Meet Erica Nelson, a female Indigenous fly fishing guide

I lived in Wyoming so everyone I met online was three hours away. A few men, many of them fishing guides, were open to answering questions (and I had many). After gaining some confidence I joined them for a weekend fishing session where I learned casting basics, insect hatching patterns, rigging techniques and gear maintenance. That first fish is so many things: it’s excitement, achievement, reinforcement. They say the train is the drug. It’s like gambling; you just want more

Her podcast is called Awkward Angler. how clumsy are you

When I first started fishing, I had these picturesque visions of big, long, dramatic casts like Brad Pitt in A River Runs Through Him. What I experienced instead was a backwards cast and my fly catching on overhanging branches behind me. I fell on slippery stones. It became too much patience, frustration and disentanglement. I caught more trees than fish. I knew nothing about how to handle a fish or properly remove a hook. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t catch anything at first.

Also, I would go to a fly shop and not meet anyone like me. I started the Awkward Angler Instagram account to keep asking for advice, but also to connect with others internationally and in the US. Who out there still fishes and looks and thinks like me? Is there anyone who is not a cisgender white male? I ended up meeting women of color, non-binary anglers, transgender anglers, anglers who are neurodivergent or with different physical abilities.

Is there more diversity in sport today than in the beginning?

When I first started fishing in 2016 there might have been brown fly fishermen, but I didn’t know of any and I’ve never seen them. There were no color leaders in the entire state of Colorado. Now there’s a woman from outside of Colorado Springs and me.

After the killing of George Floyd, people realized racism does exist in this country and it seeps through to fly fishing. Since the pandemic began, many new people have tried fly fishing for the first time and we have started to see a shift in demographics. I’ve had people with marginalized identities like LGBTQ+ and non-labelled, women, women of color contacting me and expressing appreciation for my not being afraid to speak up for us and our voices. And they book as clients, so I take them and introduce them to fly fishing.

What is the Fishing for All Pledge?

The Fishing For All pledge includes a training curriculum on diversity, equity and inclusion and a commitment to addressing racism and inequality in the fisheries and its industry.

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