SA Bass - - Contents - – Sharon

“W.T.F. – Women That Fish” Do women be­long on the wa­ter, or next to it with a rod in hand? Of course, we do! It’s an ar­chaic stereo­type that women don’t, or can’t fish and that we only go with to make lunch and praise our hus­band’s and sons’ catches.

Do women be­long on the wa­ter, or next to it with a rod in hand?

Of course, we do!

It’s an ar­chaic stereo­type that women don’t, or can’t fish and that we only go with to make lunch and praise our hus­band’s and sons’ catches.

I am a fish­er­man, I’m not a woman who can fish or a fe­male an­gler, I’m just a fish­er­man. I par­tic­i­pate in a male-dom­i­nated sport where per­sonal prej­u­dices over­flow.

Like every fish­er­man in the world, I live for that mo­ment when my line pulls. My heart pounds and my hands sweat as the fish fights, jump­ing out the wa­ter des­per­ate to es­cape my grasp. When I get it out the wa­ter, a fire burns through my veins urg­ing me to cast again and again and again. A quick photo to re­mem­ber and share with my fam­ily, then a gen­tle return to the wa­ter to fight an­other day. In a world that moves at a light­ning pace with no signs of slow­ing down, the quiet and peace­ful mo­ments of fish­ing are my drug of choice and I live for those mo­ments, dream about them and plan out the next one be­fore the last is even over.

The first time I caught a fish was on the rocks in Umd­loti. I had no clue my life was about to change forever.

It was our first hol­i­day to the coast as a young fam­ily. My son was two years old and we had stopped at the lo­cal beach shop and had bought a set of chil­dren’s fish­ing rods, buck­ets and spades to keep our­selves busy. We did not ex­pect to catch any­thing and were just look­ing for a way to pass the lazy days away. As young chil­dren do, my son quickly got bored with fish­ing off the rocks and the rod was passed to me. I cast it in ocean to keep my­self en­ter­tained while watch­ing my tod­dler stalk crabs and poke at the squirt­ing co­ral. I was lost in a day dream when I felt a soft tug on the line, I thought I had imag­ined it and then I felt an­other. I reeled it in quickly with no real ex­pec­ta­tions, but cu­ri­ous and ex­cited and to my de­light found a palm sized puffer fish dan­gling from my hook.

I stood on those rocks un­sure of what to do next. Could I touch it, should I? All I knew was that I wanted to get that hook out of that lit­tle fish in and into an­other one as fast as I could.

It was love at first bite for me and I was solidly hooked. We found a fish­ing shop and bought our first real rods. Our evenings were spent sit­ting on the pa­tio of our hol­i­day home mak­ing rigs while re­search­ing fish type, baits, knots, tides and moon phases. We spent every mo­ment on the rocks try­ing, but more of­ten than not fail­ing to catch fish. When we man­aged to hook a fish, we would care­fully put it in my son’s bucket, where he would spend a few mo­ments ad­mir­ing it be­fore gently re­turn­ing it to the ocean where it be­longed.

When we got home, fish­ing very quickly be­came our fam­i­lies’ pas­sion. It filled the mo­ments be­tween the daily grind of traf­fic, work, school and home­work, we got to laugh and tease each other about who was the bet­ter fish­er­man and who had caught the small­est fish that day.

We chal­lenged each other to catch fish us­ing home­made lures and rods made of sticks and ca­ble ties that we put to­gether af­ter school or by fish­ing with noth­ing more than a piece of line wrapped around a hand, a hook and a worm. The win­ner would get brag­ging rights un­til our next fish­ing trip. Fish­ing to­gether be­came the glue that has kept

