10 Women Who Can Fly Fish

Can Women Fly Fish?

Can women fly fish well the answer to that question is yes they definitely can? There are lots of women making big names for themselves in the fly fishing industry all across the US. They have guide businesses, own their own fly shops and even a women’s fly fishing magazine and other things.

Fly fishing has always been considered a man’s hobby or sport. There are a lot of interesting things that I bet most people did not know. If you dig deep into the background of fly fishing you will find out that women have been involved for many years.

Joan Wullf:

There was a woman who got top honors at the national dry fly accuracy championship. Her name was Joan Wullf and she did this in 1943 and she was only sixteen years old. She went on to win twenty-one more casting titles before she went on to win another National Title. This title was the National Fisherman’s Long Distant Fly Championship. She did this with a cast of 136 feet and it was against all male competitors. In the early 1950s when women didn’t have many rights she was regarded as the fly fisher in the world. She was still involved in fly fishing techniques and teaching men and women alike at the age of 89.

Below are a few other women who are making a name for women fly fishing.

Maddie Brenneman:

Maddie Brenneman is based in Colorado, she is a fly fishing guide with a strong passion for conservation. She grew up in the Denver area with 4 girls in her family. Maddie loves to teach people how to fish, but she wants people to respect and value the fish. She likes all types of fishing but loves fly fishing the most because of the challenges it has.

Maddie moved from Colorado to the Seattle, Washington area to go to college. She left there and went to Santa Fe, New Mexico and worked in the travel industry. Then she decided to return to Colorado after a few years to pursue a career on the rivers fly fishing.

Maddie is the lead fishing guide at C Lazy U, a dude ranch tucked away on the northeastern corner of Willow Creek Reservoir in Granby, Colorado. There, she takes fishermen of all backgrounds out on the river to experience the sport in its purest form.

Cassie Spurling:

Cassie is a Fly fishing guide out of Blue Ridge Georgia.
She started fly fishing around the age five with the help and guidance of her father. He taught her all of the things to do and not to do and this has turned into a full-time habit. Cassie says that her father had a big impact on her fly fishing journey.

She remembers getting frustrated as she was learning to cast. This is because when she watched her dad present flies to some unsuspecting trout. For many years she has continued going for her passion for everything that has to do with trout. This has led her to improve her skills so much that a North Georgia guide service has taken notice of her.

She said that the opportunity to guide in North Georgia has broadened her knowledge of fly fishing even more. Sharing her passion with others over the years and being able to teach the sport to others has been a large part of her life. Watching a client get there very first fish and see the joy and excitement in their eyes is priceless.

Her Inspiration Is Her Father:

“My father is one of the most impactful inspirations I’ve had in my fly fishing journey,” Spurling says. “I was frustrated when I was first learning as I watched him effortlessly present a fly to unsuspecting trout. I wanted to cast as well as him.”Over the years, as Cassie continued to pursue her passion for all things trout, she eventually took her skills to the next level, and a premier North Georgia guiding outfit took notice.

“As I got older, I had the opportunity to guide in North Georgia, which broadened my knowledge and perspective of fly fishing even more,” she said. “I love sharing my passion with others and cherish the ability to teach the sport that has become such a huge part of my life. There is nothing like getting a client on their first fish and seeing the excitement and joy in their eyes.”

Katie Cahn:

Katie Cahn is a Fly Fishing Guide at Headwaters Outfitters in Upstate South Carolina

She grew up in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains on the border of North and South Carolina. This land was settled on by her family in the 1800’s. This is where she grew up fishing in the foothills of the mountains. She says they would drown some worms and use niblet corn to catch some shiners on spinning rods. When she said they used bobbers when they were called bobbers and not strike indicators

Katie didn’t find her lifelong love of fly fishing until later when she went to Western Carolina Unversity. She lived 50 yards from Tuskegee River for 3 years and spent lots of study breaks fly fishing at the river. While living there for those years she fished the Tuckasegee, Nantahala, and other streams pretty good.

It took her some time and perseverance and mentoring, but she became a very proficient fly fisherwoman. She had a good friend that taught her the basics, but like others, she struggled at the start. After getting caught in the trees and having to untangle her line for weeks it got better. She says not very much is different today only now she catches some fish.

She’s still combing the rivers and streams of the Blue Ridge. She now lives about five miles from the delayed harvest section and tries to end her days with a ‘happy hour’ session. On the weekends, you can find me in Western North Carolina. I prefer fishing for wild trout in areas around the Blue Ridge Parkway, but if I’m looking for big ole’ stocker trout, you may see me on the Tuckasegee River in Cullowhee.

Katie Tells Women Not To Give Up:

She tells other would-be female anglers to stick with the sport. Even if the things to start like expensive gear and the long learning curve trying to get in your way.

“Fly fishing takes patience, and the more you do it, the better you get. It’s an expensive sport, so borrow or rent gear in the beginning until you know it’s what you want to do for years to come. If you can, try to get into a women’s fly fishing group around your area.

