“We Fish As One” and Emma Harrison's fight for female friendly fishing!

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When Emma Harrison got in touch with our Head of Participation Clive Copeland late last year, the first line of her email made him sit up and take notice. It makes for unpleasant reading…​

Since I began fishing around 2 years ago, I have endured endless discrimination and harassment from men. I am aware that this is the case among other female anglers, particularly in the match fishing scene. We are expected to consider this as banter only, and other female anglers have said the same thing, they just try to ignore it – I say it is time to put a stop to this.

Conversations with Emma and other female anglers have been helping shape our new strategy – starting in April 2021 – that aims to help support the angling community, remove barriers and increase angling participation among female and ethnically diverse communities.

This focus on diversity and inclusion in angling will not be all doom-and-gloom though – there’s plenty to say about the good, positive stories that angling can tell to encourage a more diverse sport from grassroots right up to elite level.


Emma’s blog – kicks off our new We Fish as One campaign and explains how her love of angling spurred on her determination to improve things so that angling changes for the better…



“Needless to say, those who know me, will know that I’m completely hooked on fishing and the benefits it offers to our mental wellbeing – but first of all let me explain how I got into angling and why I have come to be writing this blog – about a mix of my good and not so good experiences – and why it’s time that “We Fish as One”.

My love of angling started as a young girl when the suspense of just not knowing what I’d catch was so exciting and addictive. But, as some of us do when we begin to start careers or families, I lost touch with fishing for many years…

Fast forward and I was in my late 20s when I got back into fishing – completely clueless I have to add – but always having so much fun on my local canals and lakes!

I started out again with basic equipment but pretty soon I was researching magazines and finding more online – for me, learning new techniques and skills is just as much fun as fishing. Every trip out I made an effort to use my new knowledge.

The obvious next-step on my angling journey was to join a club. In no time I had some fishing tackle and skills and entered myself into the Women’s League. Having never fished a match I was so anxious, but I received a warm welcome and by the end of the league’s matches, much to my delight I came second place!

The Open Circuit in the North West was next. Before long I was winning sections, and even managed a ‘cheeky win’ – not bad in such a short space of time!

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For me though, fishing is more than “just fishing”, competing or the love of learning new techniques. I currently live with complex PTSD, anxiety and depression, and my main form of support to help me with this illness is to go fishing. Honestly – it’s been my lifeline when I struggle with my mental health. Angling was always – and still is – a way to “escape” for my own wellbeing.

I need to say this first and foremost, I am able to have a laugh with people and I do also have solid resilience but… what I am about to say should not be occurring in the 21st century – a world where a better understanding of diversity and inclusivity has become so important and is – quite rightly I believe – shaping our behaviour towards each other.

Sadly, to say, I have come across some negatives whilst fishing, in particular match fishing. Let me give you some examples:

I walk into a venue or a tackle shop, the room is full of male anglers and falls silent – all eyes are on me. Now even to begin with that’s a pretty intimidating reaction! It’s like walking out onto a stage when all eyes on you – suddenly you are in the spotlight. Before long, some anglers start to make derogatory comments. “Here we go” I think…

“You should be at home doing the ironing/cleaning/dishes/looking after the kids”

“I come fishing to get away from women, I don’t want to be fishing with them!”

“I’ll never be beaten by a woman, over my dead body is that going to happen!”

To add fuel to the flames I have had anglers invade my personal space or make disrespectful comments about my appearance. Because of the kind of person I am and due to my past trauma, the thought of confrontation terrifies me. I’d never retaliate or “fire-back” in those situations. Instead I seek out somewhere quiet where I can regain my confidence and focus on fishing. So in these situations I didn’t confront the people who treated me badly.

I’d often get this kind of thing when I went to fish matches – it was a regular thing. So I spoke to some other female anglers about it. They told me that they just put up with it and ignore it. I understand why – like me – that they would want to take this approach rather than start a confrontation – I do get that – but why should we have to in the first place?

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The fighter within me wouldn’t let it slide and I got to thinking about it. Why should women have to endure this when they want to go fishing? Fishing can be a hobby, a sport, it is something we enjoy or love, it is an opportunity to switch off or relax, it can be our exercise and it is something we have in common with all other anglers. We wouldn’t tolerate this behaviour in the workplace so why is it tolerated in angling?

I will say to those who find it acceptable to be disrespectful to someone:

“How would you find it if someone treated, your mother, wife or daughter in that way?”

“Would you tolerate that level of disrespect if you were a woman?”

There have been many times when I have even had second thoughts about going fishing, the mental preparation that I have to build up before I can leave the house to compete in a match is tremendous and there have been times when I simply could not bring myself to go and do what I love, go fishing, with this added pressure on top.

At this point, you might be thinking “Why would you even go fishing if you find it so difficult or challenging? Why would bother to put yourself through THAT!?”

But – as I’ve mentioned, I love fishing – as well as that, fishing also does wonders for my mental health, plus – I enjoy taking my family fishing. These reasons are enough for me to be able to continue fishing, my passion and curiosity to learn more usually leads me back out onto the bank at some point.

