Sunday, October 18, 2009

Get Girls Fishing! A How-To Guide for Men

Does your wife or girlfriend hate the fact that you fish? Does she get on your case about the amount of time you spend out on the water and with your friends? I bet you wish you knew how to get her to stop complaining, or even better, how to get her to go on the occasional trip with you. Look no further- you’re about to get some really great advice from someone (a woman no less!) who went from an anti-fishermen to being a passionate fisher(wo)man within a couple of months.

If you told me a year ago that I would be fishing on a regular basis I never, ever would have believed you. Now not only am I fishing a lot, I’m ENJOYING it! My life as I once knew it is over.

I’m your typical vegetarian; I don’t eat meat or fish primarily because I don’t like the idea of killing animals. I stopped eating fish nearly ten years ago because I don’t like the taste. As a child, I went fishing a couple times a year with cheap Canadian Tire rods, bobbers and worms, seeking out white perch in the lake behind my house.

I stopped fishing about fifteen years ago after an experience at a U-Fish (where a lot of fish are bred for catching and eating in a small man-made pond), where I got in trouble for not killing a fish after catching it. Even back then, when I was still eating meat and fish, I didn’t want to participate in the killing of the fish because it felt wrong. My step-father took the fish that I caught and slammed it against a table, killing it instantly. I was mortified, and I didn’t fish for the remainder of the day.

I know this is the most humane way to kill it, and the whole purpose of a U-Fish is to get your fish fresh, but to a sensitive ten-year old, it completely turned me off fishing.

Around the same age, my younger brother went fishing alone and caught a very small fish but couldn’t get it off the hook. He came running to me, hoping that I could help him, but I was no help- my attempt made the hook go through the eye socket, and after about ten minutes we finally got it off the hook, let it go, and watched it float, dead, down the river.

Those two experiences made me not fish until last year.

I still have the same sensitivity as I did when I was ten years old, and hate the idea of hurting anything. As embarrassing as it is, feel very guilty when I kill bugs. I don’t like the idea of hurting any animal- including fish.

When I met Clive, co-owner of, I knew he was a true and enthusiastic fisherman. His passion was one of the most obvious things about him as a person. Even though I didn’t like the idea of fishing, I admired his love for the sport. I soon realized that his passion was contagious.

In a matter of months, Clive turned me into a fisherman. His steps were calculated and he was smart. Although he may not have been conscious of all the things he did to make me love fishing, but I’ve recognized them and have decided to help you convince your girlfriends and wives who previously had no interest in fishing- to love fishing.

Your ladies might be different than me, so the following might not be relevant to your specific situation, but all of these factors were important in making me love the sport. If any of these things were ignored, I would not be fishing today.

So, pay careful attention men, because what I’m sharing with you right now just might change your relationship… and your life!

1. Don’t make fun of her, ever.

I cannot stress this point enough. Don’t make fun of them if they scream when they hook their fish, don’t make fun of them if they don’t want to take it off the hook, don’t make fun of them if they’re concerned about the health of the fish (I never want the hook to go through the mouth and out the eye socket, and I never want to keep the fish out of water for too long, for example). If you make fun of your lady when she’s fishing, I can guarantee you that she won’t want to come out with you again.

If you make fun of her, even if it’s lightly, she could be turned off fishing forever. She’ll be embarrassed at her performance and her inexperience and she’ll feel self-conscious and want to stop fishing. Be excited that she’s there with you and that she’s trying her best.

2. Don’t push them to do everything for themselves.

I’m finally comfortable with casting after nearly a year of practice (I’m still nowhere near as good as some people, of course). I only learned how to tie a knot three months after I started fishing. I still have not put a worm on my hook. If she doesn’t want to learn these things don’t push her to do it. She’ll want to eventually.

If she isn’t ready to take the fish off the hook, don’t make her. If she doesn’t want to hold the fish for a picture, it’s okay! You can hold it for her.

The first fish I ever caught was a hand-sized sunfish. As soon as it took the bait I started screaming, “I DON’T LIKE THIS! I DON’T LIKE THIS!” Clive rushed over, took the rod from me, and reeled it in himself. He was very empathetic, very patient, and didn’t make fun of me- even though it would have been very easy to. He never laughed, he didn’t say anything negative about the way I dealt with the situation. I didn’t want to fish for the rest of the afternoon, but the next day I was back at it with a little more self confidence. I still screamed every time I got a fish (big or small) on my hook for the next couple of months, but I’m proud to say I don’t do that anymore.

