Fish&Fly Profile: Marina Gibson

J

John Bailey

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We all think we know Marina Gibson from her TV appearances, her social media presence and her written words, but here we try to get to the real person, the true fly fisher who has burst on the scene so dramatically these past three years.



We increasingly lose our knowledge of history, so it’s worth reminding ourselves that women in the game world especially are not a new phenomenon. Georgina Ballantine (64 pound salmon, 1922), Doreen Davey (59.5 pound salmon, 1924), and Barbara Williams (two Wye salmon for 86 pounds, 1930) are examples of piscatorial excellence a century ago. More recently, women like Anne Voss Bark, Grace Oglesby, Shirley Deterding (at least two 50 pound salmon to her name) and Frances Shane Kydd have always been talked about in the same terms as male anglers. And of course, even more recently, Rebecca Thorpe and Lucy Bowden have brought feminine grace to the fly fishing world, so Marina is following in a long-standing tradition.

The fact remains that there are not as many women fishers as men, nor as many women fishers as there should be. We cannot get away from the fact that the angling world is male-dominated, and that at most gatherings there will be more men than women present, and often men quite happy to tell everyone just how much they know. I have worked around the tackle trade for quarter of a century, and I think the women I have known in it would agree they have faced sexism regularly, albeit much of it unconscious perhaps. This is not new in any way: decades ago Bill McEwan wrote in Angling On Lomond “In 1927 womens’ lib took hold and so did a 36 pound salmon on the line of Mrs Leckie Ewing”. Not sexism per se perhaps, but certainly the type of patronising attitude that women in all sports have faced their lives through. Many years ago, BBC2 aired a programme hosted by Annie Mack that questioned why fly fishing was not as popular amongst women as it should be. The answer? Not enough toilets. A major issue in angling, handily dismissed in a condescending manner, and I am sad to admit that I took part in the programme, so there is no holier-than-thou from me in all this!

When I asked Marina the same question, she mentioned that perhaps danger keeps girls especially from the waterside when they are young. I think most of us would agree that the best anglers start in childhood, so Marina might be correct here, and certainly you don’t see gangs of young girls off with their rods to explore the sport. Marina was talking more about the fear of unhooking a fish, but I still bear the marks of a couple of airgun pellets to remind me that the canal banks of my youth had a dark side. There are two facts here: one is that there are more male anglers than female, but that female anglers can be absolutely as passionate about the sport as men, if not more so. In the world of UK angling, women, especially young glamorous women, tend to be unusual, often disregarded and perhaps somewhat isolated.

Marina hinted that the internet doesn’t always break these problems down and can actually exacerbate them. She was very positive about feeling that, as a young woman, she has to work harder than a man to prove her worth. She was not whinging I emphasise, just stating how she feels, and what I guess many of us would accept as facts? This is one of the many exhilarating things about Marina: her positivity and her exuberance in what she does are boundless. She is also a very, very good fly angler indeed. I have said that the best anglers start in childhood and Marina began at the age of five, in an fishing-mad family. She is quick to give credit to her father in those early years, but it was from the age of eleven that her mother, the equally talented Joanna, became her guiding star. Together they forged a scintillating mother/daughter partnership that has set Marina on this life path. When I asked Marina what her favourite species of fish might be, she replied salmon. Fitting because that would be Joanna’s choice too, but also because Marina so reveres the struggle that salmon undertake to achieve their life purpose, a struggle that she identifies with herself.

The regard with which Marina is now held in the angling world has not fallen into her lap. For years she worked in the City for a commercial property company… and hated every minute of it. She had her exit plan, however, and began to take every angling exam and qualification that was on offer. Marina is not one to do anything by half measures, and shortly after the chaos of Brexit, she reckoned she had enough letters after her name to give the angling guiding world a go. Fishing for a living was a plunge for her that I can understand, one that I made thirty years ago when I left teaching. Giving up a salary is not easy, and she gave herself three years to make the change work for her. It was a crazy journey, but in her words she now “feels free, knowing what I want to do with the confidence of knowing I can do it.”



