Abbie Schuster is a Thomas & Thomas Ambassador ( you can see her profile here) and a strong advocate for getting more women involved in fly fishing. When we found out she was hosting a women's only meet up in West Dennis, MA the night before the Cheeky Schoolie Tournament we wanted in! After attending the event we wanted to pick Abbie's brain and find out what her inspiration for hosting this great event was. Check out her answers below, and if you're a woman who's been thinking about fishing the tournament next year we hope this short interview will put you over the edge and we'll see you at next year's meet up!
What inspired you to host a women’s only meet up at the Cheeky Schoolie tournament?
The Cheeky Schoolie Tournament is such a great competition that brings anglers together to fish for stripers in a sustainable manner. When I first participated I realized there were hardly any women involved, this was baffling to me because it is the largest fly fishing tournament in the world!! I wanted to change that. Ted, one of the owners of Cheeky, was very supportive and 100% on board! This is when I decided to host a women’s only meet up the night before. I wanted to take the intimidation factor out and create a fun and comfortable entryway for more women to get involved in the tournament. This past event was our 2nd annual meet up and we had a wonderful group of women who came together as a community to fish.
What's the meet up about?
The meet up is about bringing women together to have fun and fish before the tournament. I did not make this portion of the tournament competitive because I did not want to create a competitive environment. I wanted to create a fishing community that would last long after the kick-off event. Many of the women who met each other at the first kick off fish together throughout the year. When I heard that, I knew this event was a success. I am excited for this event to grow every year and get more women out on the water together.
What's the demographic of women who attend? Do you recommend being at a certain skill level to attend?
Any and all levels should join! In fly fishing, there is always room to grow and learn. Even if you have been fishing for your whole life there is space to improve. That's why I like fly fishing, it can never truly be mastered. I have women who have fished for many years attend along with women who have never fly fished. This to me is the most beautiful part of the event. There was zero judgment or even notice of skill level or experience. We all just fished. It does not matter your skill level, just come be part of the community.
What's your favorite part of the event?
This year most of the women who participated the previous year came back and acted like no time had passed. We caught up about weddings, new babies, new gear, and travel; everyone was thrilled to be back together. There were also some new faces that were instantly part of the fun and no barriers or walls were created. Another favorite part is the genuine excitement about fly fishing. A lot of fish were caught during the event and everyone was cheering and supporting each other through it all. The competition aspect of the tournament was left for the next morning and we all caught fish and had a great time together.
Who won the epic giveaway you coordinated this year?
Alice! She is such a wonderful woman who has attended both years of the women’s kick-off event! She is an avid angler who just reported to me she caught her biggest striper yet on her new T&T rod! I am excited to hear where her rod will take her this year and at the next schoolie tournament!
Do you think you'll continue the tradition next year?
Of course!! I can’t wait! My goal is to get as many women as possible at this event. The more the merrier! This year our group grew and it only added to the fun. I feel very grateful for the contributions from Cheeky and Thomas and Thomas who made this event even better through continued support, donations, and overall stoke.