Fishing has always been a part of Ashley Wilmont’s life. She’s passionate about being a fisherman, and on Wednesday, Wilmont, who is part of the U.S. Women’s Fly Fishing Team, spoke at the Susquehanna Trout Unlimited chapter meeting at First Presbyterian Church about her experiences competing for the red , white and blue.
His pride, passion and commitment to the fishing world in general, not just fly fishing, is very evident as he is also a proud and long time member of the Penn State-State College sector of the local Trout Club Unlimited.
“It’s always been something I really enjoy. The ability to come together as a team, like any high school football team in America or something, we have the same camaraderie and togetherness of a family.” Wilmont said.
The mission of the USA Women’s Fly Fishing Team is to develop the highest quality competitive fly fishing team to represent the United States at the FIPS-Mouche World Competition each year.
They are dedicated to excellence in the sport of competitive fly fishing; practice and promote stream conservation; to understand and promote the value of our waterways; encourage women to participate in sport; and fostering international friendships.
Wilmont hopes to see more women involved in fly fishing.
“I think the most important aspect of getting more women involved with the sport of competitive fishing, which has been primarily a male-dominated sport, would be to try to make our awareness greater in the public.” Wilmont said. “A lot of women come up to me and ask how they can get into the sport and my answer is always to get involved and find someone who can raise your interest level.”
Women’s fly fishing is now sanctioned by the Confederation Internationale de Peche Sportive, which represents 50 million competitive anglers from 78 different countries around the world.
Wilmont, born in Unionville in Chester County, had the opportunity to go to Norway and compete with her U.S. teammates as well, which she enjoyed.
“Going to Norway with the women’s team meant many different difficulties. We had to sail, just the amount of gear was unbelievable. I think I had seven or eight huge duffel bags full of just gear.” Wilmont said. “I’m from small-town, rural Pennsylvania, born and raised, and that’s all I’ve ever known. Obviously, I never had the opportunity to travel much, or fly internationally, so this was all completely new and completely foreign for me “.
Wilmont’s brother took her to Newark Liberty International Airport with her many bags of gear for the approximately 9-10 hour flight across the Atlantic Ocean to Oslo, Norway. From there, it was a 2-3 hour drive through the remote wilderness of the country.
“It was such a beautiful and scenic ride, through mountains, rivers and forests,” Wilmont pointed out.
Once in Norway, a local guide helped Wilmont and his companions navigate the area and taught them about fishing in the region.
“We’ve caught everything from wild trout, grayling, pike, powans and arctic char. My favorite was the grayling, they’re just beautiful fish to look at.” Wilmont said. “The salmon were about two hours or so north of where we were. We just missed getting on the podium at the closing ceremonies.”
Wilmont and the United States were one fish behind the third-place finishers who took home the bronze. Although they didn’t get bronze or better, next year’s competition is in Canada, and Wilmont is hoping for another shot at a medal.
“Next year, in 2023, the competition will be held in northern British Columbia, Canada, and we definitely want to bring it back on that stage this time.” Wilmont said.
The CIPS has formally requested the International Olympic Committee to recognize fishing as an Olympic sport. The United States Fishing Confederation supports women’s fly fishing and believes it will advance this goal.
“My ultimate goal is to be able to get more young people in general to come out and get involved with the sport or get involved with a local publication of Trout Unlimited, also yes, get more women into the sport of competitive fishing fly will always be a bit of a challenge, but I think over the years, we can gradually increase that.” Wilmont said.