Outdoor adventurer, social media phenom and Rockagator Contributor Bridget Fabel describes her beginnings and details the challenges that she has confronted while being a self-made woman in the outdoor industry.
The Trail Head:
Hunting and fishing for a living sure has a lot of perks. However, it wasn’t always like this, and it took a lot of time and hard work to get the opportunity to live my passion every single day. In addition to being a full-time college student, I use to work 2-3 jobs at all times to help pay for tuition, rent, and life. In 2016, I started using Instagram to show my fly-fishing photos. I had about 1,000 followers at this time from high school and college friends. In May of that same year, my Instagram began to gain recognition for my fly fishing photos, and my Instagram gradually grew. I’ve gained 49,000 followers in the 2 years since and 100% organically.
At first I didn’t understand what I was getting into, but that summer of 2016 I started catching on. I realized that I was doing something different from others. What set me apart in the fly fishing and hunting industries was hard work, drive and ability to build a self-made following. I see people piggy back off the success of others by learning their spots, using their techniques, and never giving them credit for even the photos. There are also a lot of self-made and authentic women out there! There are strong and amazing women that can get the job done by themselves! I could get cooler pictures of my fish if I had a crew follow me around to take them all the time. I don’t do this because my fishing spots are sacred to me, and I don’t take anyone to them. Solitary, beautiful, and trophy-style fisheries are meant to be protected. My mentality is that even if you trust the person you take to protect these areas, they may tell or take a person that will keep all the trout and ruin a population. I feel an obligation to protect my passion. I fish a lot of formerly stocked waters, or places with tiger trout that do not reproduce, and I like to protect them. That being said, how did I find my fishing spots? It’s so simple you won’t believe it... I bought a map. Five years ago, I started fishing Utah (when I moved here) I bought a map to every national forest (highly detailed), I bought fly fishing books about locations, and I read stocking reports. I found something that brought me happiness, and I put in the time and effort to learn everything I could about it.
Now what’s it like being a woman in the outdoor industry? It has its pros and cons. When I started gaining recognition on Instagram and YouTube, I was able to make a living from social media so that I no longer had to work any job this school year. This is incredible to me, and the biggest pro about my fishing passion and my job. I used to work double shifts 3 days a week (giving me 6 full shifts) so that I could fish the other 4 days straight (while camping). That was great don’t get me wrong, but fishing 7 days a week in the summer now definitely beats 4. I’m very grateful, and blessed to be in the position I’m in. It wasn’t handed to me though, and did come with a lot of hard work and consistency.
Growing a following came natural, and it happened because of my obvious passion for fishing and hunting. These types of things can’t be faked, and that has what has helped people connect with me through the years.
Rolling with Trolls
One big downfall of being recognizable in the fly fishing industry is that people are quick to jump to wrongful conclusions about your success. A popular one is you’re “doing it for the instafame.” This is my favorite, because no matter who you are, if you have followers people will say this to you. They assume that because you have followers you must work hard to please those followers and catch fish only for likes. If you scroll back 2, 3, or 4 years on my Instagram you will see me doing everything I am now, with no followers. That’s the beauty of that insult. I am able to connect to my followers because we share the same passion and interests.
I received an insult last summer that was more upsetting than others, because of the light in which it paints women. As a woman in this industry, people are quick to jump to conclusions that you are only successful because of “some man.” Why would you assume that a woman couldn’t succeed in her own right? For me, personally, I’m a self taught fly fisher woman and hunter. Sounds crazy and hard to believe to some, but I am independent and I figured it out just fine. No one in my family hunts. I said I wanted to get into it myself and everyone thought I was crazy, but I was determined to figure it out. Same with fishing, my dad took me spinning rod fishing since I was 4 years old. Fly fishing, however, I taught myself entirely through practice, reading, and videos all solo. Unfortunately there are those that feel the need to attack my youtube videos over and over again saying that I must have learned all my techniques and fishing spots from men. Let’s take a good long second to laugh at that one. Seeing as it’s so ridiculous, why did it tick me off so much? It’s simple, because it was attacking something that I have put my heart and soul into. I’ve had the amazing opportunity to be a guide, because I have proven myself and my abilities and was offered the job, without my searching for it.
I get so upset because this guy is a perfect representation of what all authentic women deal with; that they are only succeeding at a “man’s sport” because of some man. That stigma needs to get the heck out of here, and I look forward to that day. What is astounding is the unhappiness of one to see another succeed. Through all of the animosity I try to brush it off knowing that I’m living a life that a lot of people only know how to hate you for rather than support you. I am lucky to have the following I do and am so grateful for those that do support me.
If I could change anything in the outdoor industry, it would be to get rid of the stereotypes that surround the successful women. So quickly we jump to conclusions before actually knowing someone’s story of success, passion, and drive in the industry.
The pros definitely outweigh the cons, but it doesn’t mean they don’t get to you sometime. Over the years I have gotten pretty good at not caring at all what negative people say, and I recommend that to other women in my position. I am a successful woman and I know that I have the drive, intelligence, and skill to do anything I want to do. I’m not seeking pity for the way I’ve been treated by some men for being in the industry, because on the flip side I’ve had the opportunity to interact with some outstanding men in this industry. I’m just trying to shed light on an issue. I think success comes with hard work, and I will continue to spread my passion and positivity for hunting and fishing.
If I could help pass one message to the younger generation that sees a bunch of the positive and negative things on social media (like I listed above) it would have to do with confidence. I’d like to help the young ladies know that they can be themselves and be successful, beautiful, and inspirational. With as much in social media that is glamourized, know that you can be successful, happy, and confident in your own skin. We often only see the best on social media, not the bad days that make us human. You don’t have to be perfect, beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. I just want to spread the word that in a social media fantasy of perfect people, you don’t have to change one thing to be beautiful, successful, and your own type of perfect. Be yourself, have confidence, spread positivity and you will be successful forever. The best days for women in the fly fishing and hunting industries are yet to come.