our fam­ily strong in a time when fam­i­lies fall apart far too eas­ily. We taught our chil­dren to re­spect and love na­ture, we en­sured we left noth­ing, but foot­prints be­hind and took noth­ing but pho­to­graphs to pre­serve those pre­cious mem­o­ries. The years flew by far too fast and my chil­dren grew up, they still love fish­ing but have other hob­bies and in­ter­ests now. I have a lot more time to fish alone nowa­days and I love it. It’s my quiet time, the time when my wor­ries slide away and my mind can fo­cus on the sim­ple things in life. I wake up in the dark, pack the car and leave the house be­fore any­one else greets the morn­ing. I make my way to wher­ever I am spend­ing the day as the sun slowly peeps over the hori­zon and shows off in a glo­ri­ous dis­play of colours. When I ar­rive, I set up my rod in the cool morn­ing air, pull my jacket a lit­tle tighter around my­self and slip on my glasses. Then it is just me and my wits against the evere­lu­sive bass I hunt. The hours evap­o­rate as I creep around the wa­ters edges, stay­ing out of eye-sight and stalk­ing my prey. Tread­ing softly on the wet grass, I more of­ten than not lose track of time and ev­ery­thing and ev­ery­one around me dis­ap­pears as I dance with my rod and wait for the tug that lets me know the bat­tle has be­gun. When my knees buckle in ex­haus­tion hours later, I fish my way back to­wards the car, pack up and drive home bone-tired but happy, know­ing my “me time” was won­drously heal­ing to my soul and far bet­ter than any spa day or shop­ping trip could have been. Sadly, op­por­tu­ni­ties to fish alone have be­come fewer and fewer for a woman on her own. Safety is al­ways a con­cern even when we fish as a fam­ily, but on my own I have to con­stantly re­mind my­self to be aware of my sur­round­ing, check my gear has not grown legs, that no-one is sneak­ing up be­hind me and that my car is still where I parked it. Crime is ev­ery­where and un­for­tu­nately, I am a soft tar­get. I used to be able to just pop into my lo­cal pond and waste a few hours un­both­ered, now I have to wait for my busy hus­band and kids to “be in the mood” to fish or worse, fish at crowded venues in pres­surised wa­ters on week­ends and hol­i­days. While my hus­band has al­ways en­cour­aged and sup­ported my pas­sion he un­der­stand­ably wor­ries about me be­ing on my own, trav­el­ling in the dark on un­known roads and fish­ing at un­se­cure venues. Se­cu­rity needs to be a pri­or­ity for more fish­ing es­tab­lish­ments, not just for women but for ev­ery­one. So, we have an on­go­ing crime sit­u­a­tion in South Africa, we all know this and take pre­cau­tions where we can. As a woman how­ever, I have an­other prob­lem that keeps me on my toes. Way too many of my fel­low fish­er­men are sex­ist; these men feel a woman’s place is bare­foot and preg­nant in the kitchen. They claim own­er­ship of the wa­ter sim­ply be­cause they are men and any­one of the op­po­site gen­der has no right to be there as any­thing more than sand­wich maker and beer server. This an­ti­quated view has led to me be­ing ha­rassed while fish­ing; it’s tram­pled my joy far too of­ten. I’ve had my equip­ment tam­pered with and over­turned onto the ground or thrown in the wa­ter. Threats of vi­o­lence have rained down on my head if I don’t “stop catch­ing their fish”. I want noth­ing more than to be left alone to fo­cus on my pas­sion and im­prove my skills and in­stead I have to en­sure I don’t ‘up­set the lo­cals’ or push the sta­tus quo. What has hap­pened to re­spect for your fel­low man or women?

And don’t for a mo­ment think it’s only men who are sex­ist. Women are just as prej­u­dice. A lady in a shop turned to me one day while I was look­ing at baits and said “us women can’t re­ally fish, we just go with to im­prove the scenery for our hus­bands” and tit­ter as if it was the great­est joke ever told.

A sales woman ig­nored my re­quests to see the reels I en­quired af­ter and tried to sell me a cheap hot pink rod and reel combo. Com­ment­ing that “all the ladies buy this be­cause it’s so cute”. Fish­ing, like all hob­bies should be in­clu­sive of ev­ery­one. I have been into shops to buy equip­ment and have had peo­ple refuse to serve me or treat me like an id­iot and try sell me the rub­bish no one else would buy. I get talked down to con­stantly. If I am with my hus­band and ask a ques­tion I have been ig­nored en­tirely and the an­swer given to my hus­band. It’s frus­trat­ing that my money has less value than his sim­ply be­cause I am a woman. Ev­ery­one has the right to fol­low their pas­sion with­out ques­tion or judge­ment. South Africa is a glo­ri­ous coun­try with some mag­i­cal wa­ter­ing holes for us to en­joy, we just need to learn to share and care a lit­tle more about our fel­low fish­er­man, be they man, woman or child. It’s not just a man’s world any­more, it’s my world and I will fish its wa­ters with pa­tience, kind­ness and un­der­stand­ing. Please try to do the same.

Linky Fer­reira at Bea­con Vlei, KZN

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