October 5, 1997

Women A Step Ahead

Los Angeles Times

Women outdoors

A woman, not a man, is credited with starting the notion of modern sport-fishing.

Dame Juliana Berners, an early 15th century nun and noblewoman in England, is credited with writing the first dissertation on fishing, “Treatyse of fysshynge wyth an angle,” published in 1496, likely posthumously.

That’s the research Lyla Foggia, author of “Reel Women: The World of Women Who Fish,” has turned up.

“It was profound,” said the Welches, Ore., writer, “in that it taught you how to make a hook, braid horsehair line, preserve baits and tie 12 fly patterns, one for each month of the year.”

A hunting treatise by Berners appeared in 1486.

Foggia’s volume is filled with other pioneering women in the sport, including Helen Robinson, who coinvented the concept of teasing a billfish to an artificial fly.

“It’s pretty bizarre that we still think of fishing as a guy’s sport,” she said.

Marilyn Stone, who in 1995 founded Denver’s Wilderness Women, which provides women with the means and opportunities to experience traditionally male outdoor sports, pointed to other early women recreationists, such as 19th century mountain climber Anne Peck and Fox Hastings, the first bulldogger in the 1924 Fort Worth Rodeo.

Stone said women adventurers should learn from their foremothers.

“Women have wasted their energy proving again and again that they are capable in these arenas and that participation can be enjoyable,” Stone said. “If we don’t know what has been done before, it is easy to ‘break new ground’ by doing it again.”

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