Women's gear, up first
In Confluence Films' new release, 'Providence,' Camille Egdorf returns to an Edenic tropical fishery that reopened to boat traffic after a tragic act of piracy
Piracy wasn’t part of the fishing scene in Alaska and Montana, where Camille Egdorf grew up. Neither were saw-mouthed aquatic predators capable of chomping off a human foot. But fishing at Providence Atoll means confronting both.
Egdorf traveled there with fellow anglers Gerhard Laubscher and Tim Babich, plus production company Confluence filmmakers Jim Klug, Chris Patterson, and Colin Witherill, to fly-fish the world’s most pristine tropical flats after they’d been closed to boat traffic for six years following a spate of attacks from Somali pirates. Providence Atoll is part of the Seychelles, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean 400 miles from Africa's east coast.
In October 2015, when the waters were deemed to be safer and the Seychelles temporarily lifted its moratorium on boat traffic, Egdorf, Babich, and Laubscher (who guided fishing trips to Providence Atoll prior to the attacks) returned with fly rods. Confluence documented the trip in its fifth full-length feature, Providence, which premiered on October 15.
Providence Atoll is a fabled place. The relatively few anglers who have cast lines there issued reports of a fishery so healthy and vital that it seemed like a throwback to prehistoric time when fish—including apex predators like giant trevally—swam in staggering abundance. “It’s the Jurassic Park of the fly-fishing world,” Egdorf told me a few days before the film’s screening. Bonefish, humphead parrotfish, barracuda, Indo-Pacific permit, giant trevally—the list of species that thrive here goes on and on, because there simply are no people around to mess things up.
“You feel like you’re the only people on planet Earth, at the mercy of mother nature,” Egdorf says. “It’s probably the farthest I’ll ever be from home.”
Which is saying something, given that Egdorf guides in Kamchatka, Russia, and Christmas Island, just south of Indonesia, and grew up in the Bristol Bay fishing lodge that her parents operated in Alaska. She spends a lot of time in far-flung places, but Providence Atoll was next-level. So was the jump from freshwater to saltwater fishing.
“It’s been a big learning curve for me,” says Egdorf. “Everything is bigger, faster, stronger, with more teeth.” The 60-pound bumphead parrotfish that she caught in Providence has a beak that hooks hardly penetrate, and it poops green slime when it’s raised for a photo. Giant trevally are moody, 100-pound predators that gobble prey whole—even juvenile turtles and dolphins—and aren’t cowed by anglers.
“There’s a lot of adrenaline that comes with going after big game in the ocean,” Egdorf says.
“It’s a cool way for me to show other women that they can do this too,” says Egdorf. “Fly-fishing is a male-dominated sport, but it’s getting more friendly to women. The development of women’s waders has been huge. Just ten years ago, women wore the exact same waders that men wore, and the fit was awful." In 2013, several companies, including Patagonia, Redington, and Orvis, sank significant R&D into developing women-specific waders. In early 2014, Simms debuted the women’s G3 Guide Wader ($500), which is built like armor but tailored for ladies. “It was a game-changer,” says Egdorf. “It’s durable, and made for the avid angler, but doesn’t look like a trash bag.”
Gear that fits gets more women into fishing. But mostly, women need to see other women doing it. “April Vokey," herself a well-known guide and author, "has been a very positive role model for the industry," Egdorf says. "She's taught a lot of women and inspired them to take up the sport."
Now it’s her turn.