Pressure mounts on Britain’s oldest fly-fishing club to admit women after Garrick Club vote

King Charles patron to gentleman’s club subject to calls for female inclusivity

Athena Stavrou
Tuesday 28 May 2024 17:49 BST
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Britain’s oldest fly-fishing club is facing mounting pressure from campaigners to admit women for the first time in its history.
Britain’s oldest fly-fishing club is facing mounting pressure from campaigners to admit women for the first time in its history. (Getty Images)

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Britain’s oldest fly-fishing club is facing mounting pressure from campaigners to admit women for the first time in its history.

The FlyFishers’ Club was established in 1884 and currently has around 600 male members - with King Charles as a patron.

While it has strictly been gentleman’s only in its 193-year history, there have been calls in recent weeks for change as female anglers fight for the club to be more inclusive.

Marina Gibson, a fly fishing instructor and guide, said she would “absolutely love” to join the club and called for them to embrace change.

She said during an event at the Hay Festival: “I don’t go to London that often but if I did, I would just love to go and sit and read a book and talk about fishing to other fishermen.

“I think a lot of people have a difficult time with change and I completely understand that people want to keep it as it is, but I think that there are so many really hardcore women anglers out there and they would all love a chance to go and sit there at lunchtime – because we’re not allowed in at lunch – and just chill.”

Marina Gibson, a fly fishing instructor and guide, is calling for the club to include women
Marina Gibson, a fly fishing instructor and guide, is calling for the club to include women (Getty Images)

Her statement came weeks after the renowned Garrick Club voted to allow female members for the first time since 1831.

Ms Gibson echoed another campaigner, Lucy Mantle, chairman and co-founder of the City Flickers fly-fishing organisation, who wrote an open letter to the club’s president earlier this month.

The open letter posted on Instagram reads: “In light of the recent press reports on the Garrick Club, I thought the timing might be right to raise my concerns.

“I am of course aware that the club was founded in 1884 as a ‘gentlemen’s club for fly fishers’, but it now seems increasingly anachronistic and archaic to continue to ban women given the vast societal changes that have occurred.

“There are many of us – both men and women – who view the policy as indefensible, unsustainable and, above all, unwise for a whole series of reasons.”

She added: “Whatever the fears of some members, I can confidently assert that, although we may sometimes wear colourful dresses, most women anglers… know how to behave.”

She signed off: “I am sure this issue has arisen on several previous occasions. But, as the Garrick experience has shown, it won’t go away and momentum is building. Please help do the right thing. And yes, I would have liked to join.”

The Garrick Club admitted women for the first time in its history this month
The Garrick Club admitted women for the first time in its history this month (Charlotte Proudman)

The Independent has contacted the FlyFishers’ club for a comment but the president, Alastair Collett, told The Telegraph that “the matter is under consideration” and may be put to a membership vote.

He said: “The rules are the rules, and until someone changes them, they remain the rules.”

The Garrick Club admitted women for the first time in May after 60 per cent of the club’s 1,500 members reportedly answered in favour of the change.

Women were previously only allowed to enter the club if invited and accompanied by a man.

The decision comes after The Guardian published the gentleman club’s membership list earlier this year, which included the King, Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden and Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove as well as entertainment figures including Sting, Benedict Cumberbatch and the actor Brian Cox.

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