The point is- fishing is something different than anything else we have to deal with on a daily basis and it can be a bit scary at first, so do not overwhelm her with too many elements of fishing. She’ll become more interested in the details soon enough.

These are some things that they might not want to do:

- tie their own knots
- bait their hooks
- take the fish off the hook
- hold the fish for pictures
- kill the fish
- clean/gut the fish

3. Encourage them.

If they don’t know anything about fishing, gently teach them the basics. Show them how to cast. Show them how fast to reel. Teach them the basics about a couple of lures or bait. I cannot tell you how important it is to know that your boyfriend/husband supports you every step of the way (this goes beyond fishing, boys!). We need to know that we’re doing alright- after all, this is your sport- we don’t want to feel like idiots.

If we tie a knot properly for the first time, congratulate us! Let us gloat a little! If we catch a fish before you do, don’t be bitter, be proud of us! Don’t ever try to take away our sunshine.

And be sincere about your praise and encouragement because we’ll see right through you if you don’t mean it.

4. Celebrate her first fish.

Even if she screams her head off, doesn’t want to touch the fish, doesn’t even want to look at it, celebrate it anyway, make sure she knows you’re proud of her for catching it, and do everything that she doesn’t want to do.

If it’s a small fish (as my first ones were), and you wouldn’t normally consider it picture-worthy, take a picture of it! It’ll make her feel proud. The first fish I caught by myself was literally a minnow, and I was very, very excited about it. I look happier in this picture than I do any of my other ones.

I was made fun when I posted the picture online, but it was a big deal to me! I felt so proud of myself!

5. She’ll probably want pictures of all of her fish.

I know I do. I want to document all of them. Landing a fish, even a small one, is a very proud moment for me, and I don’t understand it when Clive catches a fish and doesn’t take a picture of it because I’m so proud of everything I catch, big or small.

6. Let them pick out their own lures.

We’ll probably go for the pink ones, I’ll warn you now. If you take us into a fishing store, don’t bore us with facts about the lures and their manufacturers. Tell us to pick out some lures that we think will work. We’re likely going to be basing our choices on aesthetics, but at least we’re taking part in another part of the fishing experience. You can lead us in the right direction, show us the lures for musky fishing rather than salt water fish, for example. Tell us which coloured lures work best. We’ll be excited to use the lures that we’ve chosen the next time we go fishing.

When I pick out lures with Clive he tells me that the ones I chose are good- even if I’ve come back with an assortment of pink ones. He’ll point out other ones that I might like; the scented ones are also some of my favorite to choose. When he’s picking out his choices, he’ll tell me a few of the reasons why he chose them- and I remember those reasons the next time we go shopping together.

7. If you take her into a fishing store, for god sakes, don’t let her see how much you spend on lures/rod/reels unless you want to spend that much money again on presents for her.

I’m jealous of the amount of money that Clive spends on fishing. When I saw the cash register total over $150 the first time I went into a store with him, I was bitter for days because he’d never spent that much money on a present for me. If avoiding arguments is a priority, and she knows how much you spend on your hobby, buy her something special that’s unrelated to fishing.

8. You can buy her something related to fishing, but until she’s really into it, don’t buy it for a birthday/Christmas/anniversary present.

A tackle box is a good start, and it makes a great surprise! There are lots of different styles to choose from so choose her favorite colour- don’t choose one that you would buy for yourself. I like the smaller styles, preferably in blue or aqua (not necessarily pink!). If we have a tackle box, we’ll want to buy more lures (or for you to buy us more lures) to start our own collection.

A nice rod and reel is a good idea, but should be something that you buy her once you’re sure she’s interested and she’s going to keep doing it. If she really does love fishing, feel free to buy high quality pieces- we want something just as good as the ones you’ve chosen for yourself.

9. Don’t kill the fish (unless she’s into that).

One of the biggest factors in making me love fishing is that we don’t use live bait and we never kill the fish we catch. If I had to witness the death of a fish, I would not only cry, I would never want to fish again. Luckily, Clive doesn’t eat a lot of fish and is into the sport more for the game than the reward, so it’s not a big deal for us. Targeting species that are not so good to eat may make things easier.

In the future, when we decide to go deep sea fishing for example, it’s going to be a tough trip for me. I really want to see and catch large fish, and I know we’re probably not going to throw back gigantic fish, so it’s going to be hard to deal with. I need to be 100% comfortable with it before we can venture into that area (the killing-area) of fishing.

10. Speaking of deep sea fishing, you can basically count out day-long fishing trips.

We can’t pee off the side of the boat like you can. End of story.