I asked Marina about angling heroes and her answer was immediate, Joan Wulff. Who else but the American angling darling, who has dominated the fly casting world for over half a century? Steve Rajeff has said of Joan “She’s fantastic. Her records have inspired this generation of women anglers”. Celebrity guide Lori Ann Murphy was even more eloquent when she wrote “Joan is grace, beauty and intelligence all in motion”. This is pretty much how I see Marina, and TV angler (amongst many other things) Paul Whitehouse would say after a recent filming session with her. “Bloody hell, John, I thought I could cast, but this girl is the real business. She was putting flies where I’d never dare to think of going mate. She’s pure genius. I just wanted to slink off the river and hide.”



What Paul recognised are the results of hard work allied to real talent. When Marina started guiding she says “I just took myself off and determined to get my casting right. My exams and my practice took me to a different level, as I began to understand the dynamics of the cast and how little things can mean such big improvements. It was a fascinating journey for me, and I’m learning all the time, and know I’ll never have all the answers. I admit when I am stuck, when I need help, and that all adds to the fishing story of my life.”

If all this sounds too good to be true, Marina is down-to-earth about the tough side of guiding. She’s very rightly frustrated that anglers are very happy to pay what it takes to get a plumber round, but quibble about paying a guide for providing them with the best days of their lives! She knows what it is to be exhausted, mentally, physically and emotionally, after a day of giving every bit of her angling self. To be a guide is not to be a ghillie, and you are doing exactly what it says on the tin, providing every element of angling a client asks for. Go to the Northern Fishing School website, book Marina for the day, and you’ll see her anxiety that everything goes right and that feeling of being responsible for conjuring the perfect day. Again, though, no complaints. “Fishing is my life and the fun I have is endless. As is the exhilaration I feel when I help my companion to a dream fish. We are in the challenge together and success comes to be a drug. I can’t even begin to compare my life now with the one I endured back in London.”

I know guiding is draining, but Marina does not make her life easier. She is an ambassador for Orvis, the Atlantic Salmon Trust, and Fishing For Schools. She plays active roles at the Angling Trust, at Anglers Against Pollution, and at River Action UK. She helped devise Casting In The Park, a scheme to give free casting lessons in a morning, or even a lunchtime. And her latest brainchild is the Cancer and Pisces Club, inspired by the book Cancer and Pisces, written by Mick May. Marina and Mick are working together on this, using the well-documented therapy of fishing to give hope and comfort to those suffering the disease. Not one of these involvements is a jot less than wholehearted and sincere. Even though we might be living in the world of the Greta Thunberg generation, this level of dedication is extraordinary. What drives Marina to use every second of every day to help people and the environment, in the most important and fundamental of ways, is beyond me and probably most of us. But this is what she does with her life.

The last thing I want this insight to do is to come across as some sort of doe-eyed eulogy, because Marina herself would despise that. What I want to do is underline that she deserves to succeed at every level, and that she has earned the right to be taken very seriously indeed. There’s no doubt that she’s in for the long haul, and that we will be hearing of her in years to come. In part, this is down to her skills and commitment, but the age we live in is on her side as well. Women in football, rugby and cricket are accepted on equal terms with men, and this acceptance is all but here in angling. Nor has conservation ever been taken more seriously than it is today. Marina is an elegant and articulate mouthpiece for all us of us who believe in the critical necessity of clean rivers and seas. Yes, she’s a great angler, a great woman, and I don’t hesitate to call her the Joan Wulff of our age.



The post Fish&Fly Profile: Marina Gibson appeared first on Fish & Fly.

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Tees88

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Good piece, but what is the need for it? She's well known, a great angler and fishes top beats around the world. I would say she is definitely accepted in fly fishing world, if that is even a thing?
 

lax0341

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But what‘s the reason for this personal story written by a guest of this forum ? Just advertising ?
There are a lot of fishing celebrities here as active members.
 

Editor

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Why is it odd for an angling writer to profile a well known fly fisher? I really don’t understand. It’s just an article from Fish & Fly that has posted onto the forum.
We don’t get these comments when we feature men.
 

Tangled

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Why is it odd for an angling writer to profile a well known fly fisher?
i guess it wouldn't be odd if it was part of a series; have you done one before, are you doing more? That might be quite interesting.

You might have noticed we're a deeply cynical bunch:) It just looked like professional PR to me - and it would have been the same if it was about Paul Proctor.
 

iainmortimer

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Here's my take on it.

