“Drift” into this shop

I hate that feeling. If you’re a woman who enjoys doing activities that are often viewed as a man’s sport, you know the feeling I am talking about.

Take fly fishing. You walk into a fly shop and the “guys” are standing there, having a Tim’s and talking about their latest fishing adventures. When they see you, they stop talking. They turn.  And stare.

I suppose I would stare if I saw someone else standing in the water fly fishing, wearing a life jacket!

Then the fellow who actually works there approaches you with a curious smile. Often as not, he asks you if you’re there to get something for your husband/boyfriend/other half (who surely must be the one who fishes).

That used to happen to me. So I’d take a deep breath, stand tall and say something like “Nope, I’m out of leader material, I need some Hendricksons, Adams and maybe some Hare’s ears. And some new hemostats”.

That usually made the guys shake their heads and wonder how this woman knew their language. But it wasn’t comfortable. Or pleasant.

There are shops where I so feel comfortable, like The Tying Scotsman in the Margaree Valley.

Over the years, I’ve entered plenty of fly shops. I’ve often had that feeling, where I am something of an imposter trying to blend in. Even though I do know the language and can talk about casting for steelies in the winter, or nymphing or what it is like to hook a brookie on a dry, it still happens.

But thankfully, not all the time. It was about 2 years ago when I needed a 6-weight fly rod. I’d done my homework, narrowed it down to 2 different brands, and headed into Toronto to this new fly shop called Drift Outfitters (http://drift-outfitters.shoplightspeed.com/). My friends Alex and Sean both told me I’d like the shop, and a website check showed me they carried both brands. So, I ventured downtown with a bit of trepidation, a thick skin and a credit card.

(Now before this becomes an advertisement for Drift, please return to the original premise of this story – the feeling of entering somewhere and feeling out of place, on display or otherwise uncomfortable. Pause for a moment and think about that feeling. Put yourself there, so right now, so you’re feeling a bit off balance and delicate as you continue reading…)

I strode into the shop, prepared with a selection of retorts to throw at the “guys”.  There were two young men behind the counter and I metaphorically “braced” myself for that look and the question.

But to my complete surprise, Harry looked up, grinned and said, “Hey there, how can I help you today?” And the look on his face was welcoming and interested and ready to help. I was startled and delighted and blurted out “A 6-weight. I need a new 6-weight”. And before I knew it, Harry was out from behind the counter, drilling me with questions, and ready to show me a few different rods.

There truly are more women in the river in 2018!

Why was this shop different? Or why was Harry (and then Chris, and Alex and Rob, the owner) different?

I think it’s a combination of a few things.

  1. First, more women are fly fishing and so more women come into fly shops, and staff need to be prepared. There was a time when I’d be the only woman on the river, and now, I take great delight in seeing other women out there, casting and bringing in (and releasing) fish.
  2. Second, I think that many of us have done a great job with our children promoting gender equity. Jaime once told her Dad that she wanted to do a girls’ sport…she wanted to fish! These young men are Jaime’s generation, and they love everything about fishing and want to share that love. Couple that with their gender perspectives, and you get a reception that makes everyone feel welcome.
  3. Third, I believe that the owner sets the tone for the welcome. Rob has an unpretentious way of making each client feel like we are the most important person who’s walked into the store. Ever. And that makes all the difference.

In these days of #metoo that seem to colour the newspapers and air waves, it is so refreshing to walk into a shop and know you are both welcome and wanted.

So, yes, now that I think about it, this I actually this is a plug for Drift Outfitters! But  even more so, it is a plug for their families and the people who have influenced these young men to become the way they are. They have created a wonderful, welcoming store, and they give me hope that the generations of young people coming after me are ready to make a difference…starting with one fly fisher after another!

I do ocassionally catch a salmon!



Published by Susan Gesner

A skilled professional with a wealth of experience in a variety of facilitation, consultation, education and research fields. I am known for my leadership, strong interpersonal skills and my ability to bring teams together for a common goal. I strive to incorporate my own and other's passion for the environment and sustainability for the future. Oh, and I love to run, fly fish, ski and make music!

3 thoughts on ““Drift” into this shop

  1. Great article Susan ….and I love the Tying Scotsman and all the other great advice you provided setting me up for my Margaree adventure several years ago. I will make a point of checking out Drift when next in town. They sound like a great group of people. PS. I do remember an occasion when I was introducing Peter to fly fishing one fine day on the Credit. As beginners luck would have it Pete hooked into a freight train of a salmon that took him for a harrowing 1 minute ride….then snap. One thing we did note that day was a remarkable number of ladies plying their fine fly Fisher skills up and down the river banks. Twas delightfully refreshing to see …and all were in their respective Zen world that such a peaceful enterprise casts on all Reminded me of a river scene visions of River Runs through It combined with Oh Brother Whereart Thou!

  2. Hi Susan,
    We read your article and noticed that you were actually taking about our son Harry who happen to work at Drift. We always knew that he lives, eats and breaths fishing, so we made sure he had enough opportunities to expand his knowledge and skills about it. We have also made every effort to raise him with an awareness about gender equality. It filled our hearts with pride that Harry’s interactions reflect this belief. We like to thank you for not only noticing his special trait but also acknowleding it in your blog.
    We wish you years of good fishing with your 6 footer 🙂
    Ra’ana and Ali
    (Harry’s mom and dad)

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