This summer, a new experience awaits girls 12 to 18 who are thinking about learning to fish.
“It’s not been an activity where the girls are just jumping out of trees for it,” said Joan Chapman, founding member of the Shenandoah Reel Women fly fishing club. “A lot of the girls I’ve talked to, they’re just not into that kind of thing."
But she and other club members hope to encourage that interest anyway. Their goal, she said, is to introduce girls to fly fishing and hear them say, “I really had fun and fish are not slimy.”
The Shenandoah Reel Women on the River Camps, arranged in partnership with the Friends of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River, will run in two sessions at Seven Bends State Park in Woodstock, the first from June 29 to July 1 and the second from July 6 to 8. Both sessions will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Registration is $45 per session. Scholarships and free transportation are available upon request.
For both sessions, there's a total of 15 slots.
“As it is, I have eight filled,” Chapman said. “The first year is always like this.”
For the past two years, the Friends of the North Fork has put on another program at Seven Bends park called North Fork Conservation Corps that also received hesitant interest in its first year, drawing in five participants but in the second year more than tripling its registrations.
“Word of mouth I’m convinced is what did it,” Chapman said.
Nonetheless, she said if the girls’ fishing camps don't see a boost in interest by the extended deadline of June 25, then the organizers will probably combine the two sessions.
The 2020 Virginia Wildlife Grant Program is helping fund the project through a partnership between the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources and the Wildlife Foundation of Virginia.
The grant was awarded to the Friends of the North Fork last year, but because of the pandemic, the funds were extended to this year instead. Chapman said the grant specifies that the program focus on girls, though she hopes to open it to all children of that age group in the future.
“That’s the next step,” Chapman said.
“I would like to get some sponsorship this coming fall to be able to run camps,” she said. She also plans to focus on “our economically depressed population.”
In the summer camps, girls will be encouraged to learn and help each other as they’re mentored by established Shenandoah Reel Women members and volunteers.
It’s about “building team leadership with the girls, building teamwork among the girls,” Chapman said.
They will learn the basics of knot tying, appropriate equipment, entomology, good casting techniques and “how to read the water like a fish,” a description of the program at the Shenandoah County Parks & Recreation Department website reads.
Rods, reels and other necessary equipment will be available for participants to use during each session and for additional summer fishing activities. All current COVID-19 guidelines will be followed.
Shenandoah Reel Women is open to adults and aims to offer a stress-free way to learn to fly fish.
Started in 2018 by three women, the club formed as a way for women to teach other women to fish.
Chapman recalled when a local resident taking fishing lessons from her husband asked if he knew of any women who could teach her instead. The husband reached out to Chapman’s husband, and the rest is history.
Chapman learned from her husband, but she said that women teaching each other to fish offers a unique experience that many club members enjoy.
“Each [member] is bringing something to the whole group and offering something to the whole group,” Chapman said.
The club meets on Mondays and tries out various fishing spots around the area. If the fishing isn’t good one day, she said they might decide, “Let’s pack it in and go hiking.”
She also said that members, who at the moment range in age from mid-20s to mid-70s, don’t plan to be out all day fishing.
“We go out for a couple hours,” she said. Then they break down “and go on with our lives.”
Though her husband hasn’t fished in a couple of years while undergoing chemotherapy, Chapman said he’s been very supportive of her efforts to fish and teach others to fish.
“He’s tying all the flies that we’re taking to camp,” she said.
Register for the girls' camp through Shenandoah County Parks & Recreation at www.scpr.info. To request a scholarship or transportation to the workshops, call Joan Chapman at 703-507-2276 or email joan.chapman@fnfsr. For more information, visit tinyurl.com/xt9t6d8.
Look for Shenandoah Reel Women on Instagram @shenandoah_reel_women.