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Texas Trailblazers

Casting for Diversity

Dana Williams’ early-stage breast cancer experience in 2015 could have thrown her for a loop, but she “used” the opportunity to try something new. That hopeful action changed her life and now may change the lives of others. As president of the Texas Women Fly Fishers, Dana dreams of new ways to invite more women, especially women of color, to the world of fly fishing. She also leads fundraising for conservation.

Don’t assume she does any of that visionary dreaming while knee-deep in an idyllic Hill Country stream. Surrounded by beauty and wildlife, Dana is focused on only one thing.

“I want to catch a fish.”

The avid golfer threw aside her clubs after her first taste of fly fishing. Finally getting a spot in the Casting for Recovery breast cancer survivors retreat in Glen Rose in 2017, she attended with 13 other women. The retreat was sponsored by a group she’d never heard of — Texas Women Fly Fishers.

Dana tied her first woolly bugger, won a new rod/reel combo and took pictures wearing waders and boots. She caught 10 small fish on the Paluxy River, some on a fly she’d tied herself the day before.

“I was really nervous wading in the river at first, but I had so much fun experiencing the water flowing all around me,” she recalls. “And then I felt the ‘drug of the tug’ that we fly fishers all know about.”

Friends say she’s crammed 10 years of fishing into the ensuing three years.

“I’m a high-intensity person,” Dana admits. “I really like the aspect of focusing on one particular task that is so engaging, it frees your mind from everything else. It’s the zone, the flow.”

Dana brings that same intensity to her group’s effort to attract new women to the sport and increase their diversity. With ages in the group ranging from 10-year-old mini-celebrity Deighan Cherry (@marchbrowneyedun) to three octogenarians, Dana went looking for a way to diversify in race as well.

She saw a video featuring Fishanistas creator Jeanine Blair, who introduces women to fishing. Dana reached out to Jeanine, who had just moved to Houston and sought fly fishing connections. The two immediately hatched a plan to take a group of Black women anglers fly fishing in Central Texas this month. It’s just the start.

“My group feels very strongly that fly fishing and our Texas rivers are for everybody,” she says. “We want to bring people together in a divided country in the peace of the river.”

For more information, visit twff.net.

 Earl Nottingham | TPWD

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