If you are in Western North Carolina, look up Headwaters Outfitters, advises Katie. The owner, Jessica, is dedicated to helping female angler newbies feel more comfortable with the sport, and she offers a women’s retreat every spring.  If she is there this year she would love to help any  women interested in fly fishing.”

Jen Ripple:

Jen Ripple is the Editor in Chief of Dun Magazine in Dover, Tennessee.

She started learning how to fly fish on the banks of the Huron River. This was not very far from the  University of Michigan, who was her employer at the time.

She was kinda bored and was looking for some entertainment. She saw that a fly tying class was being taught at a local fly shop.

Before very long, Jen was obsessed with fly fishing.

That spring, when the ice melted on the Huron, she spent lots of hours fishing for smallmouth bass. I didn’t know until two years later that I should be fishing for trout with my fly rod.

A few years later, when Jen left Ann Arbor for Chicago, she got involved with a fly tying class at a rod builder and fly shop in the city.

Fly Fishing Magazines:

There was a new magazine called Midwestern fly fishing magazine. The editor was teaching my tying class, Jen says. “He knew I could write, and asked if I would be interested in writing a women’s column for his magazine, A Tight Loop.”

She wrote the column for around three months but then grew restless.

“At that point, I really felt like I wanted to write for a women’s magazine, but I was shocked to learn that there wasn’t one. So I decided to approach my editor about starting my own.”

Then from that conversation, Dun Magazine—a publication that is about female anglers from around the globe—was born.

Now Jen does work for Dun from her home base in Dover, Tennessee where her backyard is adjacent to 178,000 acres of public land known as the Land Between the Lakes.

“My favorite fishing spots around here are located in Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley, where I fish predominantly for largemouth bass and crappie. The area is a hot spot for traditional bass tournaments, so it’s fun to see the look on people’s faces when I start catching giant largemouth on the fly from the comfort of my drift boat.”

Kiki Galvin:

Guide and Owner, Ms. Guided Fly Fishing, Falls Church, Virginia

A resident of Falls Church, Virginia, Kathleen ‘Kiki’ Galvin has been fishing for over 50 years.

I grew up near the Finger Lakes region of New York State and first wet a line on Keuka Lake at the tender age of 5. In those days Kiki said all I had was a Zebco rod, a bobber, and a live worm. But then after I caught that first fish I was hooked.

Her love for fly fishing started in 1996 when she signed up for a one-day course in Leesburg, Virginia.

Since then she’s gone on to become a reputable Virginia fly fishing guide. She started her own outfitting service called Ms. Guided Fly Fishing. She is also involved with Project Healing Waters and Casting for Recovery. Kiki also serves as the Vice President of her local Trout Unlimited Chapter.

By wanting to share my passion, I had the opportunity to attend a guide school in 2002. Kiki eventually returned home to begin her guiding business, she said. “I have always wanted to show others what they achieve with a fly rod in their hand. I consider myself a teacher and strive to be the best angler, guide and volunteer I can be.”

Kiki, says right now is the best time to be a female in the fly fishing industry.

“Being a female in the industry at this particular time has been exciting and very rewarding. There are a lot of us out here, supporting each other, sharing new ideas and pass on our love for the sport.”

Simons Welter:

Simons Welter is a Fly Fishing Guide, For Brookings Anglers, Cashiers, North Carolina

She is a resident of Spartanburg, South Carolina she has been involved in the sport of fly fishing over twelve years now.

“The late Spider Littleton, the longtime owner of the now-defunct DK Littleton Outfitters in Greenville. He taught me how to fly fish, and he was my first and the biggest inspiration,” Simons says. “He always said women were better fishermen and he was always extremely encouraging.”

When she’s not guiding for Brookings, Simons spends much of her spare time mining the rivers and streams of Western North Carolina and Upstate South Carolina for wily brook, brown, and rainbow trout. One of her favorite rivers to fly fish today is the one she learned to fly fish more than a decade ago. The Chattooga River where it flows through South Carolina. Other than the Chattooga, she does most of her fishing in Western North Carolina.

“Most of the streams I fish are in the mountains of North Carolina, south of Asheville,” Simons says. It’s just a fact there are loads more trout streams there than in the Upstate. Stocked streams like the East Fork of the French Broad and the Little River are great.

Nothing beats a hike into a small wild stream where you won’t see another soul. Where a trophy trout is twelve inches and you have to bushwhack your way around at least one waterfall.

Women Fly Fishing Has Been Challenging:

Simons says that breaking into the fly fishing world as a female was challenging at times. But it has been an overwhelmingly positive experience.

“Over the years, I have had mixed reactions about my chosen sport. But by and large, the greatest response has been a very positive one. Many times I’ve heard male anglers say, ‘I wish that my wife would get into fly fishing.’ Or, ‘You fly fish? That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever heard.’

