Merchant & Makers: Exploring the allure of fly fishing with Marina Gibson

Interview with Marina Gibson: the modern face of fly fishing.

Fly fishing is so much more than simply gentlemen of a certain age on the river-bank dressed head-to-toe in tweed. Yes, there are still JR Hartley characters, and thank goodness for that, as who else are qualified and passionate enough to pass down decades of experience and bequeath family heirlooms of treasured fly boxes and split cane rods to the next generation…? Yet, for a pastime to continue over the decades, it needs to evolve and appeal to the younger generations; they need to be inspired by someone they can relate to as well as the revered and iconic ‘old-masters’.

Marina Gibson is one such ‘some-one’. Marina is young and female, so not a traditional fly- fishing figure, however, one who has more fly-fishing in her veins – she was taught by her mother – than most. Marina is a role model for any fly-fishing beginner, so much so that she is an ambassador for the angling omnipresence Orvis. Here, Marina, admits to an obsession for the sport and an assertion that it is all about technique and timing, so, with enough passion and practice, anyone can become an accomplished fly fisherman, woman, boy, girl…

We hope you enjoy the interview…

Out of all the sports and outdoor activities out there to participate in, how and why did you get involved in fly fishing?

My passion for fishing began at a very young age, blossoming in my school holidays when my family and I would venture to the wilds of Scotland. My mother has definitely been my inspiration from the word go! A devoted fly fisher, she taught me how to fish so I am eternally grateful to her.

On your website, you describe fishing as an “obsession” and an “unreachable itch”. Why does fishing make you feel this way?

I know I have said that I have fished from a wee pup but I only started fishing nearly every weekend about 3 years ago, I can’t go more than 2 weeks without wetting a fly. I constantly dream about fishing – I bear the curse! Fishing runs through my veins and I am sure, like all passions, it will only get stronger. It’s a part of me.

With a few notable exceptions, fly fishing has historically been perceived as a male- dominated sport, which has always seemed a bit odd to me as there’s nothing particularly masculine about it. Why do you think it has this perception and is it still a largely male domain these days?

I totally agree. You don't have to be physically strong to fly-fish. You do not have to put muscle effort into the cast – it’s more technical than you think, the timing of each and every cast is the key to success. For sure it is a male dominated sport, but more and more ladies are getting involved which is so exciting. I heard that, historically, if a lady hooked a fish she would pass the rod over to the man, whether it be a ghillie, friend or husband, to play and land. These days it would be the last thing a lady would give up!

I feel that a lot of ladies do not approach the waters because of what the men will think. That is why joining a club such as the Orvis Ladies Fly-Fishing Club is useful because it allows you to build your confidence up. Once you are ready to fly the nest, you will soon feel comfortable turning up to a lake, river or sea on your own and show the boys up!

Aside from fly fishing, what other forms of angling do you partake in?

Following in my mother’s footsteps, I’ve developed a highly adept skill set for trout, salmon and sea fishing. Last year I dabbled in coarse fishing, which to my surprise I really enjoyed. My aim this year is to land a carp on the fly, watch this space!

Every angler has their dream of the perfect fishing trip – can you describe yours?

I have been lucky enough to journey to some incredible destinations, pursuing stunning, muscle-strapped fish of all shapes and sizes, but I know that I have barely scratched the surface. My bucket list grows by the day.

For me I am fascinated by the sea, I haven’t done a lot of fly fishing in salt water so it is something I am intrigued by. I am off to Belize this August to hunt down the shadows across the flats. The main species I will be looking for are the tarpon, bone fish and permit.

I am fascinated by all the different species there are in the world, especially ones that I haven’t caught thus far. This year, I am also hosting my first trip to Zambia in October, we will be hunting tiger fish, the ones with the crazy teeth! Each individual can choose their itinerary on a day to day basis whether it be relaxing by the pool, walking or driving safari or canoeing along the river.

For newcomers to the sport, can you pass down any hints or tips to improve their chances of catching more fish?

Get your fly in the water, don’t stay in the same place for too long – move quickly, keep your elbows in and take time on your casting, don’t rush it, the faster you get the more likely your line with crumble. Practice, practice, practice! It really does make you perfect. Most importantly, enjoy yourself, love the outdoors, cherish the wild and take your friends along with you – life is better when it’s shared with another.

Within the angling community, is there anyone in particular that you looked up to as great role model, anyone you admire?

Lilla Rowcliffe – she is fantastic. She lives next door to my mother in Scotland. One of my favourite stories among the many is when she was in India and they were trying to catch carp. Hours went by without a nibble so she decided to take matters into her own hands and find out what they were feeding on. She found a group of monkeys that were hanging from the trees and each time their droppings fell into the water they were gobbled up by the carp. After matching the hatch, she found herself knees deep landing carp left, right and centre.

You’ve recently become an official female brand ambassador for Orvis. How does it feel to be associated with this iconic fishing brand?

Orvis is a great all round brand for fly-fishing, they are known worldwide as one of the most influential fishing brands so I am still pinching myself after being asked to jump on their band wagon. Having a relationship with Orvis has been a delight, I have learnt so much from them and they have helped me believe that companies have a strong view on getting the young involved.

As a fan of Orvis rods, I’m extremely envious! Have you had a chance to put some of their rods through their paces yet, and if so, how did they perform?

I sure have! They kindly gave me a Clearwater 13ft 7wt salmon rod, which I used up in Scotland at the end of last season. I am hoping to christen it properly when I go to Iceland with my mother on an Angling IQ trip. I have also taken full advantage of the demo kit, so far I have used numerous trout, pike and saltwater rods, they are brilliant, they ping everything out with ease and they are beautiful to cast with.

There seems to be concerns within the sport that there aren’t as many youngsters coming into fly fishing nowadays as in previous decades. As a young person yourself, what do you think the reasons for that are, and what can be done to reverse the decline?

This has been highlighted and it is a shame. However, I do feel like fishing is becoming more and more acknowledged and I hope in the near future we will see an increase in young people enjoying the sport. I had the most heart-warming message from an amazing man the other day saying that he is trying to get his 10-year-old girl to catch the fly fishing bug, so he has been showing her my fishing Facebook page in the hopes it will inspire her to take up the sport. This was the best message in the world to receive.

You’re currently taking courses in angling instruction – is this with a specific goal in mind?

After completing my 1st4sport Level 1 in Coaching Angling, I am now waiting to do my Level 2 next year, which will enable me to teach anyone, including the young, the old, the disabled, and everyone in between. I love teaching people, especially when I see them getting as much enjoyment out of the day as I do.

What fishing location holds the fondest memories for you and why?

I find it hard to answer a question like this because I have so many. Each location I have ever been to I remember dearly, but I have to say that one of my favourite trips I have done so far is the Spey. You can read all about it here: http://bit.ly/2a2tVUd

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