When Kara Tripp compared notes with her college friends about what they did during summer breaks, none of them could relate to her tales about an entire summer spent fly fishing.
Tripp knew she was on to something.
“That’s when I realized this is a really special lifestyle,” said Tripp, now a licensed Montana fishing instructor and guide.
Raised in Kalispell, Tripp was a toddler when her mother helped her dig worms and baited her hook. Entering high school, her group of childhood friends introduced her to fly fishing. The first fish she caught on the fly occurred after Tripp stood for eight hours in the glacial waters of the North Fork of the Flathead River.
Although it’s taken her 20 years to feel proficient at fly fishing, Tripp said she is constantly learning.
“The river always has a lesson to teach,” she said.
Quieting a busy mind
Fly fishing’s complexities require your full attention. It clears the mind of daily worries about work, taxes, raising children and paying the mortgage or rent; suiting those with busy minds who hate being bored, she said.
“It’s the only thing that keeps me present,” Tripp said. “It’s just the best way to relax.”
Tripp teaches beginners and novices the rudiments of fly fishing as an instructor for Gallatin River Guides’ Montana Women’s Fly Fishing School in Big Sky.
Women like to know what they are doing before investing in fly fishing or other costly endeavors, she said.
Classes taught through Montana Women’s Fly Fishing School provide that opportunity.
Topics include casting fundamentals; tackle basics; practical fly fishing knots; elementary and practical fly fishing entomology; strategies and tactics; how to read the water; and hooking, landing and releasing fish.
The women are taught terminology, like tippet and leader. According to Orvis’ website, theflyfishingbasics.com, the clear leader connects to the end of the fly line and tapers down where it attaches to the tippet, which connects to the fly.
A growing trend
Females make up one of the fastest growing demographics in fly fishing, said Tripp, who noticed the trend in 2008 after taking a position as an instructor for The Fly Shop Fish Camp in Redding, California.
Tripp is excited about the growth in fly fishing.
A lot of moms and their little girls signed up for fish camp that year, she said. It continues to grow annually.
It means more people paying attention to and advocating for water quality. It also increases the money spent on conservation and outdoor resources.
“Anywhere a trout resides is going to be beautiful,” Tripp said. “They can’t survive in unlovely places.”
Tripp waded into the clothing industry several years ago, founding Damsel Fly Fishing with a focus on women’s outerwear and accessories.
When it comes to selecting women’s fly fishing clothing, it’s important to ask questions about sizing to find a good fit for your body.
Changes in women's fly fishing clothing designs began to take place in the past seven to eight years. Before that, it was either wear less-durable clothing or products designed for men that didn’t fit a woman’s shape.
“The ladies need to decide what’s best for them,” she said.