The female part of our population is massively under represented in the fishing world although America does far better than we do in that respect. That is very surprising given that the skills required for fishing have very little to do with testosterone induced power or stature and therefore the door is open to everyone male or female, young or old, able bodied or disabled physically or mentally. The only way to change that is to encourage and support participation and one of the best ways of generating initial interest is to have a role model to which people can relate.

Marina is one of those and so while she is blessed with good looks which might have some bearing on press attention, she also has the drive, ambition and passion for the sport to get the message across. In fact her good looks are an added benefit in saying to people that you don't have to be a grizzly old man (or woman), or to look rough and scruffy to go fishing but its a sport for babes too! That means she has all round appeal for everyone and as far as I am aware, on top of everything else she is a great character to be around.

If the article above is just PR, then that's great as far as I'm concerned. Actually though, I think it is more about the fact that our sport is for babes, for the ordinary folks like most of us and everyone in between and sadly because it shouldn't be needed, to make the strong point that she is not getting where she is just because of her good looks but through a load of plain honest hard graft and a bit of risk taking.

Given that it wasn't until 2005 that we even had a female instructer qualified by the Association Of Advanced Professional Game Angling Instructors and that Marina is still the only female Orvis endorsed guide in the UK amongst a team of over 20, there is clearly still a long way to go. Thankfully though Marina is in good company with people like Samantha Edmunds and Phillippa Hake also having an obvious presence and they could prove to be the saviours of our sport by attracting newcomers of both sexes and of all ages.

The posts I hope to see one day though are those that instead of saying my brother/husband/dad introduced me to fishing are those that say my sister/wife/mum was a great angler and introduced me to fishing...

Robson Greene got to do what he's doing because he was originally an actor and earned a few bob and knew how to approach it....so what? I have friends that spend daft money on fishing trips because they built up their own business or inherited money to do so...again, so what? I can only think that adverse comments about either of those facts is rooted in jealousy.

One of the things I like about fishing is that on the bank no one cares what you do or what your worth and so if Marina is married to the heir of Morrison's so what? I'm glad she is using her ability, available resource and opportunity as she is because I'm pretty sure that in her place I would just be doing my own thing, for my own reasons and my own benefit and so we need people like her.

The saddest part is that I have to agree with Kirsty for my first thoughts on reading the first few comments were that they were sexist and simply illustrated why an article like this was and is needed, as are many more, because if the photos featured Charles Jardine himself and his name was swappd for Marina's, I think the comments would have a very different focus...and in answer to one question, yes at least one of the original posts has been removed.

I shall now get off my soapbox.
 
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MCXFisher

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Once upon a time we had a member of the Forum, Waderbird, a superb caster and AAPGAI qualified. Unfortunately she dropped out of the Forum for reasons that were not expressed at the time. Nevertheless, her experience here suggests that we should look carefully at ourselves and the atmosphere that we create on this Forum.
 

Salad Dodger

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Here's my take on it.

The female part of our population is massively under represented in the fishing world although America does far better than we do in that respect. That is very surprising given that the skills required for fishing have very little to do with testosterone induced power or stature and therefore the door is open to everyone male or female, young or old, able bodied or disabled physically or mentally. The only way to change that is to encourage and support participation and the one of the best ways of generating initial interest is to have a role model to which people can relate.

Marina is one of those and so while she is blessed with good looks which might have some bearing on press attention, she also has the drive, ambition and passion for the sport to get the message across. In fact her good looks are an added benefit in saying to people that you don't have to be a grizzly old man (or woman), or to look rough and scruffy to go fishing but its a sport for babes too! That means she has all round appeal for everyone and as far as I can tell in top if everything else she is a great character to be around.

If the article above therefore is PR, then thats great as far as I'm concerned. Actually though, I think it is more about the fact that our sport is for babes, for the ordinary folks like most of us and everyone in between and sadly because it shouldn't be needed, to make the strong point that she is not getting where she is just because of her good looks but through a load of plain honest hard graft and a bit of risk taking.

Given that it wasn't until 2005 that we even had a female instructer qualified by the Association Of Advanced Professional Game Angling Instructors and that Marina is still the only female Orvis endorsed guide in the UK amongst a team of over 20 there is clearly still a long way to go. Thankfully though Marina is in good company with people like Samantha Edmunds and Phillippa Hake also having an obvious presence and they could be prove to be the saviours of our sport by attracting newcomers of both sexes and of all ages.

