Your name or any nicknames you have?
My name is Kaitlin Barnhart. I started writing under the name ‘Mammaflybox’ as a way to encourage women to find adventure and for families to get out fly fishing together, and now the name stuck with me so I’ve kept it on my blog.
Where are you at in the world? Where will you be fishing this year?
I live in Coeur’d Alene, (North) Idaho. Since I’m a mom of three kids, and help run The Mayfly Project, most of the next year I will be fishing not too far from home– all over Montana, Idaho, Washington, Wyoming, and Canada (really rough staying close to home haha).
What river(s) and lake(s) do you guide/fish?
I am the co-founder of the National TMP (The Mayfly Project) Program, so most of my guiding is teaching children in foster care about fly fishing and introducing them to their local rivers. I also love to bring other fly fishing newbies out, so I usually take them to the Coeur’ d Alene River, Lake Pend Orielle, Spokane River and the St. Joe River.
How long have you been guiding/fly fishing?
I started fly fishing in 2004, but I think my serious addiction to fly fishing re-kindled about 5 years ago though, when my kids were out of the baby phases and I began to depend on fly fishing for my mental health breaks. I’ve only been leading others to the rivers for about 4 years now.
What got you into fly fishing? When did you start?
I started fly fishing in Alaska, when I spent a season working at a sport fishing lodge in Iliamna after college. When the guests didn’t quite fill up a plane, Bruce Johnson would let one of us servers tag along, so I got to experience fishing for several types of salmon and trout in some of the most amazing places on earth. However, beginning to fly fish in Alaska is sureal because after you catch a multitude of fish easily, you come home feeling like you’ve “got this thing down”…until you hit a local Idaho river to find you actually have to learn about hatches and seasons, etc. I basically had to start from scratch, but I learned in Alaska that fly fishing was my tool to get outdoors, so I was thirsty for learning and basically re-discovered fly fishing through reading, watching videos, going on adventures by myself, and meeting strangers on the river.
Why do you fly fish? What does it “do” for you?
Fly fishing satiates my craving for adventure and my curiosity of nature. When I have an opportunity to hold a fish in my hands, or to even just walk through the water, I just feel at home and I know it’s a place where I can take a break from trying to hold all the juggling acts together and just be an explorer. As a busy mom and mental health professional, I’ve found that finding river-time for myself is crucial in creating a balance for my family, and I enjoy experiencing nature with them too! Because I find fly fishing to be my therapy, I really wanted to start to pass that tool on to the children in foster care I worked with professionally, so it’s been wonderful to see these kids having a opportunity to experience nature through fly fishing with The Mayfly Project.
As a woman guide/angler, you’re definitely in the minority. What made you decide to be a guide/angler?
I strongly believe the river has something for everyone, so providing opportunities for those who need what I call “river-therapy” the most, is so important to me. That’s what I enjoy about the river– you don’t really need to be categorized when you’re there, you are just out there fishing, and anyone that has a problem with women fly fishing most likley doesn’t fly fish for the right reasons anyways.
Has the fact you’re a female ever been an issue with a client or other angler (such as them hitting on you or maybe talking down to you?) If so how did you manage it/them?
I’ve definately have had some situations on the river, and I don’t think any woman addicted to fly fishing can say they never have, which is really troublesome. But overall, the real men in the fly fishing industry are accepting of women and have stood up for us when we need it. I’ve being whistled at, or heard comments that made me feel unsafe, but I really have tried to up my game of yelling back strange things, ignoring them, or focusing on not letting it get to me; I enjoy fishing in more remote areas though, just so I don’t have to deal with thinking about it while I’m trying to get a break from societies roles! I just try to stay focused on the fishing and every once in a while my girlfriends and I will yell out the car window to a guy fishing by himself, “Are you married?!?!”, just to make the universe balanced out. It just seems silly to me that gender has to be involved at all in the topic of fly fishing, but there are several people that are behind the times and don’t get that the sport is for everyone!
Do you think being a woman gives you a different perspective as an angler/guide? If so, how?
I don’t think it gives us a different perspective because every human is unique and has their own experiences that impact how they view the world, but I do think being a female angler gives certain men a possibly different perspective of women. I love showing up for outtings with The Mayfly Project and the boys are expecting a bunch of men to teach them and it ends up being mostly gals– you can tell at first they are like, oh wow I didn’t expect that. But then they get to see that we know what we’re doing and it gives them a different perspective of women. I would start to say that women tend to lead others to the rivers for more spiritual/mental health reasons than men, but then I think about all of the great guys I know that are just as passionate as I am about teaching other’s fly fishing for those reasons!
What is a piece of advice you want to give to other anglers or a tip/trick that has helped you grow as an angler?
My biggest tip for anglers is to just go fishing– even if no one else can go with you, even if you have no idea what you’re doing or you’re afraid to look stupid– you are guarenteed to learn when you have more experiences. For women, I would say don’t be afraid to get out there even if you don’t feel accepted or qualified, and even if you are nervous. You’re never going to know what you are missing out on if you don’t go and you can’t wait for the timing to be right, you just need to go!
What’s your favorite new piece of gear?
This is going to sound strange, but i just bought snow shoes and they are really going to change my winter fishing game this year! I am slowly learning how to spey cast so I’m pretty excited about my Pieroway spey rod and huge Cheeky reel!
What is your favorite fly? (To tie, or catch fish on?)
My favorite fly recently is Mercer’s Missing Link because I had so much fun with it this last summer. But I’ve also had a long-time secret crush on the old school Pat’s rubber legs because sometimes I don’t have long to fish and he get’s the job done!
Best catch of all time?
I’ve caught some pretty big fish in my days, but my favorite catch is a monster cutthroat my daughter helped me net on my home river. It’s always so special when my kids get to experience my big catches and get excited with me.
What’s your “Dream Trip”?
Not to sound cliche’, but I’m always dreaming of adventures in New Zeland or Kamchatka, and I have yet to fish salt so that’s big on my bucket list. I’m trying not to wear my kids out of fly fishing so they will want to travel with us when they are all old enough!
What are some of the best places you’ve been fishing?
I’ll always have a deep love for Alaska and try to get there as often as I can throughout my life to refill my cup, but really Western Montana and North Idaho have blown my mind since returning three years ago. Taking kids fishing in the PNW is truly a gift because they not only get to see wild fish, they also are surrounded by such beauty, and by connecting them to these sacred outdoor places, we give them a bigger perspective of the world and also introduce them to a place worthy of being protected.
How do people follow you on social media or reach you?
I’m a freelance writer and blog under the name ‘Mammaflybox’ occasionally, otherwise you can find me on Instagram @themayflyproject or @kaitlinbarnhart. I also run the Women’s Fly Fishing Facebook page. To find out more about The Mayfly Project, check out our website at www.themayflyproject.com or send me an email at email@example.com Additionally, I am an ambassador for SaraBella Fly Rods.