Fly Girls

Fly Girls

Women now choose from a variety of "girl-only" oriented fly-fishing trips.

  • By: Stephen Camelio
  • Photography by: Dusan Smetana

Not every family fishing vacation has to involve all the members of your clan. Heck, not even everyone who joins the fun has to be a blood relation; just ask Oprah Winfrey, who this past fall went fly-fishing with her best friend, Gayle King, during their girls’ trip to Yosemite National Park. We all know that women pick up the rhythm and feel of fly-fishing quite quickly, so it stands to reason that one of the fast-growing types of angling vacations are for women only.

“I’ve had mothers and daughters, sisters and groups of friends that meet up from all over the country,” says Tie The Knot Fly Fishing’s Molly Semenik, who has led single-sex trips for 11 years. “It’s a wonderful and unique experience because no matter how the guests are related, everyone knows each other so much better at the end of the trip.”

Relationships are formed and strengthened on these trips; while fly-fishing plays a central role, guests also have a chance to enjoy other outdoor activities, commune with nature, relax with a massage or just have a glass of wine and socialize. While most guides and outfitters are happy to create custom outings for the ladies, here are some pre-packaged tours and schools that would be perfect for the next time you just want to reunite with your female kin or spend time with some of the girls.


Every June, Semenik’s Tie The Knot Fly Fishing joins up with PRO Outfitters to offer a “women’s adventures” session at North Fork Crossing Lodge, in Ovando, Montana. While spending four nights enjoying the rustic comfort of this classic Western fishing lodge, you’ll experience three days of fishing, with mornings devoted to instruction and afternoons filled with guided drifting or wading on famous Montana trout waters like the Blackfoot River ($1,975; equipment, lodging and meals included). Also in June, to coincide with the American Museum of Fly Fishing’s new exhibit “A Graceful Rise: Women in Fly Fishing Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow,” Semenik travels to Manchester, Vermont to teach a pair of two-day, women-only fly-fishing schools for Orvis ($470). Equipment and lunches are included and, though lodging isn’t, participants get a discount on rooms at the venerable Equinox resort and spa.

And Seminik adds a new program for September, 2011, at RawaH Ranch, in Colorado’s Big Laramie River Valley. Two miles of the Big Laramie run through lodge property, and fishing is for rainbows, browns, brook trout and Colorado greenback cutthroat. There’s even the possibility of grayling. The package ($1,975) includes four nights lodging, three days fishing, all meals, beer and wine, flies, and equipment if needed. Massage therapy will be available by appointment, and there will be a core yoga class each day. Contact;;;


Though she didn’t learn to fly-fish until she was 40, Cecilia “Pudge” Kleinkauf is into her second decade of guiding women-only trips in her home state of Alaska. A great fit for families or a group of girlfriends who like to travel, her company offers an annual four-day fishing school (July) at the Orca Adventure Lodge ($2,350 double occupancy; includes equipment, meals and one fly-out fishing day to Prince William Sound). In addition, she offers a dozen different lodge-based trips like July’s five-day, four-night jaunt to Nome to fish for arctic grayling ($2,880; shared lodging, meals, in-class transportation and equipment included), or four days of fishing at Brooks River in Katmai National Park for sockeye salmon, trophy rainbow trout and grayling in June ($2,510; includes shared lodging, equipment, round-trip flight from Anchorage to the lodge). For those looking to get their passport stamped, Kleinkauf also leads yearly trips to fish the legendary waters of Patagonia in Argentina ($3,850; double occupancy) and a saltwater trip to the Sea of Cortez, off Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, to try your hand at landing a marlin, tuna, dorado or roosterfish ($2,375; double occupancy). Contact


Run by Federation of Fly Fishers certified casting instructors Karen Denison and Jan Crawford, this five-day retreat in August is a great fit for friends who are at different fishing levels, because it offers three all-inclusive packages to choose from: the Retreat ($2,660) for more advanced, self-sufficient anglers; the School ($3,060) for beginners who need a little more attention; and the Retreat Plus ($2,860) for those who fall somewhere in the middle. Located at the 4UR Ranch in southwest Colorado, the private river stretches, freestone streams and natural ponds provide guests with wild resident browns and rainbows, and rare Rio Grande cutthroats. Fishing isn’t the only way to reconnect with your mates, as the vacation also includes horseback riding, yoga, massage, a hot-springs spa pool and sporting clays shooting. Contact


