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The River Runs Through This: Fly Fishing Workshop for Girls and Young Women – Shenandoah Reel Women on the River

By Marla Miranda Mooney, FNFSR Volunteer and Shenandoah Reel Woman

This summer, girls and young women between the ages of 12 and 18 will discover the joys of casting a fly fishing line in workshops made possible through a partnership between the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, the Wildlife Foundation of Virginia, and Friends of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River (FNFSR).  

These two summer workshops will provide mentorship and training by Shenandoah Reel Women (SRW) and will be hosted at Seven Bends State Park. Session 1 will be held June 29-July 1 and Session 2 on July 6-8, 9am to 3pm.  

The registration deadline for Session 1 has been extended to June 25th. The registration deadline for Session 2 has been extended to July 2nd.

Register through Shenandoah County Parks & Recreation here.

The Shenandoah Reel Women logo features founder Joan Chapman, based on a photo taken in 1998, a few years after she transitioned to fly fishing.

“We are proud to be the host site of the Shenandoah Reel Women on the River’s Fly Fishing Workshop for Young Women,” said Seven Bends State Park Chief Ranger Thomas Stevens, “as it aligns perfectly with our vision and purpose.” 

In the sport of fly fishing women represent the fastest growing demographic, comprising about 31% of the 6.5 million fly anglers.  Reel Women founder Joan Chapman says, “When you stand in the cool water, contemplating, you back cast and feel the line loop in the air in back of you.  As you hesitate and feel the line unfurl and then bring it forward, you are quietly waiting.  The fly and the leader gently lay out across the water’s surface and you know beauty, you know grace, you feel peace. You are in your own world in a group of friends, the Shenandoah Reel Women.”

One of the many beautiful locations in our watershed to cast a line.

Founded in 2018 by three women who wanted to get out on the river fishing with other women, the idea of SRW was talked over, tossed about, and an idea took root.  SRW has now grown to a group of 20+ women of all ages, from all corners of Shenandoah County.  These women gather to learn from, teach, and mentor each other.  Their goal is to increase the numbers of women on the river who are trying their hand at fly fishing as well as engaging in other outdoor pursuits like hiking, birding, tree and wildflower spotting, and nature photography.

In addition to enjoying cool river water under Virginia’s summer sun, this year’s workshop participants will learn the basics of knot tying, how to read water like a fish, and so much more.  Rods, reels, and all necessary equipment are available to use during the three-day workshops and for additional summer fishing activities. 

Ben Franklin could have been forecasting these workshops when he said, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” Not to mention it’s downright fun enjoying the outdoors with others and feeling the tug of a fish on the end of your fly line!

The opportunity to grow the sport is relished by Reel Women whose reward is sharing their joy and enthusiasm for the outdoors with younger women.  Mentorship supports the growth of others in multiple learning opportunities, helps mentees set goals, and allows both mentor and mentee to gain new perspectives.  Peer mentorship, when it occurs organically through workshops like this, can be a source which establishes leadership skills. 

Joan Chapman, center, briefs the group after a morning on the water.

“Being mentored by seasoned Reel Women has been a wonderful experience.” says Concha Mendoza, FNFSR Operations Manager. “Under Joan’s leadership, all the mentors are looking forward to sharing what we know about fishing, and especially our love for the outdoors, during the camps over the next two weeks.” Julia Sargent, FNFSR Volunteer Coordinator, says of the sport, “In the typically male-dominated world of fly fishing, the Shenandoah Reel Women provides a space for women to come together to learn and share skills, enjoy nature, and have fun.  I am so grateful to have SRW in my life, and for the opportunity to support young women in getting involved with this beautiful sport.”  

“There’s a big heart to these camps, through Friends, through the mentors, and through DWR,” says David Brotman, FNFSR Executive Director. He describes this wonderful opportunity for our young women as one which “they can build on for the rest of their lives.”

See Northern Virginia Daily coverage of Shenandoah Reel Women here.