Maggie Jordan Heumann suspected that there were more women in the area who, like her, developed their own passion for fly fishing independent of the men in their lives.
Her suspicion was confirmed by the turnout at last year’s inaugural free Women’s Fly Fishing Day, an effort she helped organize, when nearly 100 women turned up to ask questions and hone their techniques.
Now, she’s hoping to see that momentum continue Saturday night at the first female sportswomen-geared storytelling fest at the National Museum of Wildlife Art.
“Legends of the Tetons: A Lady Angler’s Storytelling Night,” grew out of the largely male “Legends of the Snake.” Along with providing networking opportunities, and a forum for women to exchange tips and ask plenty of questions, it will also be a night of camaraderie and laughs as around 10 sportswomen stand up and share their personal, often comical, fishing stories.
One of the night’s storytellers, Clairey Grubbs, who along with friend and owner of Alpine-based Pioneer Anglers started the online group Lady Anglers of WyDaho, will be sharing her story of a lady’s fishing weekend gone wrong. Without giving any spoilers, suffice it to say it involves bad weather, some pouting on Grubbs’ part and ultimately a pretty funny ending.
“I’ve been known to throw a hissy fit and this story is no exception,” she said with a laugh. “But there were some changes in events that make it a pretty satisfying story.”
For women like Grubbs, being invited to participate in a night such as this one is about far more than sharing a few laughs. She sees it as an opportunity to engage with other like-minded women in a supportive community that prides compassion over competition. She’s eager to connect with other women who are out there on their own accord simply because they love to fish.
“There was a bit of selfishness in my wanting to start the group in the first place,” she said. “Mainly, I was looking for other women to fish with.”
Much like Heumann, she’s encouraged by how many women continue to turn up at events like this one. Grubbs, who grew up fishing in her home state of South Carolina, moved at age 19 to Jackson Hole where her interest in being out on the river only continues to grow. Far from considering herself an expert, she’s humbled by how many amazing female anglers are out there and how willing they are to connect.
More than anything, she’s eager to be a part of an event that provides women with a safe forum to ask questions and exchange ideas and tips in what is largely a male-dominated sport.
“A lot of women are shy about asking questions in front of guys,” Heumann said from her years of working at JD High Country Outfitters and High Country Flies. Where guys are more apt to ask about the what’s and where’s, she continued, women are more prone to wonder why. “That’s the biggest difference I see between the genders, and we wanted to provide a space where women felt comfortable asking questions.”
An avid angler, sportswoman and conservationist, Heumann also holds a master’s degree in entomology and aquatic biology. Her lifelong love of bugs led the Alabama native to the river in the first place, based on her dad’s logic that her love of critters should logically lead to fishing. He was right. It stuck.
Her love of fishing and hunting are continuing to grow, and she’s excited to continue meeting more women who share those passions.
“Women out West are a lot less shy about getting outdoors,” she said, “and I think that’s an incredible thing.”
While focused on women, the event is not gender-exclusive. Men are welcome, and the event’s emcee will be local storytelling legend and Jackson Hole News&Guide columnist Paul Bruun.
The free event kicks off Saturday with a happy hour from 6 to 7 p.m. Along with storytelling, local vendors and organizations will be on hand, including Artemis, a sportswomen conservation group, and Orvis 50-50 On the Water Campaign.
Conservation is another part of the equation.
“We want to elevate the voice of sportswomen and encourage taking action about things they care about,” Heumann said. “A lot of times women’s voices get lost in sportsman conversation.”
The first storyteller will take the stage around 7 p.m. Storytellers will include women of all backgrounds, from seasoned river guides to long-time valley fisherwomen to ranch and lodge owners to newcomers.