across the road!

Columbia Hills Historical State Park (Dallesport)
No “buttes” about it! Head out to fish in the warm, inviting climes of this Columbia River Gorge park, and you will be guaranteed a great time—and likely some great catches, too! The stocking here is happening on Horsethief Lake, which dips inland from the river into the park.

Millersylvania State Park (Olympia)
A favorite Civilian Conservation Corps-era park for generations. Pretty setting in a classic Western Washington forest, State Parks' other Deep Lake is about as popular as a body of water can be. Our advice? You will have better luck parking and quieter fishing during non-weekend hours.

Lake Sylvia State Park (Montesano)
Lake Sylvia is everything you would imagine a beautiful fishing hole to be like and more! This park packs tons of recreational fun into its modest 233 acres. Tucked back in the woods near Montesano, this old logging camp boasts 15,000 feet of freshwater shoreline, a fishing dock (ADA accessible!) and popular bridge for fishing from. Non-motorized or electric craft only, please!

Learn more!

Did you know?

The first written fishing guide is credited to...A WOMAN! Outdoorsy gal turned nun, Dame Juliana Berners wrote "A treatyse of fysshynge wyth an Angle" (A Treatise of Fishing With an Angle" around the turn of the 14th Century. It may be 600 years old, but it still has some great tips

Have you got a great fishing story to tell?
Do share! Upload your state parks stories and photos here. We promise to believe your story on the one that got away!