Teaching Your Girlfriend to Fish

In this month’s Salmon Trout Steelheader magazine Josiah Darr (Oregon Fishing Guide) wrote an article called Finding a Keeper.  Josiah’s been on a journey and invested a lot of time, energy, and thought into finding his life partner that can understand and appreciate his passion for fishing. I’ve known Josiah for a few years and had several conversations with him, but gained a new appreciation for what lengths men go through to find their fishing girlfriend! As a woman that was introduced to fishing by her boyfriend, I’ve been on the opposite end of Josiah and I’ve seen many relationships in the same scenario: some fail, some struggle, and some succeed.

Josiah’s article made many great points and some that even I never have thought of. He points out that when finding someone worth his emotional investments, he makes her his number one priority; even if that means removing a bit of fishing. He emphasizes teaching her instead of just showing her. He specifically said “Don’t make it something you’re taking her to do, make it something she’s doing with you.” I couldn’t agree with this more! He’s right that when anyone puts forth effort to accomplish something, it’s more rewarding than when it’s just handed to them.

He had several other points which I’ll touch on below, but from a woman’s perspective, here’s my advice for men trying to get their lady into fishing, and for women trying to get into the sport that their men love.

For the men

I think there are 2 types of keeper ladies out there: she wants to fish with you and loves it just as much as you or she doesn’t really love it but is okay and understands that it’s your number one passion and she’s not going to change your lifestyle. The ones that want more of your attention outside of fishing seem to fail more often than not. You begin resenting her and missing time on the water, and she’s dragging you to wine tasting events and her friends’ weddings. I really don’t think you should have to change or alter the passion you’ve had your entire life for a woman. If she doesn’t understand it, move on. However, like Josiah, if you want to do this for her (and truly want to), that’s awesome and shouldn’t be a problem but don’t harbor resentment with the lust you have for her.

  • Patience is my number one tip. Stop fishing like you normally would and start teaching her. Take the time to show her. You’ll miss holes, you’ll miss bobber downs, you’ll lose fish. Who cares? Be patient and congratulate her on everything she does. She isn’t going to understand why you have to load the boat so quickly in the morning, or stay up so late getting rods rigged and bait organized. She doesn’t want to troll all day waiting for a bite in the pouring down rain or pound a hole with fish jumping but not biting.
  • Be patient, but don’t baby her! You don’t want to spend your entire relationship making sure she’s “okay”, you want to teach her to fend for herself and toughen her up. Jeff says “If she’s a baby, she has no place on the river”. I agree with this. While it may be difficult and you may get in a few arguments, stop asking her 100 times a day if she’s warm, having fun, feeling okay, bored, etc. Ask her those things after the trip is done and use that information for the next trip. If she’s upset, let her tell you and stop fishing for it.
  • Apparel is something Josiah also points out. Get her equipped with gear! It doesn’t need to be right away and it doesn’t need to be top of the line. Any girl worth investing in, should understand how expensive these things are and if she isn’t buying them herself, she should be willing to settle with mediocre gear until you know she’s sticking around and she’s going to fish often enough to get your money out of $400 waders. Cute clothing is a plus though! Fishing shirts, hoodies, and hats
  • Keep her comfortable! If you can avoid spending $1000 on new waders, jacket, bibs, and boots, do that but don’t skimp on the bottom layers. You can keep her warm without investing a ton on outer layers. See my article with all the tips she’ll need to stay warm without outer layers: http://steelheadgirls.com/staying-warm/
  • Teach her! Just like one of Josiah’s biggest points, teaching her is very important. She’ll want to learn and want to impress you with her new skills. If she’s interested in fishing, she’ll probably start wanting to teach you, wanting her own expensive gear just like you have, and it will be worth it. Just remember tip number one when you’re teaching her.
  • Show her off! Share her fishy pics on social media, show your friends, enter her pic in contests, share her on Steelhead Girls brag about her great skills (you know, the one time she landed a fish although you almost had a heart attack about 20 times). She’ll get tons of attention and most girls will like that. You’ll boost her confidence and it will make her want to do better.
  • Jeff suggested bringing one of your friendly, knowledgeable fishing buddies because she’ll listen to them better than she’ll listen to you. She might get an attitude and get tired of you telling her what to do, but when it comes from your buddy whom she likes, she might listen better :)

