Your name or any nicknames you have?
Born and raised in Colorado! I currently live in Fort Collins, Colorado and guide primarily on South Boulder Creek. In previous seasons I’ve guided on the South Platte and its tributaries. In my free time, I try to escape up to Wyoming.
What river(s) and lake(s) do you guide/fish?
I primarily guide on South Boulder Creek. I also do some guide trips on South Platte, Boulder Creek, and Clear Creek. I am becoming a big fan of high mountain lakes and fly fishing for brook trout; hiking in a few miles usually deters the crowds!
How long have you been guiding/fly fishing?
I am waist deep in my second season as a fly fishing guide.
What got you into fly fishing? When did you start?
I got a bit of a late start and didn’t start fly fishing until I moved up to Fort Collins for college. I was always interested in fly fishing, but I actually got into aquatic insects first. I study Ecology at Colorado State University and took a lot of entomology courses. Before guiding, I worked as an aquatic insect taxonomist (and still do, on the side). I quickly became obsessed with the sport and, at one point, committed myself to fishing every day after I got off work. What I really love about fly fishing is spending time in nature and observing both the patterns and the spontaneity of water and all the little interactions constantly happening.
As a female guide/fly angler, you’re definitely in the minority. What made you decide to be a guide/angler?
You know, it was just a mix of the right circumstances in my life and a job opening! I was looking for a non-conventional job outside of an office setting and because of my passion for fly fishing, I gravitated toward guiding. I was not actually aware how few female guides were around until I got involved as a professional in the industry. When people started commenting how unusual my choice was, it really opened my eyes to how male-dominated fly fishing has become. Being a minority was never a second thought for me when I decided to pursue guiding.
Has the fact you’re a woman ever been an issue with a client (such as them hitting on you or maybe talking down to you? If so how did you deal with it/them?
As a young female guide, there have definitely been some raised eyebrows, surprised clients, and uncomfortable situations. I’ve had clients request a different guide before even meeting me and been the subject of some derogatory comments. I think the key to preventing an awkward day is being assertive from the get go. On the flip side, I’ve also had people actually request to fish with me because I’m female and had other women tell me I’ve inspired them by pursing my dreams.
I’ve found that if I don’t make a big deal about the fact that I am female, generally others will follow suit. At the end of the day, I am the guide and if a client wants to listen to me and improve their fly fishing game, that’s ultimately their choice.
Not necessarily – It seems that everyone develops their own guiding style over time by figuring out what works best for them. There are such a range of personalities within the fly fishing world; I like to think I’ve been successful because of my knowledge and personality, not my female perspective. However, I do think that people who are new to the sport can be less intimidated to fish with a female guide, which really helps with the learning curve.
How can the fly fishing industry and community encourage more women to get involved?
I’d like to see more females hired in a professional setting. When I first got involved with fly fishing, I was intimidated to go into fly shops, seek advice, and network with other fishermen/women. I think it can be a challenge for women to get really involved in the sport when there are only men around to answer questions and coach. More and more companies are coming out with products tailored to female clients, which is awesome, but I’d like to see more women visibly in the industry, guiding, and working in fly shops to chat with other interested women (and men).
What’s your favorite new piece of gear?
I generally don’t nerd out on gear, but if you’ve fished with me you probably know I’m a big fan of the Fishpond Headgate Tippet Holder. Maybe I’m just a messy individual, but I’ve always had trouble keeping my tippet cleaned up and easily accessible. The built-in cutter is a big bonus too!
It wasn’t a huge fish or an epic story, but it was early on in my fly fishing career. You know that day where everything comes together in your mind and you see a trout rise to grab a dry fly and you just “get it”? I will never forget that day for me and that’s what I really work toward getting clients to when I’m guiding.
What’s your “Dream Trip”?
Iceland. Ever since I started looking into the brown trout in Iceland, I’ve been a bit obsessed with figuring out how to make it happen for me. Brown trout are not native to Colorado, so the chance to fish for them in their native habitat is very exciting to me. Some Arctic Char wouldn’t be too bad either!
What are some of the best places you’ve been fishing?
I get excited about fishing regardless of the location! I love getting absorbed in what’s happening under the water, the interactions with the bugs and fish, and reading a new current. That being said, there’s definitely places that have impacted me; however, they will remain unnamed here – nice try attempting to get my secret spot info!
My email is firstname.lastname@example.org and you can also check out my aquatic insect inspired pen and ink artwork at www.AmyMcMahonIllustrations.com. I am also on instagram: @amymillustrations. I’d love to chat with you about fly fishing, insects, artwork, or life!