11. And also, don’t make her catch huge fish her first couple of times going with you.

Put smaller bait/lures on and let her get comfortable with that before moving up. Chances are, she’ll be able to catch a lot more smaller fish and get used to how it feels to have a fish on the line. Once she’s comfortable with the smaller fish, gradually put on bigger lures- but let her know you’re doing it- so she can catch bigger fish.

12. Unless she specifically asks, don’t overwhelm her with lots of information about fishing/lures/knots etc.

It’s boring. Other girls will probably differ on this, but I don’t need to know why specific lures/bait works, and why other stuff doesn’t. You’re really going to have to pay attention to this fact: is she interested in the details and reasons for using lures/time of day/areas of lakes/rivers/seas? If she is, talk away! If she isn’t, stop. She’ll ask questions when she’s curious.

13. Go on a fishing trip with another couple.

Make sure the girl in the other couple is just as interested, if not more interested in fishing, otherwise they’ll spend their time together doing something else (gossiping, cooking etc) while the boys go out fishing.

One of the best weekends I had fishing was when Clive and I went fishing with another couple, Jonny and Brandi. She and I were completely satisfied fishing for the small fish off the dock, and Clive and Jonny liked fishing for musky in the deeper waters. Brandi was more experienced than I and she didn’t mind taking the hook out of the fish, and it really helped me to become more comfortable with it. Jonny was great, never made fun of us (she screamed when she landed fish too) either, and was really patient.

14. Have other hobbies.

Chances are, for a long time, she’ll see fishing as YOUR hobby, not her hobby as well. If all you do together is go fishing, you’re in trouble. Try doing something together that she’s interested in. If you’re around a body of water, it doesn’t automatically mean fishing. It can also mean swimming and boating etc…

Sometimes I worry about Clive’s and my future vacations- are they ALL going to revolve around fishing? I hope not, but it’s a possibility if we let it. I want to be sure that we’re doing other things in our spare time. I’m still at the stage where fishing is Clive’s hobby (even if I regularly outfish him!), not my hobby. Luckily we both enjoy various outdoor activities.

15. All of the steps above are great, but how do you get her to come out with you in the first place?

There are a couple of ways that you can get your lady to come out with you, but ultimately, you know her best, and you should know what strategies work to get her to do things for you (you know you do it!). I suggest letting her know that you’d really like to spend time alone with her for some good old fashioned quality time. Tell her she doesn’t have to fish if she doesn’t want to, it’s about the conversation and company. The first few times that Clive and I went fishing I was just a spectator. Eventually I was interested enough to try it for myself, and sometimes Clive had to wrestle the fishing rod away from me!

If she’s completely uninterested in the fishing aspect of your day together, don’t suggest that she take part in fishing until mid-way through the day. If you sense that you’re going to have to take it slowly with her, that’s okay.

Most girls are suckers for spending quality time with the men they love, so I’d stress the fact that you’d really like to spend more time with her, and that you’d like to show her something that you’re really interested in and passionate about.

In order to not turn her off fishing, do what she asks- if she says she’s bored and wants to stop fishing, it’s okay. Work her in slowly. I know that even if I’m really bored and want to stop fishing, the minute I get nibble, I can fish for another couple of hours. Hopefully she’ll be just like me. It’s never a good idea to push her into doing something she doesn’t want to do, the more time she spends being bored or pressured into fishing longer than she wants to, the less of a chance you’re going to have to bring her out with you again.

If Clive can get an over-sensitive vegetarian girl to go fishing and enjoy it, nothing’s impossible. Previous to meeting him, I was steadfast against fishing, but by doing the above things, he’s turned me into someone who’s genuinely interested in fishing, wants to explore other lakes and seas and try to catch different species. So far, I’ve fished the Atlantic in La Paz, Mexico, the British Virgin Islands and in Nova Scotia. I’ve also freshwater fished in Ontario and in Nova Scotia! Just like Clive, I can’t pass a body of water without looking to see if there are fish in it.

Good luck, guys! By following the steps I’ve outlined above, you should have your girl fishing in no time!

Story written by: Gillian Hyde (the soon-to-be Mrs. Clive Mathias!)


The Hunter's Wife said...

Good tips and I'm a girl that has yet to take her fish off the hook. ;)

Rebecca said...

Great advice! Far too often when I'm out on the bank I watch men trying to convert their ladies into a full time love of what they do, BUT, the way they go about it can be downright, well, fruitless?

I can spot an attempt at conversion 100 yards away. I do adore the guys that try and sometimes my heart really goes out to them. I also adore the ladies for trying.

Oh, and number 10, LOL, so true!

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