Saturday, March 30, 2013

Fly Fishing as Incidental Therapy

Every year, BJ and I go to a fly fishing expo. This year, I signed up for the "Women's Only" fly fishing class.I am trying to make friends with females, and I figured this class could be a place to start.

The class started with everyone getting their rods put together and rigged up. Several women had never done that themselves before - they always had their husbands do it for them.
One woman started shaking as she put her rod together. She kept apologizing for doing it wrong and taking so long, and then she half-tearfully said, "My husband just gets to impatient when we're going fishing, and I feel anxious just trying to put this together. I hate doing it wrong."

The instructor told her to slow down and relax. Then she asked how many of us had picked out and/or purchased our own rods. I was the only one. Everyone else used their husband's old rods. One woman said she couldn't afford to buy a rod for herself, so she just fished after her husband was done for the day. She enjoyed it, but she couldn't cut into his time. One woman was left handed, but fished right handed, because it wasn't worth getting her own reel or rerigging his reel for "just" her.

The instructor spent a good twenty minutes telling us that women deserve to fish just as much as men. We don't need to depend on men to tie our knots or rig up our rods. We deserve good equipment that is ours, and it's okay to spend money on ourselves.

At that, my heart jumped into my throat.
I bought my own rod. I bought my own gear. But it was HARD. I hated spending that much money on myself. When I go fishing with BJ, I always wait to find out where he wants to go, and then I pick where I want to go. I don't want to get in his way. His fishing experience is more important (in my mind) than mine.

It seems I am not the only woman who thinks that way.

Do men feel the same feelings of anxiety and undeservedness? I have been to many mixed gender classes and club meetings, and NEVER heard anything like that. Is that because men don't talk about it, or because they don't feel it?

The class was helpful, because it improved my casting, and I had a bit of therapy while I was there.
No more feeling undeserving. And next time we go fishing, I'm going to pick where I want to go before BJ (or anybody else that I go with).

AND... I also loved it when a guy started watching the class. I was chatting with one of the other ladies and not practicing like I could have been. The dude made the comment, "Yeah, that's how my wife fishes too. I'm not sure she ever even casts."
With that (rude) prompting, I picked up my line, cast it forty feet into the center of the target. Looked at him. And smirked.
He laughed. Did a half bow in my direction and left.

I can hit the target about fifty percent of the time... but I hit it when it mattered most.


  1. Whether or not he thinkgs that way depends on the relationship between the husband and wife and how they started fishing together. If it was an activity I did just for me and she wanted to come along, I might get impatient and demanding. I take my me time pretty seriously because something in me knows how much I need it so that when I finally award it to myself, I'm fierce.

    Secondly, a man isn't supposed to talk about feeling that way even if he DOES feel that way. (*Warning, generalization*)People get mad at men for not talking about their feelings while doing what they can to create a culture that punishes any sign of weakness. Men have achieved a perceived stature of such uselessness that it's a marvel when we achieve while being expected to achieve higher heights.

    That being said, I DO have those feelings of anxiety and undeserving but because of the general "masculine culture" It took me 22 years to even acknowledge those feelings within myself. Showing those feelings is a sign of weakness that can be pounced upon from all sides.

    People when confronted with self doubt seek to control, (*Generalization*) Women seek to control themselves, men seek to control others so that they don't have to deal with the things in themselves they can't control. (*end generalization*)

    1. I can totally see a very calm guy getting impatient when he's standing by the river. He sees the fish. He wants to get out and catch them. She is holding him up, and no matter how reasonable he is when there aren't fish rising, when they're rising... :)

      I'd feel guilty for holding BJ up - even though he never said anything. So I sent him down to the river and when I get all rigged up, I join him. (Or, I find my own spot on the river kind of near him.)

      I agree that the culture we live in puts men in a horrible place: Be sensitive, but be "masculine".

      I like your last paragraph a lot. I think there are a lot of people that seek to control themselves (and then take responsibility for things they can't control). There are a lot of people that seek to control others (and then don't take responsibility for what they can control.) And I think both genders do both...

      but seeking to control others seems like it is definitely a way to avoid dealing with what you can't control in yourself.

      You are very wise little brother.

  2. Like Justin said, it all comes down to the relationship. It's okay to spend money on yourself, whether you're male or female. It also comes down to priorities. For Robyn, when she chooses to spend money on herself it's usually for new shoes or a new outfit. That sounds boring to me, but she couldn't care less about Starcraft 2.

    I can't say that I've ever felt anxiety when deciding what to do. I've never felt undeserving to spend money. To my knowledge, Robyn hasn't either. We do both try to focus on the other's needs and wants, and we discuss financial matters with our common goals for the future in mind. I think we're both good about communicating how important a particular want is, so that the other person knows that expenditure needs to be worked into the priorities.

    1. I agree it's about priorities and about the relationship, and communication.
      I don't have a lot of "nice" clothes, because I don't use them, and I don't want to spend the money on something I won't use. I spent a lot of money on horse tack, hiking shoes, and fishing gear. It isn't guilt that stops me from spending money on clothes, its just my priorities.

  3. There's so much here to think about. I'm so glad you got to take that class, it sounds like so much fun.

    When it comes to fishing I don't do a lot of it because of guilt. 1)I don't like to eat fish so I feel guilty if I catch a fish that can't be put back and has to be eaten. 2)I don't like to touch fish. They gross me out so if I catch a fish I have to have someone else take it off the hook for me. Both of those things make me feel guilty about fishing, so I don't do much of it. However, I'm pretty good at it, for whatever reason. That guilt would cause me major anxiety and guilt if I were to buy my own gear because that's a lot of money to spend on something I don't enjoy a whole lot.
    As women I think it's just part of us to put others ahead of ourselves even at the expense of our own well being. It can be used for good or it can be a detriment, it's a fine line. The line is hard to find and hard to walk, I think.
    Maybe they have a hard time spending money on the gear because they're not as invested in it time-wise. They've been raising a family and had other interests and they're just getting into it and once they decide they're good at it and enjoy it they'll want to invest more. I like sewing and dancing, they both cost money and both my husband and I are ok with that. When I started taking a clogging class again after nearly 20 years I needed to buy shoes. Ch- encouraged me to buy the best, I wanted to buy used and not spend the money because I wasn't sure I was going to continue. I waited a few weeks and then ordered new shoes (the expensive ones, you get what you pay for) with his blessing and just a little bit of guilt on my part. Now, they're awesome and I have no guilt.
    Now I'm rambling.
    You're awesome!

    1. I'm SO glad you got the expensive shoes!
      And I'm even more glad that now they are awesome and you have no guilt.
      YOU are awesome!