Women Can Be Hooked on Fishing at Any Age
By Heather Bennett
The story of Gaynelle Moore’s adventures paints a picture of women in fishing that challenges the stereotype of fishing as a male dominated sport. I recently spoke to Moore, a local resident, about her love of fishing. I found out that it’s not just a boys’ club. Women are hooked on fishing, too.
Moore, who grew up in Alabama, enjoys freshwater and saltwater fishing. She has been on the water almost her entire life one way or another. Her grandparents spent time with her and her sister, teaching them how to fish and taking them on fishing trips. Her uncle taught her how to fly fish on his 5-acre lake.
After graduating from the University of Alabama, Moore moved to the Emerald Coast to work at the Tactical Air Warfare Center at Eglin Air Force base as a technical and scientific illustrator, preparing documents for the commander’s briefings. “We were concentrating pretty hard on Vietnam at the time,” stated Moore. But during her free time, she loved to fish in the local waters. “Florida is a treasure of both saltwater and freshwater fishing.”
As a woman who is only 5 ft. 2 in. tall, Moore was tired of buying store-bought rods that were made for taller people. “After I retired, I promised myself one thing, that I’d learn how to make custom fishing rods,” Moore said. She kept her promise. She built boat rods, and fishing rod butt wraps for herself. “I’ve caught a lot of fish with those.”
Throughout her life, Moore has had the opportunity to fish all over, from Alaska to South America and throughout many places in the Caribbean. After hurricane Mitch hit in the fall of 1998, Moore visited Roatan, Honduras, with a fly fishing group to take supplies to the island, and also do a little fishing. According to Moore, they have outstanding, world-class wade fishing. She made friends there and continues to stay in touch and visit when she can. She’s caught a 32 lb. Blackfin Tuna in Roatan and a 58 lb Grouper. Another favorite place of hers is the Sea of Cortez in Baja. “When the tide comes in, you better be ready,” said Moore. “They have an outstanding variety of fish.”
Moore has participated in fishing tournaments through several fishing groups over the years, including The Emerald Coast Flyrodders, a local saltwater fly fishing group based in Fort Walton. That group was succeeded by The Panhandle Flyfishers of Destin. Moore has also attended the International Women’s Fly Fishing Festival. She’s met some of the top leaders and guides in fly fishing, and important women in fly fishing, including Joan Wulff, who held the record as champion caster from 1943-1960 for distance against all male challengers. Wulff’s record distance was 161 feet. She is known as the “First Lady of Fly Fishing” and has her own fishing school. Unlike traditional fishing when you’re casting a weight, bait or a lure, “in fly fishing you’re casting the line,” stated Moore. “I don’t know anyone that can cast 161 feet.” It’s definitely an impressive cast for anyone.
You can currently find Moore at Somerby, a senior assisted living facility in Santa Rosa Beach. She is teaching fly tying to a handful of people who are interested in learning. “I’m starting with the best international fly first. It’s not complicated to tie. Then I’m going to move to other flies I know that work,” said Moore.
If you are interested in learning how to fly fish, Moore suggests free fly fishing classes at Orvis. You can visit the company’s page at www.orvis.com for a class schedule. Moore also recommends Bass Pro shop. “They have a large supply of fly tying material and professional fly fishing advice,” she said. For more information about The Panhandle Flyfishers, you can visit their website at www.pan-fly.com. If you are a woman and interested in becoming a more active angler, “Go for it!” Moore says.