Experienced women anglers, novice women anglers, and a group of female fishing instructors gathered at Island Lake Conservation Area in Orangeville on July 11th for the 1st Annual Angler-New Angler Event put on by Ontario Women Anglers. The event was coordinated to coincide with Canada’s National Fishing Week – a week that encourages Canadians to get involved in the sport and allows anglers to fish without a license during that time.
Since Fishing 101 for Women became a program under the Ontario Women Anglers (OWA) banner this year, there were many familiar faces around from the Fishing 101 events but, much to my delight, there were also several new faces. There was a new wrinkle for this day – for once, Yvonne Brown was not on the hook to organize the event. In fact, Leslie-Anne Dungog and I had the fun of getting things organized (with Yvonne helping when needed, of course). Leslie did an amazing job of looking after the registration and making sure all the participants knew what was happening. All I had to do was organize the venue.
We decided to ask Credit Valley Conservation (CVC) if they would host the event at Island Lake since we were familiar with the lake, it has a panfish population that usually cooperates, it was located centrally for many people, and the facilities were exactly what we needed. Having spent the last few years volunteering with CVC, I was lucky enough to know some great people in the organization who made it happen. Thanks to the efforts of Lindsey Jennings and Yasmine Slater, everything was arranged quickly and we were good to go.
When I arrived at the park in the morning, I realized just how lucky we had gotten with the venue. We had been given the picnic area by the entrance for our tables, and the casting piers had been reserved for us. It was a perfect setup for getting the ladies into some fish and having a enjoyable space for the event. The weather was even cooperating with blue skies, fluffy clouds, and low wind.
In addition to Leslie and I, Chris McCoy, Chris McDougall, and Anneliese Bochenek arrived to help out as instructors. Yvonne even managed to get there despite landing at the airport not long before.
Participants started walking over to register for the event and buy tickets for our 50/50 draw to benefit the Kelly Shires Foundation. Thanks to Leslie’s organizational skills, registration was a breeze and we ended up with about 30 ladies, laughing, chatting, and eager to hit the water. This was not a Fishing 101 seminar with an educational component ahead of time; it was all about fishing and getting time on the water.
We split the participants into groups and sent them to the casting piers with the instructors. For those who didn’t have equipment, it was provided (this is why my car was so full leaving the Fishing 101 for Women seminar in Peterborough a couple of weeks before). For those that needed help casting and rigging, we provided that too. Participants were free to move around, help each other, ask the instructors for help, and take a break whenever they wanted one.
The goal for the day was let a group of ladies have fun fishing together, learn some new skills, and meet some fellow anglers. If they all had fun by the end of the day, I would consider it a resounding success.
I walked between the groups, taking pictures and chatting as I went. The instructors were doing an awesome job and everywhere I went there were smiles and laughter. Some ladies decided to wade into the water for the chance to cast further out, while others were happy to drop their line down from the pier and watch the sunfish and perch play with their bait.
The anglers got a good lesson about needing to try new things and change it up when the fish aren’t biting. Since the smaller fish were being a little shy, Yvonne suggested that we downsize the slip-float rigs that many people were using. Adding mono leaders and changing to smaller hooks was just the ticket to get the fish biting. Even from the picnic area on the other side of the trees I could hear the shouts as ladies hooked into perch and sunfish.
One of the fun things to watch was when Anneliese got out her fly rod and started casting. Talk about a great way to introduce ladies to other aspects of the sport. It’s not all about bass or all about slip-floats or all about lures.
By the end of the morning I had heard more than a few ladies making plans to go out fishing together, and others were talking about staying in touch and hopefully planning something in the future. There were discussions over places to fish, opinions given and asked about lures, and talk about the upcoming OWA events. Some participants had never fished before and were now showing that beginner’s enthusiasm: that feeling of having caught your first fish, having taken your first casts – that feeling that hooks you for good.
There were a lot of good fish stories going around once we had gathered back at the picnic tables. Our 50/50 draw raised $100 for the Kelly Shires Foundation, a great amount that we were all proud to donate. Many ladies went home with some neat prizes, such as PanAm tickets, fishing swag, and a half-day boat rental from CVC.
Thanks to all of the participants, all of the instructors, CVC and the Island Lake staff and to Yvonne for showing on such a quick turn around from her trip. Major thanks and congrats to Leslie for the incredible amount of work she did for this event. The 1st Annual Angler-New Angler Event was an absolute success and I can’t wait for next year’s edition.