24 February 2023

Women fishers take the lure of 'Reel Screamers' club

| John Thistleton
Start the conversation

Bianca Coombs with some of her new recruits to inland fishing, Foster Candy, Kelly Corcoran, Michelle Skujins and Kerry Connor. Photo: John Thistleton.

Nightfall had settled over Grabine Lakeside northwest of Crookwell last Saturday when a woman’s scream pierced the silence.

“Is that you, Bianca?” came a man’s voice from the other side of the dam.

“I said, ‘Yep’. I must have a signature scream. It was pitch black at night, but they recognised me,” Bianca Coombs said, laughing.

Like other women she often squeals out loud when a fish takes her lure, sending a jolt of excitement up the line, and therein lies the genesis of ‘The Reel Screamers Ladies Fishing Club’ that Bianca has formed in Goulburn exclusively for women.

“My motto is all women love fishing, they just don’t know it yet,” she said. Since inviting women to join her on the water with a message on Facebook six weeks ago, Bianca, 34, has gathered scores of members and is teaching them angling skills at weekly meetings along the Wollondilly River in Goulburn.

READ ALSO How Miriam marked a date with the Earth’s closest star

Most women remember fishing with their fathers. One misses the outings she had with her late husband, fishing.

Bianca believes many women don’t do enough for themselves. “They have kids, husband, they just don’t get out,” she said. “I feel there is a huge opportunity for women to get out and do something in nature with other women. It’s free, it’s fun and it’s something they can teach their own kids, and that’s a beautiful thing,” she said.

Raised on a farm near Crookwell, Bianca’s path to a river and fishing began after her father Garry Coombs died of multiple sclerosis. Newly married and with a baby, she was feeling anxious and depressed and turned to fishing.

Along the Wollondilly River and dams around Goulburn and Crookwell, she found casting a line into the water relaxing. “My mental health began improving dramatically,” she said. But attempts to join fishing clubs proved unsuccessful. She said they were not interested in having a woman as a member.

“I have always had to find my own way into the industry, kind of fish on my own and it’s been really hard to find other women and friends involved,” she said. “I travelled all over Victoria and NSW chasing freshwater and native fish and met so many people in the industry and created an Australia-wide network.”

An advocate for protecting Murray cod, she targets the native giants for catch-and-release. She hooked a metre-long cod a year and a half ago in a private dam near Crookwell which had been stocked for 30 years. After studying the conditions for several days the big fish fell to her Swimbait lure at noon while she was trolling. “The adrenalin of catching it is something I’ll never forget, it was amazing,” she said.

Bianca Coombs is sharing the skills that helped her hook this 75cm cod at Lake Mulwala, using a jackal pompadour lure on the surface. Photo: Supplied.

Her focus now is to teach women how fish behave, where to find them, baits, tackle, protection, regulations, handling and cooking them. The new recruits have found plenty of redfin which are fun to catch, put up a reasonable fight and are good to eat.

She even teaches threading worms onto a hook, and has found the excitement of catching a fish overcomes any squeamishness. “One lady, Michelle, caught a huge redfin and the next week was keen as mustard to put that worm on the hook,” she said. “It was so nice to see the progression.

READ ALSO Iconic Goulburn cyclist dies in weekend collision

“We have the most amazing river through Goulburn, I think it is an underutilised asset, it’s full of fish,” Bianca said. “I’m seeing more people down at the river fishing now but I think council could do a lot more cleaning up the riverbank and putting in some fish cleaning stations to make it easier for people.”

Previously sponsored by a Wagga Wagga-based company while fishing in Victoria and southern NSW, Bianca has found people in the inland fishing industry keen to encourage women. ‘Gone Fishing Australia’ gave her tackle left over from a national promotion and a manufacturer of Tassie devil lures sent her a bag full of them. Passing on their generosity, she gave out 50 reel-and-rod combinations to women in Goulburn.

Bianca has been invited onto the board of the Women’s Recreational Fishing League and says many opportunities await women wanting to get involved in the sport. Meanwhile, national fishing conservation charity OzFish Unlimited has announced five female recreational fishers to its brand ambassador program across the country. Their role is to share knowledge and get more women involved in fishing.

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Do you like to know what’s happening around your region? Every day the About Regional team packages up our most popular stories and sends them straight to your inbox for free. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.