Sad fact: the last time fly-fishing was on the rise, Bill Clinton was in the White House. According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, participation has plummeted nearly 33 percent since 1996, when the sport was riding a surge from A River Runs Through It. Enter April Vokey. A 29-year-old British Columbian steelhead guide and budding TV personality, Vokey has the charisma to give angling a much-needed boost, in part because she’s made it her business to attract the half of the population thus far ignored by the sport: women.
“We needed somebody who could speak to us,” Vokey told me this spring during an outing in the southern Rockies. “Ladies want to fish—without their husbands.”
Vokey was enrolled in a classical-music program at Kwantlen Polytechnic University when she became addicted to fly-fishing. She left school in 2007 and launched her company, Fly Gal, which guides an even mix of men and women on northern British Columbia’s most fabled steelhead rivers. When not guiding, she’s on the road: hosting her monthly World Fishing Network show, Fly Nation, from Iceland and Belize, or speaking before outfits like Trout Unlimited. “She could do for fly-fishing what Mia Hamm did for soccer,” says Kirk Deeter, editor of Angling Trade. That is, she could make it cool for girls to fish as hard as guys. Because while Vokey is serious about her sport, she’s not afraid to flaunt her feminine side. She had on mascara when she told me, “You don’t have to look like a boy to fish like one.” Then she reeled in a 17-inch brown trout.