*Edit: Outside Magazine recently covered my blog post in June 2019, and unfortunately broke what I would argue journalistic ethics. Despite contacting the writer who interviewed me and the magazine themselves, there have been no changes. It was a negative piece, perpetuating call out culture, and included misinformed 'facts' and biased misguided quotes taken out of context or simple ignorance. They broke contract with several points and twisted my words, insinuating that I am anti-make up shots, when I have time and time again repeated that is not the problem; pink rods nor eye lash extensions will neither inhibit nor aid in catching fish, ever. That is not the problem. The problem is the obsession for Insta-fame, pro-staff fame and mistaking Instagram for industry.
'Talk low, talk slow, and don't say too much' -John Wayne
I've been struggling with this for quite awhile now; say anything and you are shamed, don't say anything and you are simply thinking what everyone else is thinking. I have been writing this blog post for nearly five months now, writing, deleting, revising, rewording, editing, and ultimately scrapping it into the draft bin (for fear of coming across as, for lack of a better word, a hypocritical asshole). Now with the recent post today from the New York Times and the rise of women in fly fishing, I figured maybe tonight would be a good time to dust this off, and pull it from the draft bin.
There is no denying that women have had it tough for a few centuries; and whilst I stand for all things female prowess, it's the ones making us look bad, that is really starting to bother me. Demographics in fly fishing are changing and this industry is starting to take notice. Now, women have been in this industry for far more than just a couple of years. Ladies, such as Lori Ann Murphy, Joan Wulff, Amy Hazel, Fanny Krieger and a handful more have been pulling their weight for far longer than I, or many new faces have been. They have pushed resiliently past the doubt, the naysayers and the critics. They have helped carve the path for modern women to enter this industry, and broken the stereotype which seem to only inhibit women in the industry and the sport. And even despite their great successes, negativity and scrutiny swirls around their achievements.
All too often women are cast into a shadow, not only in this industry, but many others. And while we have made advances in how our sex is perceived comparatively to athletic success; we seem to at times to forsake that very same growth. Social medias have not only allowed, but often act as a catalyst to encourage users to post photos of our successes. Where it becomes troubling, is when these photos seem to have more to do with sexuality than the actual sport itself. And while the over-sexualization is not the issue, it is more so the malintentions of promoting onself in such a manner to achieve insta-fame success without the accreditation. There seems to be a categorically iconic picture anytime you click on a hashtag that references women fly fishing; blatant product placement, nails painted, trout pout, full makeup and a head full of teased curls, much like the 1950's style pin up girls that have become plastered in fly shop loos and tying rooms. This though, is not so much the problem; the problem is that the picture tends to focus on the subject with little emphasis on their product; whether that be a fish or a tied fly, all while being encapsulated by a catchy caption. The problem is that, this picture no longer shows skill-sets, but more so uses sexualization to promote hitting that little heart-shaped button.
While using medias have become an addiction, the online presence of becoming insta-famous is equally becoming an addiction. Girls are pushing pouty smiles, long locks and nice lighting, while fifty years ago, women were pushing their grit backed by their credentials. Here we have retrogressed into giving the industry what it has been promoting all these years, that beauty trumps skill set. Is it our fault as women?-Sure, partially. But is it also backed by hundreds of new fly fishing companies asking everyone and anyone to be on their prostaff?- Yes. From a business perspective, I understand; sex sells and more followers equals more exposure to your brand. There was though, a time, when being on a prostaff team meant that you stood out from hundreds of other anglers, and it was an honour to rep a company you truly admired and genuinely used. This new prostaff obsession unfortunately, discredits other anglers who have worked so hard in this industry to reach that reputation, to then be cast upon the same skill set level as someone who is simply good at social media. Today, as this insta(gram)-perversion molds how we perceive female anglers, we are bombarded with fly-girl accounts who have racked up thousands of followers, promoting bad tying, bad casting and bad fishing techniques.
(Cue the part where I seem like a negative asshole, if I haven't so far). Here it becomes confusing, because when follower numbers appear high, we automatically think 'this girl knows her stuff' and when comments come flooding in about how beautiful her casts are, and how handsomely dressed her flies are and how remarkable she is in this industry for simply being female, we loose sight on what is talent and what is publicity. Time and time again, when either I, or friends in this industry, have gone out with these girls with high numbers of followers, high confidence and high egos, we have been let down unanimously. From changing hats and sweaters with the same fish for different posting opportunities, to not knowing how to cast, how to set their rods up, and so on. I am not belittling women, I am not condoning the learning curve, I am not naysaying those women who are trying to make it in this industry- I am saying, humility and humbleness go a hell of a lot further in life and in this industry than braggarts and egotists. We are all going through a learning curve, and we will always be going through a learning curve as per the beauty of this sport; it ebbs and flows modernizing with technical advances and pulling from the past. This is not scrutinizing women who are working hard, building their credentials, admitting mistakes and promoting a culture of community versus a cutthroat turf war for every-gal-for-herself. This is about the new shock-wave of insta-famous profiles that have been flooding Instagram trying to increase follower size. Many of these profiles are even buying likes or buying followers to achieve that status. We all know the ones I am talking about; as of currently there are two in particular that follow me every few days. Thus playing the follow-unfollow game.
Have I posted a picture before where I thought, "damn I look good" or "that was a nice cast", then only to look back and think "what the hell was I thinking?" - Of course. We all have. We all learn from our mistakes. But here there is a difference between these insta-famous fly girls demanding to be heard in an industry that is anything but forgiving. Thankfully for some of our sakes, the bulk of the industry also sees right through it.
Edit: I followed up this piece with another blog post about the response I received