There’s not only that personal motivation though…

Despite this smudge of negativity, I’ve come across a wealth of supportive and welcoming anglers, venues and tackle shops. I know that at these places people will not be treated any differently to a man, and that makes the world of difference. At these places, and from these people I just know that if anything at all negative or disrespectful was said, they would put a stop to it straight away.

Let me tell you about one such venue where I have felt so at ease…

The Old Hough Fisheries at Warmingham near to Cheshire is a lovely fishery for both the match and pleasure anglers. The owner – Mel – is always welcoming and supportive of women fishing here and he always helps with advice when anyone wants it.

I’ve spoke to Mel recently and he told me “Throughout 2020 I’ve seen more women and girls out on the bank enjoying the fishing at The Old Hough. This is great to see and gives us a sense of pride that we are doing things right. All anglers are welcome but women can be sure that they can feel safe and confident that any inappropriate behaviour from male or female anglers would just not be tolerated here.”

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This is wonderful news, I know that female anglers can enjoy fishing there given the pleasant environment that Mel has created. And – as simple and as basic as this may sound – there are clean toilets too. What a delight! I’m helping the Angling Trust to find more venues like this nearby and we are going to map them on their website soon along with others all around the country.

As well as match and pleasure fishing I’ve had a wonderful time over the past year trying out different ways of fishing. One interesting thing I noticed is that I have never had any issues with negative or inappropriate behaviour when I was fishing at “specimen” type of venues. In fact, at big-fish waters, anglers were all so keen to support me and welcome me, which is fantastic to experience, and it would a delight to see this all-inclusive behaviour right across all disciplines of angling.

So – how did all these experiences lead me here – to be writing this blog you’re reading?

After much thought and having built up some confidence I decided to speak up on this matter in 2020 to highlight not only the negative things but also feature the good parts of fishing – for women and girls. I find that I often relate things like this back to my daughter. Put myself in her position and ask myself “Would I want her to be put in that situation?” No, of course I wouldn’t and that is when I realised that we have to make some adjustments.

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With the fire burning and this passion brewing I got in touch with Sport England about the matter and voiced my concerns that maybe this behaviour could be a contributing factor to lower numbers of women and girls within our sport? Who knows – but from my experience I would sympathise entirely if a newcomer who experienced some of the things I did never wanted to go fishing again – really, who could blame them?

Writing to Sport England “…I believe that anyone who wishes to take part in a sport should be made to feel welcome, safe and feel reassured that they will not be expected to tolerate abuse from anyone…why should females, people of a different race, disability or religion be treated any differently? I’m looking for some support on this matter, as I’ve never been involved with anything of the sort – some guidance or support on how to setup and plan for a campaign to promote this message…

Within a short timeframe Sport England had passed on my concerns to Clive at the Angling Trust, and this has allowed me to become involved with the Angling Trust Participation Team.

I’m now proud to say that I’m helping to shape a new direction for women anglers, girls, and those in ethnically diverse communities groups who wish to take up our sport. I would love nothing more than to see people from all walks of life participating in the wonderful sport of fishing and reaping the rewards for its benefits to mental health and wellbeing.

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I think we all realise that unfortunately there will be no “quick-fix” to getting more girls and women on the bank. It is going to take time, perseverance and sheer determination from everyone involved. But I know that all of the people I have spoken on this issue have “the right attitudes” and I’ve already heard of many success stories so far in raising the numbers of women and girls fishing. You’ll read more about that here – in the weeks to come.

I am very passionate and driven when it comes to this topic, and I really want to make a difference to anglers who like me have had to suffer or may suffer in the future. I want to encourage more diversity within the sport, especially from women, girls and more families.

Fishing has many benefits for men and women, it is a great way to spend time with family and friends, and it is a great way to challenge yourself. Furthermore, having more anglers taking part, whether male or female, means more “hands-on deck” to support our sport especially in terms of conservation efforts to protect fish and fishing, or coaching opportunities.

I look forward to the day where we can truly say “We Fish as One“.



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Emma Harrison


Emma’s aspiration for all anglers to fish together on equal terms became something the Angling Trust’s Participation Team kept coming back to in our plans for 2021 participation delivery. In acknowledgement of her determination to be involved we’ve named the campaign side of our Strategic Vision for Inclusiveness and Diversity in Angling (…which is a bit of a mouthful eh?) “We Fish as One”. The official launch will kick-off in April but we wanted to give all our readers the heads-up and encourage you to get in touch with us about this. we want to hear your own experiences – be they good or bad – we also want to hear from clubs, syndicates, fisheries and any other organisations or venues that are “female-angler-friendly” or that have taken active steps to make their organisation or venue a place that is more inclusive to females or other less well-represented communities. We’ll promote the work you are doing to be part of “We Fish as One”.
Contact: admin@anglingtrust.net. Please include “We Fish as One” in the subject line – we will treat all emails as confidential.​


#WeFishAsOne #GetFishing

Thanks to Angling Times Journalist Tony Grigorjevs and Improve Your Coarse Fishing for some of the pictures used in Emma’s Blog.

