February 19, 1995

Why Fish For Gender-Perfect Terms? Fly Fishing

Knight-Ridder
 

Women are taking up fly fishing in record numbers, and the sport will never look the same again: waders, traditionally a drab green, now come in pink and purple.

“There is an explosion of interest among women that’s taken off in the last two years,” said Margot Page, the editor of The American Fly Fisher, the ournal of the American Museum of Fly Fishing, in Manchester, Vt.

“Many men fish to get away from women, but now they have to accept the galling reality that they can’t escape.”

Thanks largely to the success of the 1992 film “A River Runs Through It,” fly fishing is more popular than ever with both sexes. But there is some surprising news for men: much of the fly fishing world no longer calls them “fishermen.”

Orvis Co., the country’s bestknown manufacturer of fly-fishing tackle, has officially declared the term “fisherman” dead. Orvis now uses “fly fisher” to describe a human being who casts an artificial insect on the end of a 90-foot line high into the air and gently lands it in a river, ideally in the path of a hungry, gullible trout.

“We are doing everything we can to portray the sport as equally suitable for both men and women,” said Perk Perkins, Orvis’ president and chief executive, who estimated that women, while still a “small percentage” of his company’s $115-million-a-year business, would account for at least 20 percent in the next couple of years.

Other manufacturers and editors of fishing magazines agree that “fisherman” is passe, but they do not like fly fisher either. Instead, they have come up with their own glossaries of sex-neutral replacements: angler, fly caster, fly rodder, fly fisherperson.

Some women in the sport say that fishing for words is pointless. “Just call me a fisherman; we all know what that is,” said Joan Wulff, the teacher, author and former fly-casting champion, who is widely regarded as the most prominent woman in fly fishing and has endured the ignominy of being called an anglerette.


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