The following column was a result of my wife starting to fish, and catching fish, including a couple of substantial salmon from the Otago Harbour. I haven't been able to verify all the facts in the piece, though several of them can be seen online.
Fisherwomen. 28 July 1993
I've come across an advertisement for a fishing book which proclaims that the author’s wife goes fishing, and fishes! The sentence speaks of a woman performing a stunt contrary to her nature.
When did fishing become a pastime only the stern a sex enjoyed? Never.
Cleopatra was known as a keen and successful angler. When Mark Antony tried to kid her that he was a good fisherman, she hired a diver to put a salted fish on his line, to the Roman general’s ridicule (or the Roman’s general ridicule).
Documents show Empress Zinga of Japan, who was born in the first century, bending a needle to make it into a hook, using grains of rice as bait, the threads of her garments as a line, and standing in the middle of the river to catch a trout (and catching one).
And one of the first books on angling in English was written (sorry guys) not by a man, but by a nun in a convent: Dame Juliana Berners, Prioress of Sopwell. Her Treatise of Fishing with an Angle was printed in 1496, and contains details about fishing and tackle and the making of flies that only an experienced fisherwoman could know.
Some scattered examples from our own fishing history: the May 1st, 1937, issue of The New Zealand Fishing and Shooting Gazette reported that Mrs F.L. Smith beat her husband's catches by 6.81 kilos.
Big deal, you might say, until you realise her total catch between March 19th and April 4th was 11
fish weighing 1304 kg - averaging 118 kilo fish (for those who didn't have their calculators handy). And during two weeks in March, Mrs Ashley Dodd caught three mako and 11 striped marlin, weighing a total of 1648 kg. (She could probably swing a husband over her shoulder too.)
|Blue Marlin, courtesy Pixibay|
In 1929, in the Bay of Islands, an English ‘girl angler,’ Miss Dorothy Ap Roger, made a name for herself by landing a monster marlin. It was the biggest fish of the day amongst those caught by a dozen anglers.
The girl angler’s line at only been in the water a few minutes when she felt something attacking her bait. She allowed the line to run out some distance then struck. A ‘monster striped marlin’ was hooked.
The marlin weighed in at 171.5 kg, the largest of its kind caught during the season. That's like humping 17 sacks of potatoes from the supermarket at once - without a trolley.
Miss Ap Roger was obviously some ‘girl.’ She showed no surprise at catching this monster, but the reporter couldn't keep his chauvinistic pen from adding, ‘The young lady fished as though she been at it for years, and the onlookers were amazed at the way she handled the rod.’
They shouldn't have been - she was only participating in a sport in which women have long been as able, if not is visible as men.
The world's biggest annual game fishing tournament is held New Zealand's Bay of Islands - for women.
And many overseas fisherwoman are outstanding in their field: Marsha Bierman, from Miami, has landed more than 1000 sailfish and marlin in her 20 year career. She doesn't use heavy rods, reels, or a special fighting chair tilt and her fish. Instead, with harnesses, she practices stand up fishing, using her strength and stamina to bring the fish in.
When it comes to fly-fishing men may be the ones most visible, but United States statistics are proving (horrors!) that they're not as good at it as women. Fly-fishing requires grace and subtlety; women tend to out-fish men at the sport because of their lighter touch. Ouch.
Fish aren't known to be partial as to the sex of the one who hooks them, though certain males think they should be.
Men's attitude problem remains. When a friend of mine put up the sign on her bathroom wall, Women can do anything, it was immediately - and anonymously - altered by one of the three males in her house, to Women can't do anything.
When some males see the phrase Women can fish, these males (whose brain cells otherwise well connected) still say, no they can't.