She says that there are those tough guys who will always be members of the He-Man Woman Haters Club. But luckily they have been very rare. “I love it when I’m introduced to a client, and the expression on his face says, ‘THIS is my guide?’ But, way before the day ends, his expression changes to, ‘THIS is my guide!’”

Simons is a 12-year member of the Mountain Bridge Chapter of Trout Unlimited. She also sits on the Board of Directors for Casting Carolinas. This organization combines fly fishing instruction along with free retreats with medical education along with support for women surviving cancer.

Hilary Hutcheson:

Hilary Hutcheson is the Owner of Lary’s Fly and Supply and host/co-founder of Trout TV.

She likes to tell people that she’s a product of the National Park Service.

Growing up in government housing near the west entrance of Montana’s Glacier National Park. This is where her father worked as a ranger for the NPS. Hilary had opportunities to interact with the natural world that most kids can only dream of.

“When we went to rivers fly fishing at an early age, we would float Lower McDonald Creek. Or maybe the Middle Fork of the Flathead River and hitch-hike back,” said Hutcheson, who began to fly fish in the seventh grade. “I think we felt like we were rebellious, kinda like going to the skatepark or something.”

When she was fourteen, she landed a  gig with Glacier Angler in her hometown of West Glacier, Montana. Then when 17 years old she was guiding fly fishing excursions.

After graduating from high school she left Glacier to attend the college in Missoula. Where she continued with her guiding while she earned a degree in broadcast journalism on the side. The degree leads her to a television news anchor position in Missoula. Then to one in Portland, Oregon, then the world-famous rivers of the Treasure State beckoned her home again.

Once back in Montana, she worked to create an outdoor marketing firm, Outside Media, and a network television show called Trout TV, which she now hosts.

April Vokey:

April Vokey is the Owner of Fly Gals Ventures and Host of Anchored with April Vokey Podcast, British, Columbia.

She was born and raised in the shadow of the Northern Rockies in Chilliwack, British Columbia. She has been fishing in one capacity or another for most of her life.

“I think it was the sheer excitement of being outdoors that drew me to fishing in general,” April says. “I’ve always loved water— creeks, rivers, lakes, the ocean, rain—all of it. I loved the trees and the mossy forest bottoms just as much.”

It was the excitement that would lead her to discover fly fishing. Particularly the variety that involves Spey casting to giant Steelhead in the waters of British Columbia, by the age of 18.

“I was the menace out there,” she said of her earliest fly fishing expeditions. “I spent nights watching instructional VHS tapes about how to cast, and eventually my flailing started to look alright.”

By the age of 23, she would own her own guiding service specializing in Steelhead trips on B.C.’s famed Skeena River, and in 2011 April joined the Patagonia ambassador team, where she now assists in the design and direction of an upcoming women’s line of fishing apparel.

Fly Fishing Is Not Just a Mans Sport:

“It has always been a shame to me that fly fishing is perceived as a man’s sport. There is truly nothing overly masculine about it,” she said in a 2012 Q & A with Fly Life Magazine.

“Fly fishing requires passion, finesse, excitement, timing, intrigue, and dedication—descriptives that are not sole features of either gender. She urges women who have not given this sport a try to skip their next yoga class or hike. Tranquility or excitement, or whatever you’re looking for, why not follow Mother Nature to the river to find it?”

Today April hosts a popular fly fishing podcast called Anchored with April Vokey. This is where she interviews some very influential people in the fly fishing game. In an episode of her podcast, April sat down with fly fishing legend Joan Wulff to bring the female fly fishing revolution to a full circle.

Wulff started this female fly fishing revolution over 70 years ago. Now it’s industry leaders like April Vokey who are inspiring a new generation of women to wade out into new waters.

Abbi Bagwell:

Abbi Bagwell is a Fly Fishing Guide, for Headwaters Outfitters, in Brevard, North Carolina.

She has a popular series called #somestreamerchick, this is where she shows some of the finer points of fly fishing. Especially the fine points of fly fishing with flies known as streamers.

Abbi like Katie Cahn grew up fishing but didn’t start fly fishing until later in life. When Abbi graduated from college that was when she found the love for fly fishing. She started with a job with Flymen Fishing Company which manufactures fly tying materials.

During her time with Flymen Abbi has expanded he fly fishing experience and knowledge considerably. After she joined the company, fly shops and guides took her under their wings. They taught her as much as they could about fly fishing she even received some casting classes.

She also spent many work days on the water, fly tying instruction along with a crash course in knots. It didn’t take long for her to find that this was something she could enjoy for the rest of her life.

Abbi is aware of the challenges that female anglers face, especially when starting out in fly fishing. Today Abbi says her father inspired her to overcome these hurdles.

Abbi today is guiding for Headwaters Outfitters in Rosman, North Carolina

Dean Jensen

I started fly fishing in 1972 and I have learned quite a bit about this wonderful sport called fly fishing and I want to share some of the things that I have learned.

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