The sad part is I agree with Kirsty for I thougth the first few comments simply illustrated why an article like this was and is needed as are many more because if the photos featured Charles Jardine himself and the we swapped his name for Marina's I think the commnets would have had a very different focus...and in answer to one, yes at least one of the original posts has been removed.
Not wanting to hijack the thread or sound “woke” as the young un’s call it, not only is there a lack of female anglers, although I do have the pleasure of some fishing on my beat (good toilets) and I may be speaking from my own personal experiences.

I haven’t seen any anglers from the BAME community on the riverbank and can only think of one angler I have seen whilst fishing overseas.

Again, it might be from my own personal experiences.

Just a thought🤔
 

lax0341

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Why is it odd for an angling writer to profile a well known fly fisher? I really don’t understand. It’s just an article from Fish & Fly that has posted onto the forum.
We don’t get these comments when we feature men.
Is he a member of this forum ?? I think he isn‘t.
 

Salad Dodger

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Once upon a time we had a member of the Forum, Waderbird, a superb caster and AAPGAI qualified. Unfortunately she dropped out of the Forum for reasons that were not expressed at the time. Nevertheless, her experience here suggests that we should look carefully at ourselves and the atmosphere that we create on this Forum.
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Ally a few times in the past and has helped the daughter of one of my old rods with her casting.

An all round nice person.
 

iainmortimer

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Not wanting to hijack the thread or sound “woke” as the young un’s call it, not only is there a lack of female anglers, although I do have the pleasure of some fishing on my beat (good toilets) and I may be speaking from my own personal experiences.

I haven’t seen any anglers from the BAME community on the riverbank and can only think of one angler I have seen whilst fishing overseas.

Again, it might be from my own personal experiences.

Just a thought🤔

Very good point. I could count on one hand those that I have come across...
 

lax0341

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For me it doesn‘t matter if it‘s a female or male person wich is advertised.
We‘ve got a lot of this advertising of persons these days in Germany.
Males and Females.
 
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Editor

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i guess it wouldn't be odd if it was part of a series; have you done one before, are you doing more? That might be quite interesting.

You might have noticed we're a deeply cynical bunch:) It just looked like professional PR to me - and it would have been the same if it was about Paul Proctor.

Yes - you may not have seen the recent profile of Tommy Makinson, a Rugby League player who is a keen fisherman? We have also profiled several river keepers. There will be more.
 

lax0341

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Sad to see the sexist comments are already starting. How depressing. No wonder we dont have many women in fly fishing!
Maybe you should introduce some female salmon fishing experts ? Because you are a member of this forum and the editor.
I think it could be really interesting reading without that feeling that a special person should be advertised.
 

Editor

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Maybe you should introduce some female salmon fishing experts ? Because you are a member of this forum and the editor.
I think it could be really interesting reading without that feeling that a special person should be advertised.
That's what this article is! It's not an advert, Marina is a female fly fishing expert. We post an article about her and the immediate response is to question whether her success is due to her looks, what she wears under her waders, and cynical comments about it being a PR stunt. We posted a similar article recently about a good-looking man who happens to be a successful rugby player and nobody said these things.
I don't really want to subject any more women to that treatment, to be honest! I wish people could just take things at face value - this is just an attempt to provide interesting content for members, like all of the other articles we post. One day I hope women will be judged on merit rather than their appearance, but that seems depressingly unlikely.
 

lax0341

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That's what this article is! It's not an advert, Marina is a female fly fishing expert. We post an article about her and the immediate response is to question whether her success is due to her looks, what she wears under her waders, and cynical comments about it being a PR stunt. We posted a similar article recently about a good-looking man who happens to be a successful rugby player and nobody said these things.
I don't really want to subject any more women to that treatment, to be honest! I wish people could just take things at face value - this is just an attempt to provide interesting content for members, like all of the other articles we post. One day I hope women will be judged on merit rather than their appearance, but that seems depressingly unlikely.
For me it‘s always a bit difficult if people, no matter if male or female, where introduced in forums by guests.
It‘s another case if they are introduced by forum members or even the editors.
I‘m a member of some fishing forums in Germany as well . There you know that the Barschalarm belongs to the chief representative of Shimano Germany , Johannes Dietel, the International Flyfishing Club to Manfred Raguse, the Big Fish Media to Veit Wilde and so on…
 
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