The logo for this organisation says it all: For ladies who do and those who would like to …go fly fishing.
Fish Wives is the brainchild of my wife, Tracy Thew, a level 2 Game Angling Coach, who founded Fish Wives earlier in 2013 in order to personally do something to resolve the dearth of female game anglers on our river banks and lakesides. Her research had revealed that there were, indeed, many women across the age spectrum and from all walks of life who had either fished in their younger days and, for whatever reason, had given it up or were complete novices who had always wanted ‘to have a go’. She discovered that the main stumbling block that prevented these would-be anglers from picking up a fly rod was the isolated and sometimes remote locations of most fisheries together with the lack of female companionship in a very much, male-dominated sport.
By nature, a determined and sometimes dogged woman, Tracy gave some thought to the problem and came up with the concept of Fish Wives; the very essence of which is to provide a relaxing and pleasant day with good food, good company and great sport in an idyllic location.
Having gathered a small group of ladies for the initial Fish Wives day, Tracy encouraged professional photographer Beccy Frost to come along and record the event. During the day Beccy took time out to exchange her camera for a fly rod and she was immediately hooked – not literally, you understand, and no pun intended! But she fell in love with fly fishing and is now, along with Tracy and daughter Harriet, an integral part of the Fish Wives management team.
The format for a typical Fish Wives day is to meet in the morning at the chosen still-water venue. Although Tracy will always be there at 09.00 to meet members, there is no rigidly fixed arrival or starting time which enables anyone, despite their commitments, to come along, as and when they can. Every location is chosen with care by Tracy who insists on a comfortable lodge or fishing hut, well stocked and easily reached waters and, most importantly from the female perspective, a clean and accessible loo!! After coffee and an exchange of gossip those ladies who have experience in fishing get on with it whilst the novices are given instruction, at various levels, by Tracy. The morning session ends with a leisurely lunch, prepared and provided by Tracy; the cost of which is included within the Fish Wives membership package. Fishing continues beyond lunch with a break for afternoon tea after which members are able to fish into the early evening or, alternatively, they can take their leave at a time to suit their family or business duties.
Fish Wives have scheduled venues for twenty eight days in any season which include, among others, the delightful and well stocked, Meon Springs, Western Court and Holbury Lakes fisheries, and members are free to take as many of these days as they wish. An annual membership, which includes the cost of lunch and coaching, is available for a one-off payment of £300.00 and for those ladies who don’t have so much available time or perhaps just want to have a try, a day ticket is offered for £60.00 which includes the fishery hire, coaching and lunch for those with their own equipment and rod licence and £80.00 for those who don’t.
During the winter months, when fishing is perhaps not so much fun, events such as fly- tying evenings, talks and dinners have been arranged to maintain contact and continuity among the members.
The official launch of Fish Wives had been planned to take place on the casting pond in the Countryside area of the annual, three-day, New Forest and Hampshire County Show; an event whose attendance figures are fast approaching those of the CLA Game Fair. In 2012, the rising status of The New Forest Show was lifted further still by a visit from Her Majesty the Queen and, furthermore, we were delighted to hear that, this year, we were to be honoured, yet again, by another royal visit from their Royal Highnesses the Earl and Countess of Wessex. Excitement mounted as we learnt that the first, scheduled stop for the Royal visit was to our very own Countryside Area and, what’s more, Tracy had been chosen to escort the Royal Couple during their visit.
The theme for the show this year was ‘Get Involved’ and the Earl and Countess certainly did just that by ending their visit on the casting pond, where the Countess had a somewhat brief but none the less enthusiastic and enjoyable casting lesson from Tracy; after which she was presented with a Fish Wives bass bag containing an honorary membership and a Fish Wives cap; meanwhile, the Earl demonstrated his own casting skills on the pond, much to the delight of the watching crowd. What a day for the New Forest Show and what a day for Fish Wives!
Article written by Ian Thew