‘More emphasis on fun’: Clinton County angler eager to promote youth, women’s programs

When Amidea Daniel set up her first beginner’s fly fishing class geared specifically to women in 2012, it reached its cap of 25 registrants on the first day it was advertised. Two days later, the length of the waiting list prompted her to arrange for a second class the following month.

In the years since, she has expanded this and other programs for women and children as part of her duties working for the state Fish and Boat Commission as the Northcentral Region education specialist covering 14 counties.

Her success with these programs, along with her involvement with a women’s group at the commission called the Female R3 workgroup, highlighted a need for programs that encourage women to participate in outdoor activities.

Because women often help plan outdoor activities for their children by packing food and gear and driving to venues, coordinating programs for women dovetails nicely with coordinating programs for youth.

Daniel was a natural fit for the agency’s new position, the youth and women’s program coordinator, which will expand fishing programs for women and families statewide.

Removing the barriers

Daniel enjoys the camaraderie of women-only groups that is not found in mixed gender classes, although she doesn’t turn away men who ask to participate.

“The atmosphere is entirely different in a women’s only class taught by a female instructor,” Daniel said. “Women are not as inhibited, as they would be in a class of mostly men, from asking questions they assume all men would know. When in class with mostly women, they help and encourage each other more and share life stories.”

The 37-year-old Mill Hall resident grew up fishing, hunting, camping and exploring the natural world with her grandfather and father. Ultimately, this passion led her to earn a degree in outdoor resource management from Lock Haven University and then guided her to the Fish and Boat Commission.

Daniel’s programs are focused on removing the barriers that prevent families from enjoying the outdoors by answering common questions — where to go, what to bring, where to find loaner equipment. Along with basic fishing skills, her courses include advice that make going outdoors easier, like having a backpack ready for fishing at a moment’s notice.

“We also help parents understand that fishing with children isn’t just about catching fish. Children are more in the moment. They are enjoying the whole experience, playing with gizmos and gadgets, putting a worm on the hook, feeling the water, looking for insects and throwing stones,” Daniel said. “We place less emphasis on being quiet and more emphasis on fun. We help adults understand that their vision of success is different from their children’s.

“When I was a child going fishing, I remember the sound of the leaves in the trees, the smell of coffee and camp food cooking and the feel of the water,” Daniel said. “These are the same types of memories we want to provide to children.”

Many women are drawn to fly fishing because the rhythmic motions look peaceful and zen-like and they prefer the constant movement more than the sit-and-wait approach of bait fishing.

Fly fishing often reinvigorates memories of time spent with grandfathers and husbands. Many women also enjoy the social aspect of fishing and find the courses enable them to connect with fishing buddies in their area.

Easy to learn

After her initial success with the classroom-based beginner’s fly fishing course, she expanded opportunities for women by offering advanced courses that take women to the water site to put their skills into action. Some of those participants then are invited to help her teach new beginners.

“When the beginners see that someone who started fly fishing only a year ago is now helping to teach, they realize that it’s not as hard as they may have thought,” Daniel said. The teaching assistants also can mentor beginners by joining them on fishing trips.

Pennsylvania has more than 83,000 miles of streams and 1.5 million acres of public land that provide free access to state parks and waterways. To tap these underused resources, the Fish and Boat Commission organizes programs such as trout stocking, hatchery tours and fishing festivals to provide families with alternatives to organized sports and computer games.

The agency also sponsors a course called Trout in the Classroom — which Daniel has and will continue to teach in northcentral Pennsylvania — that reaches more than 35,000 youth every year and encourages teachers to connect children with local waterways. The course introduces youth to the physics and mechanics of fishing poles, local geography and ecology that can be part of the curriculum.

Love of nature

As part of her new duties, Daniel will be promoting established, successful regional programs throughout the state and will identify, develop and pilot new programs that recruit and retain the non-traditional angler.

Along with surveys from program participants and insights from her women’s group at work, Daniel also will get valuable feedback from a new group she set up, the Pennsylvania Women’s Angler group.

The group, which is composed of women from her fly fishing courses, also provides participants with a platform for networking to share tips about locations, tackle and equipment, and to cultivate and support this activity throughout the state.

Steven Kralik, director of the agency’s bureaus of outreach, education and marketing, said the commission has done a good job with reaching the traditional angler, primarily older men.

The commission now is expanding its focus to the whole family. It aims to get more people interested in outdoor sports that, unlike many other types of sports, are lifelong activities. The programs promote a healthy lifestyle and build an appreciation for natural resources and the communities within them.

“We always put the protection of our natural resources first,” Kralik said. “However, we know that the long-term protection of our resources is dependent on younger generations. The programs expose them to outdoor activities so they grow to love their natural world like we do and become committed to leaving them in even better shape than they received them.”

To learn more about programs for women and youth, check out the commission’s new Facebook page called FISH PA-Youth and Women’s programs.

The page will provide details about programs most of which, because of their popularity, require registration. Registration can be done from the commission’s calendar page.

The Facebook page will continue to change over the next year as users “Like” and “Share” content and interact by sharing their own fishing tactics, stories and photos. Photo albums from past events provide a feel for program activities.

In addition, a separate Instagram page will be initiated in the upcoming months.