The post Emma Harrison tells us about “We Fish As One” and her fight for female friendly fishing! – plus how you can get involved with the campaign too appeared first on Angling Trust.

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Neil ofthe nene

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Harassment, discrimination and abuse have no place in fishing. I am saddened to hear that a fellow angler has to endure such treatment.

One thing that has struck me, and is pleasing, is the number of ladies I see fishing or accompanying anglers at Wellingborough Nene AC's Millcotton complex, part of the Brian Crowhurst Ringstead Island fishery. This is I think down to the club's commitment to provide a safe and welcoming "country park" like environment complete with two accessible and regularly serviced toilets. Voted No.1 club in the country for a reason.

I have often said that fishing is one of the most inclusive sports available to anyone. You can fish as you like, you can fish on equal terms whatever your sex, religion, creed or ethnicity (except Arsenal supporters :p). And for the price of entry you can compete against the best in the country if not the world.

My match club, Wellingborough Osprey, has one lady member who is treated like one of the lads. The occasional leg pull as we all suffer from but never anything nasty.

Long may angling continue to be the inclusive sport I love and lets not tolerate any form of discrimination or unpleasantness.
 

Dave

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I've fished with, alongside and met many ladies in angling from the England Ladies Team to individuals and individuals venturing into the sport and in the main have not seen or encountered any harassment or discrimination but that's not to say it doesn't happen.
And if I was beaten by a woman it is for one reason only - they were better than me on the day.
There will always be banter on the banks and pre/post matches, it's part of the scene so to speak, however there is also a line that needn't be crossed.
 

chefster

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Am I missing something? I have never once heard that women have no place in fishing, so why do they feel they have to fight to be included in something they haven't been excluded from?
I’ve fished matches where lady anglers are there, I’ve never once heard a negative comment, quite the opposite in fact 💁‍♂️
 

OldTaff

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I have yet to fish at a club or match where a female angler was amongst the mix - I hasten to add Ive just had a 15yr break - but I would hope such issues as raised above are a rarity rather than the norm.

Having seen my son’s fishing fun his cousins parents have asked if their daughter (same age) can join in this summer as she’s seen him fishing and is desperate to give it a go.

I would hate to think that should she should endure negative attitudes if it sparks her interest.
 

chefster

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I have yet to fish at a club or match where a female angler was amongst the mix - I hasten to add Ive just had a 15yr break - but I would hope such issues as raised above are a rarity rather than the norm.

Having seen my son’s fishing fun his cousins parents have asked if their daughter (same age) can join in this summer as she’s seen him fishing and is desperate to give it a go.

I would hate to think that should she should endure negative attitudes if it sparks her interest.
I don’t believe it happens 💁‍♂️
 

Yosemite Sam

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There are a number of women who fish at Ivy house lakes . They fish in open matches and get on well, I to have never heard anything said against them. They also started some ladies only matches last year to encourage women into angling , I think they went down well and hope they run them again this year.
 

Peter

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Angling Trust hunting for a headline? Looking for a controversy which really doesn't exist. Probably won't be long before they try to raise the question of ethnic diversity in angling. :(
 

mickthechippy

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That thing she mentions in the article about wandering into a tackle shop where shes not known, and everyone clams up and looks at her

If I had a quid for every time thats ahappended to me, Id be bloody well off too,

thats damn near a norm for shops round here, if you aint a face or a regular, the match or carpy type mob hanging around talking near allways do it, thats one thing that deffo aint gender specific
 

Total

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Angling Trust hunting for a headline? Looking for a controversy which really doesn't exist. Probably won't be long before they try to raise the question of ethnic diversity in angling. :(
^^ Yep, they didn't wanna feel left out as every other faction has to have some sort of 'woke' goings on......Leave my sport alone AT for Christ sake....:mad:
 

mickthechippy

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and the other thing about loos

we all sit on the same seat if there only thunderboxes on the fishery, is her butt any more deserving than any others

and Match angling

Just how many members on here have been "Rosied", that was almost a badge of honour a while back, my grandaughter has fished with loads of members of this site and others in matches, not nobody has ever mentioned thats shes a girl, dissed her or owt, and shes always thought of any comments were proper funny
 

Mermaid

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I think it’s like a lot of things in life it’s easy to take offence when no real offence is meant. I remember once at Stafford Moor I took part in a match and as we all know sound travels over water really easily when I heard a chap over the other side of the lake say to his mate, “I don’t care where I come but I don’t want to be beaten by that bloody woman!” I thought it was hilarious and no one was more shocked than me that I went on to beat him. He was really embarrassed after the match when he was told that everyone including me heard what he had said. ‘He mean’t no offence and certainly no offence was taken. Let’s not take life too seriously otherwise we’ll never get out of it alive 😂😂😂😂
 
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