It was a nun, an English noblewoman, Dame Juliana Berners, who published the first book on sports fishing in 1496. Now five centuries later comes the first book to introduce the joys and complexities of fly fishing to young women and girls. "River Girls" by Cecilia "Pudge" Kleinkauaf was first published in 2006 by Big Earth Books, but got little play in the Bay Area. Now a popular movement for outdoor education, a response to "nature-deficit" disorder, gives "River Girls" special importance today.
Kleinkauf begins with a story in which a young girl receives a magic wand. Used wisely, the magic implement brings her great joy. Each time a girl visits a river with her wand, she enjoys new smells and sounds and finds new ways to pass an afternoon in blissful solitude. She discovers the beauty of streamside plants, vibrant birds, and small creatures coming to drink. Most of all, the girl learns about the mysteries of the world beneath the water.
Author "Pudge" was a woman's fishing guide for 19 years in Alaska. Along with captivating outdoor photos by Michael DeYoung, she recounts experiences of four young women, who make their own personal statements. She explains the basics of fly fishing: how to cast with a fly rod, how to use waders, catch-and-release, fly-tying, how to read currents, how to be adventurous and safe.
Fishing is an art. It requires skill, concentration, patience, and most important a sense of wonder. As Thoreau put it: "Some men go fishing when it is not fish they are after." For women and girls, too, Henry, fishing is a spiritual quest, a way to know the "peace of wild things."
Fifteen million women go fishing every year. Let's hope our daughters join them.
Paul Rockwell, a Montclair resident, is the former children's librarian with the Albany Library. He is parent coordinator of Gone Tubin', a float tube fishing club for youth." For more information, contact gonetubin2.org.
Ordinarily, fly fishing requires more instruction and practice than other kinds of fishing. Fish First, the popular 20-year old fly fishing tackle store in Albany, puts on monthly clinics through the East Bay Regional Park District at Tilden Park. Check www.ebrpd.org for details. According to Fish First management, "Anything you can catch with conventional gear, you can catch with flies." In the Bay Area, rivers are preferred over lakes. "Fish First" takes anglers on trips to Putah Creek. The realistic age for beginners, according to Fish First, is 10 to 12 years old. Vanissa, co-owner of the Sportsman's Center in Castro Valley, says fly fishing is rebounding in the Bay Area.