It’s hard to think of a better place to combine a family vacation with learning to fly-fish than at America’s first National Park, Yellowstone. The Yellowstone Association, in Gardiner, Montana, offers a four-day class in August that includes fishing on some of the Park’s celebrated trout rivers. Under the tutelage of former Federation of Fly Fishers Woman of the Year Rhea Topping, you’ll learn proper casting technique, basic knot-tying and how to choose flies for every situation. You’ll also glimpse some of the Park’s spectacular wildlife. And because a first foray into a fly shop can be intimidating, Topping brings all her classes to visit a Montana outfitter to learn how to suss out local fishing reports and select the right gear ($425, includes transportation during the class. Equipment, lodging and meals not included). Contact


Enterprising girlfriends should check out Boulder, Colorado’s Women’s Wilderness Institute’s three-day Backcountry Fly Fishing trip in September. With two wilderness guides, women hike into Wyoming’s Snowy Range to prospect for trout in pristine high-alpine lakes at elevations from 9,000 to 12,000 feet. For beginners, the guides cover all the basics, but also provide instruction and guiding for all skill levels. While plenty of time is set aside for hanging out with your fellow adventurers, the guides teach you all manner of wilderness skills; this isn’t “glamping,” so expect to cook meals, set up camp and participate in trip planning ($610; includes shuttle to and from Boulder, backpacking/fishing gear, food and outdoor clothing as needed). The Institute also offers custom one-day and backcountry trips, as well as a one-day daughter-parent “adventure” in the Boulder area in August ($150; equipment and lunch included). Contact


Looking for a sisters’ getaway that combines awesome angling with posh pampering? Set among the unparalleled natural beauty of Canada’s Vancouver Island, day one of this Coastal Wilderness Adventures trip gives ladies a morning of guided lessons and, after a riverside lunch, an afternoon of fly-fishing for wild salmon, trout or steelhead. After a relaxing night that includes a catered gourmet meal and oceanfront accommodations, day two is set aside for a spa treatment, like a stone therapy massage or Hydradermie facial at the Eden Street Salon and Day Spa, in Campbell River. This package is available year-round, and longer, custom or saltwater outings can also be arranged ($1,375 to $1,575; three nights lodging and meals included). Contact


Inspired by her work with breast cancer survivors for Casting for Recovery, Otter Creek Angler’s Janine Small created the Women’s Fly Fishing Institute. A trained psychotherapist, Small emphasizes wellness on custom women’s trips; two-night, one-day programs; and her women’s retreat in May at Killington, Vermont’s Mountain Meadows Lodge, a 19th-century farm that has been converted into a bucolic New England inn. Ideal for mother-daughter bonding, these weekend escapes include Friday orientation, Saturday instruction and optional activities (hiking, kayaking, swimming, yoga and horseback riding), and then six hours of guided fly-fishing on Sunday ($500; package includes two nights lodging, meals, equipment and all lodge amenities, like the hot tub and sauna). Contact


If outdoor fun and country elegance is what you are looking for in a girl’s weekend, the award-winning Old Edwards Inn, nestled in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, is a good option. The Inn offers a two-day, one-night mini vacation for two that gives women the best of both worlds. Perfect for best friends, the package features four hours of schooling, including a casting clinic and instruction in knot-tying and choosing flies. A perfect complement to your time spent learning how to catch the local trout, as part of this deal each guest gets a 50-minute spa treatment, dinner at the Inn’s AAA-rated restaurant and one night deluxe accommodations ($740; double occupancy, includes gear as well). For more advanced anglers, Old Edwards also arranges fly-fishing day trips with local guides and expert instructors ($250 for one angler, $300 for two; includes gear, lunch; doesn’t include lodging). Contact

Stephen Camelio lives on Wyoming’s Northwest border with Montana, so he doesn’t have to travel far for great fishing. For more of his writing, visit