Colorado-born Sharon Wright pretty much epitomizes the outdoor lifestyle you might expect from a native of this state. She owns and shows horses. She has hiked and backpacked through plenty of our mountains – often times toting her fly rod on the trips so she can fish high mountain lakes and streams. Sharon now shares her passion with other women through classes offered at Angler’s Covey, guiding trips, and through Pikes Peak Women Anglers. And she has begun her own Facebook (soon-to-be-blog), The Fly Fishing Cowgirl.
Sharon began working for Angler’s Covey in 2008 as the shop’s bookkeeper. Around 2010, her passion for the sport and for sharing it with others motivated her to work with Becky Leinweber, Angler’s Covey co-owner, to form Pikes Peak Women Anglers.
As Pikes Peak Women Anglers has grown over the last six years, so have the ways the group supports women anglers. Women are less likely to go fish by themselves, so PPWA provides a social group in which women can learn and pursue fly fishing with others. “We have a core group of women who are very much involved, and we have over 100 followers on FB,” Sharon says. PPWA has sponsored trips to small streams in Colorado, a multi-day trip to the San Juan River in New Mexico, and Sharon says they were particularly “excited to talk about insects” during Robert Younghanz’s entomology class.
Women represent the fastest growing population taking up fly fishing. In 2012, the Denver Post even spotlighted this growing trend. Over the past eight years, Sharon has seen many more women take classes offered at Angler’s Covey, such as the Orvis 101 introduction to fly fishing class. In collaboration with Becky and Jon Easdon, Director of Services, they have expanded the course offerings to have a variety of classes specific to women. Often times, women begin fly fishing when there has been some sort of a life changing event – retirement, the loss of a partner, or children leaving the home. Younger women, too, like Angler’s Covey staff member, Kristina Dougherty, are bringing new perspectives and new energy to the adventure.
Sharon sees her role as a guide and staff member as decreasing the intimidation factor and increasing the confidence of anglers. She loves teaching the Women’s Fly Fishing Camp class which includes six hours of classroom instruction and then a day on the water to put those ideas into practice.
“Women who have been somewhat intimidated to begin fly fishing start to gain confidence. And that’s really rewarding for me.”
Women anglers often times have questions about equipment and clothing that are specific to their needs. Sharon says that while the industry is still catching up to any specific needs that women may have, she is able to do fine with the equipment already on the market.
“I use a faster action rod,” she says and pretty much “fish like a guy.” She says there isn’t really a “man’s rod or a woman’s rod. You need to find what fits and what is comfortable for your style.” Rods come with smaller grips, more or less flex and speed, and different styles depending on manufacturer.
“I just encourage women taking up the sport to talk with other women. Call the shop and come in to talk with me or Kristina or Becky. Ask a lot of questions! We can help with rods, reels, boots, and waders.” Sharon points out that companies like Orvis, Simms, and Fishpond have sling packs and chest packs that are comfortable for women who have a smaller frame than men. It’s a matter of being a smart and informed shopper to find what works for you.
Above all, Sharon encourages folks – men and women alike – to not miss the opportunity to learn and try new things. “Focus on the positive. Break through the fear to explore new experiences.”
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