With some tweaks, the colorful minnow and feathered lures would make pretty cute earrings, I thought, or great Christmas tree ornaments.
Spread across a table, the lures were bright and arresting — and would be to crappies, muskies and smallmouth bass as well, as a half-dozen other female students and I learned from the biologist teaching our Advanced Fishing class. She said that many fish species see other spoon-shaped lures, called spinners, as a “shiny, fun thing that’s going to get my attention and I can’t resist it.”
A classmate exclaimed, “Spinners are my favorite!”
Advanced Fishing was my final class in the Becoming an Outdoors Woman program, a two-and-a-half-day workshop offered to women to promote interest and ease in the great outdoors. In this workshop, hosted by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources and held in Davis, a town partly surrounded by the Monongahela National Forest, I learned not only how to lure a fish, prepare wild game, back a boat trailer down a ramp and shoot a handgun, but also the ins and outs of stream ecology.
While I love the great outdoors, I am not a hunter, an ecologist or an advanced angler — in fact, I had only fished in fresh water twice before the program. Once in 2014, for rainbow trout in Sun Valley, Idaho, and before that, on June 10, 1987, with my grandfather at East Fork Lake in Batavia Township, Ohio. I caught a bluegill that I brought home in a bucket. I remember these details because they are preserved in a letter 7-year-old me wrote my grandfather that we found tacked to the inside of his closet door after his death. (This testament to my first fish and my grandfather is now framed on my living room wall.)
Some 36 years later, after spending my adulthood in the country’s largest cities, I have surprised those who know me, and to some extent myself, by deciding to build what will be my first house on a five-acre parcel in West Virginia’s Allegheny Mountains. Exploring my new backyard by getting to know its people and attractions — and favorite pastimes — was my next step.
Becoming an Outdoors Woman, or BOW, workshops have been around since 1991, and West Virginia hosted its first one in 1997. Conceived during a conference in 1990 at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point on “Breaking Down Barriers to Participation of Women in Angling and Hunting,” they aim to close the gender gap by offering women a chance to learn outdoors activities from and alongside other women….