You may know this week’s guest as @NorthWestFlyGirl or you may even be a part of her Facebook group, United Women on the Fly, but you may not know Heather Hodson. In this discussion, Heather and April chat about her start in fly fishing, her passion for education, and her thoughts on inclusion in fly fishing and online communities. You’ll be inspired by Heather’s love of learning and desire to grow and change, so don’t miss out on Heather’s story. Press play to listen.
Outline of This Episode
- [6:15] Heather didn’t learn much about fly fishing until she caught her first fly-caught fish
- [8:25] Nurse by day, angler all the time
- [15:36] Heather wanted to teach others what she learned
- [18:55] How did she start United Women on the Fly?
- [23:20] The number one barrier to running her Facebook group
- [38:21] Are any conversations too sensitive?
- [45:53] What about the flipside of the coin?
- [48:21] Recent changes in her life
- [53:07] On creating a community
- [59:20] What’s next for Heather?
Heather came into fly fishing relatively late in life
Heather Hodson has always been a Pacific Northwesterner. She was born in Alaska and raised on hunting and fishing in Western Washington. Love of the wild is a family tradition. Her dad was a hunting guide in Alaska and her uncle owned a lodge in Bristol Bay.
Despite her outdoors background, Heather didn’t pick up a fly rod until she was 29 years old. It took her a full year to catch anything on a fly, but when she did, she was hooked. After that first catch, she decided to learn anything and everything she could about fly fishing.
Education has helped Heather through nursing and fly fishing
Even though Heather is a nurse by trade, she lives to learn and educate others. A self-professed nerd, she completely geeks out over fishing. She researches fishing through books and YouTube videos and asks questions from mentors to learn as much as she can about the sport.
Education has helped her through stressful situations working in the hospital and has greatly improved her angling skills. Heather mentions that a day at the hospital is just like a day at the river—you never know what is going to happen. So, just like she checks for the ABCs as a nurse (airway, breath, circulation), she checks the ABCs on the water (assessment, bugs, casting). She remarks that to be a better angler you have to educate yourself.
How Heather started United Women on the Fly
Heather wanted to help others learn from her mistakes and also create a community of women that she could fish with. This is why she started Spokane Women on the Fly back when Instagram was still new and social media hadn’t had such an impact on fly fishing yet. Since this group actively grew so quickly, to reach more women she started United Women on the Fly, a closed Facebook group to welcome women into the sport. Heather now spends 40+ hours a week managing the group with the help of a team of admins and moderators.
Running a group of 4500 women has taught her more than just fly fishing. Heather’s experience has caused her to examine what it truly means to be inclusive. She had always thought of herself and her group as being inclusive, but upon closer inspection, she realized that she was only targeting others that looked like her. Women of color were underrepresented not just in fly fishing as a sport but in her own group. Listen in to learn what Heather is doing to actively create inclusivity in United Women on the Fly and in the sport of fly fishing.
Resources mentioned on this episode
Connect with Heather Hodson
- United Women on the Fly
- United Women on the Fly Facebook group
- @NorthWestFlyGirl on Instagram
- Spokane Women on the Fly
Connect with Anchored
- On Instagram: @Anchored_Outdoors
- On Facebook: @AnchoredOutdoorsOfficial
- On YouTube: Anchored with April Vokey
- Subscribe to Anchored
Photo of Heather taken by Ryan Gossett.