Guest Bloggbookcover076 20 YEARSer: Mary S. Kuss

I started fishing at age 6 and fly fishing at age 15. That was a long time ago, longer than I care to think about sometimes. My fly fishing mentors were men. So were virtually all of my fishing friends over the years. As much as I’d always enjoyed trips and outings with my male fishing buddies, it gradually occurred to me that it might be nice to have some women fishing pals. I decided to try to make that happen.
I called around to all the fly shops and Trout Unlimited chapters within a reasonable drive of my home outside Philadelphia, and asked if they had any customers, family members or friends who might be interested in a women’s fly fishing club. In January of 1996 we had our organizational meeting in Media, PA. Nine women attended, and we were off and running.
I’d drawn up tentative by-laws, and a proposed name for the club—Philadelphia Women Anglers. The woman who volunteered to be our first President, however, did not care for that name. She also had a name in mind—The Delaware Valley Women’s Fly Fishing Association. We all agreed that she was entitled to some latitude in the matter, and so that name was adopted.
When I founded the club, all I wanted was a few good women with whom to fish. I got what I wanted and then some. The number of fishing trips I took each year grew significantly. And my husband thought it was bad when I played hooky from my domestic duties to go fishing with the boys. (My husband, by the way, does not fish. Go figure.)
The club grew beyond my wildest expectations, along with the participation of women in fly fishing and a variety of other outdoor activities. The fly fishing industry came to realize that women represented a significant, largely untapped potential market for their products. Previously all-male (or nearly so) fly fishing clubs and organizations also recognized that inviting women’s participation could provide a tremendous pool of talent, willing workers, and a fresh perspective.
In the years since, I’ve known women who have become board members and even served as president for several Trout Unlimited chapters and other fishing clubs. The late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once said that anyone who knew how to run a successful household already had most of the skills needed to run a country. The same thing applies to fishing clubs, apparently.
You might detect a seeming inconsistency here. On the one hand I point out that many previously all-male clubs and organizations are now including women. Yet here I am talking about an all-women club. I must confess, I greatly resented male-only clubs for a long time, and was always glad to see some of them become more inclusive. However, after fishing for many years with groups of men in which I was often the only woman, with more balanced co-ed groups, and with groups of all women, I can see that each serves a legitimate purpose. The social dynamic is quite different depending on the mix of participants. One is not better than the others, nor worse. Just as I would not want to be denied the experience of fishing with a mixed or all-women group, I would not want to deny guys the chance to do some uninhibited male bonding.
This year the DVWFFA celebrates the 20th anniversary of its founding. It’s amazing to me how quickly those years have flown by. Our club newsletter, A Woman’s Angle, has always played a major role in serving our club and its mission. Over the years our members have contributed many very finely-written articles. Current AWA editor Rabbit Jensen suggested to the Board of Directors that we should, as part of our 20th anniversary activities, publish an anthology of the best articles from our newsletter. We all agreed this was a fantastic idea.
The book, A Woman’s Angle—Celebrating 20 Years of Women Fly Fishing, is now available both at Amazon and www.wellsborobookstore.com. I can’t imagine a better description than the one Rabbit wrote for the back cover:

“The Delaware Valley Women’s Fly Fishing Association has nourished a passion for fly fishing in hundreds of women since 1996. During that time, under three editors, its quarterly newsletter “A Woman’s Angle” has informed, entertained, and instructed the members, maintaining a level of quality seldom seen in a small quarterly.
“In celebration of its 20th year, the DVWFFA presents some of the best articles published in its newsletter during those first twenty years. Beginners and veteran anglers of all ages and from all walks of life share their enthusiasm and love for the sport. From Cancun to Canada, fly-fishing salt water, streams, ponds, and rivers, they share their insights, humor, and learning experiences; proving that good women’s fly fishing stories are just plain great fishing yarns.”

5 Comments

  1. That’s great, Larry, thanks and I hope you enjoy the book. The DVWFFA will get a portion of the proceeds if you order from Wellsboro Bookstore rather than Amazon.

  2. Mary, I’m so glad to hear you applaud the value of clubs tailored to the fundamental nature of their founding members. While I’ve always thoroughly despised the phrase “male bonding” (mostly because it assigns some largely extraneous, entirely orthogonal term to what its originators clearly didn’t comprehend to begin with), I also recognize the great value of clubs and associations that allow individuals to communicate in a manner natural to them. As you point out, the dynamic in all-female groups, all-male groups, and mixed groups are each very different. Curiosity, appreciation, leadership, concession, energy and respect are all communicated very differently depending on the degree of homogeneity of the group. That you point this out with respect to fishing clubs and impromptu fishing groups is spot-on.

    I’m also very glad to hear of the enduring nature of the club you founded. It’s always wonderful to hear how the creation of a mechanism for sharing has rewarded so many over such a long time. May it endure another century, and then another.

    – Mike

    1. I was not aware of the implications of the term “male bonding.” I just didn’t know what else to call it. I am lucky enough to fit in so well with my male fishing buddies that they sometimes forget I’m there. I think I get to see and hear things that most women would not. Sometimes they catch themselves and apologize, but I think they know it genuinely doesn’t bother me, I don’t take any of it personally. I also see how these male fishing friends behave when there are more women present. They definitely speak and behave differently. I guess what I was trying to say is that I think men need and deserve to have a time and place where they don’t have to feel restrained, when they can let loose a bit without worrying about anyone being offended. Thank you for your kind words about the DVWFFA. I am thrilled with its success, and join you in hoping that continues for a long time to come.

      1. Absolutely; everyone needs that kind of environment natural to themselves–maybe not every minute of every day, but as needed. My comments about phrases I detest were NOT about your use of them Mary; they float around unchecked, and avoiding them can actually be difficult. I’m not squeaky clean there, believe me. No, I just wish that whoever coined such phrases wasn’t so…uh…perceptively wide of the mark.

        Basically that phrase needs a good upstream mend, : )

        Again, congrats on a fine club, book, and article.

        – Mike

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