For the ladies

So you met a guy that loves to fish and you want to spend time with him but he’s always fishing. Fishing is okay, but you feel like a child, look like a bum in huge camo colored clothes, and are certain that you aren’t going to be able to brave the inclement weather all day. I’ve been there too! I’ve shed many tears on the water, got bladder infections for the fear of peeing outside or being in a public restroom at a boat launch, and felt that I needed to be babysat all day. We’re here for you! That’s exactly what this website is supposed to help with. And I’m a girl too so even if you just want to vent about a crappy day, email me, I go through those too :)

  • READ THIS ARTICLE! http://steelheadgirls.com/staying-warm/ For you, my number 1 tip is to try and stay comfortable. This was my biggest challenge and Jeff couldn’t help me because he wasn’t cold or wet so he didn’t understand why I was. It’s still like this! I didn’t adapt to the cold weather, I found ways to stay comfortable in it all day
  • Once you decide this guy is worth a financial investment and you actually want to keep fishing, buy yourself some rain gear. It’s awesome if he has some stuff that you can borrow or if he wants to offer to buy you something, but don’t be afraid to tell him that you want to buy some waders that actually fit you. Maybe you guys can go in 50/50 and get a really good pair. Do your homework, read reviews, go to the store and try different brands on. Again, comfort is key for you and it’s worth the work to find what YOU need, not what he likes.
  • Understand that fishing came before you, and it might come over you. I’ve happily known Jeff for 9 years and been in a healthy relationship with him for 6 years. Even to this day, if I’m frustrated with how he treats me while we’re fishing, the conversation comes back to his love for fishing. The passion is something etched too deeply in their heart (and will be in yours too) that it’s unfair of you to expect him to try and make you fill those etchings. If he wants to, that’s awesome and makes our girly hearts flutter, however, don’t expect him to. This is where resentment gets built up. If you can’t stand that he fishes all the time and he really just wants to fish, maybe you’re not meant to be together. I will say that I have different expectations when it comes to future children or current children if you have them. They should always come first.
  • Be humble. This is my worst quality, even to this day. If you don’t understand what is going on, or you’re having a crappy day casting, just be humble about it. Don’t be a brat or have an attitude when he tries to help you. Don’t get bossy and don’t say “I know” while rolling your eyes. Let him teach you. He’s getting satisfaction just like you are from this whole experience.
  • Be grateful! If he’s a good teacher and he’s patient with you while you’re fishing, show your gratitude! This is not easy for him and he’s trying to build a long-term investment. Jeff struggled and basically gave up our first year of fishing to try and build himself his best fishing partner.
  • Be understanding. Sometimes (all the time), he doesn’t swoon over me or tell me I look pretty. He doesn’t want to cuddle me and doesn’t want to hear about my bad day at work. He’s fishing and he’s in a zone. I’ve grown to acquire this zone most of the time as well, but at first, it was difficult to understand that he didn’t actually care that I was his girlfriend while we were fishing; he just wants to fish.
  • Utilize other women that fish. There are tons of Facebook groups (Outdoor Chic Clique, Reel Women of Fishing, Women of Washington Outdoors) that can help motivate and encourage you, but more so they can help you feel like you’re a part of something! Girls just like you, girls that are more advanced, but have been where you are, and girls that go through the same exact struggles as you.

So for both genders, the tips that I have are quite different. Relationships are hard enough when you’re not trying to share the same hobby, but if you can get past the learning stages in the first year or so, the benefits are well worth it. I have the best fishing buddy in the world, we share all the work because we live together so there’s not one person pulling all the weight, we almost always have someone to go with, I get to hang out with my best friend all the time, and we never, ever fight about not spending enough time together. I had to understand his passion and he had to learn to teach me in a way that I wanted to be taught.

It’s not easy and it takes effort by both parties, but it’s worth it. I don’t have 30 years of marriage under my belt so my advice hopefully holds true for the rest of our lives, but it’s gotten us a very happy, and healthy 6 years with hopefully many more.