To mark International Women’s Day, Inland Fisheries Ireland is celebrating some of Ireland’s well known women anglers. Glenda Powell, Fly Angler and Instructor, tells us about how she got started in fishing.

Glenda is a renowned angler and regarded as one of the world’s leading fly casting instructors. She has been teaching fly casting and fishing for 23 years. Glenda has fished for the Scottish Ladies International Flyfishing team and has managed the Irish Ladies team. Glenda became a World Champion in 2006 when she won the Overhead Salmon Distance Casting Competition for women.

“My family didn’t fish. My uncle, Michael, died when I was 9 years old and left me his fishing rod. The reason he left it to me was because I used to watch him tying flies although I had no idea what he was really doing.

In those days, we just went to the river, I had an older sister who probably took me to the river and got me started. When I was about 11, I took up fly fishing. I had no idea what to do. There were no teachers in those days apart from Peter O’Reilly but he wasn’t in my area and I only saw him at shows. I remember watching Peter thinking one day I would love to be able to do what he does, even at such a young age.

So I went to the river and with trial and error, and a little bit of help here and there, I learnt to fly fish. It became an obsession for me. I loved being out on the river with my little dog called Patch. Before school and after school, I would go fly fishing.

When I was 18 years of age and at that point when you need to decide what you are going to do, whether you are going to get a job or go to college, I told my parents I was going fishing for the rest of my life and they nearly killed me! I went to Scotland with some money I had saved up working in a fish and chip shop and also in a local trout fishery. I got away to Scotland to find my way and that’s what I did.

I fished a lot of competitions and I fished in the Scottish Ladies International Fly Fishing team. I was the youngest member ever to compete for the national teams. Then I did lots of little competitions and I got my first qualification to teach fishing through the Scottish National Anglers Association. I built my business, called To Cast a Fly, when I was 19 years old before returning to Northern Ireland.

There was a lot of trouble going on in Northern Ireland at that time so I ended up in Waterford. I followed the fish, I’ve always been interested in following rivers. So I came onto the Blackwater which is one of the best rivers in the country to fish and I’ve been here for 21 years.

I now manage five miles of it with my partner Noel. We sell fishing and send around 14 people a day out fishing. I am also am a fishing guide and instructor – I teach angling at all levels, for beginners, experienced anglers and angling instructors. I also travel a lot, I am out of Ireland around 100 days of the year taking people on fishing trips to Argentina, Greenland, Norway and Iceland and I attend around 15 angling shows a year where I teach fly casting and sell angling in Ireland.

When it comes to fishing competitions, I don’t really do them anymore. I did at one time as I had to prove myself in a man’s world. I became World Ladies Distance Casting Champion in 2006 at Carton House.  It was the first international major competition I had done, I won by ten metres and that was the last competition which I competed in. I am not a competitor, I’m a teacher and they are two very different things. Competition is about hiding knowledge, teaching is about giving knowledge. It contradicts what I do so that’s why I don’t do it.

Angling gives me the time to just experience the beauty around me. When I go for a walk, I’m usually going from ‘a’ to ‘be’, I might be trying to lose weight. But when I’m fishing, it’s just me in nature, its very grounding, I get to experience every season out on the river. It’s a nice way to spend a few hours, it’s peaceful and quiet. I turn my phone off and don’t answer calls or emails.

I don’t know why more women are not involved in fishing. There are lots of women who love the outdoors and go horse-riding or skiing. I don’t know, maybe they think they have to kill the fish but of course, we don’t kill many fish these days. I practise catch and release myself. Every year I run free days to try to encourage more women into the sport.

Proper tuition for women is what is required and for women to understand all of the basics, about what they are supposed to be doing and then I think we will have more women fishing.

I would say go to novice anglers to find someone who knows what they are talking about. Find someone who is a reputable instructor and give it a go. It will only take a couple of hours and if you don’t like it, then that’s fine. You don’t have to buy the equipment either as instructors will have everything you need.”

Favourite Fishing Destination: The Blackwater, Co. Waterford.

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