Your name or any nicknames you have?
My name is Kelsey Dick. Growing up with the last name Dick I have quite a few of these. KDick, Dickster, Dickey, just Dick, KD, the list goes on.
Where are you at in the world? Where will you be fishing this year?
I currently live in Charleston, South Carolina. I fish all along the South Atlantic coast from North Carolina to the Florida Keys. The redfish and trout in the low country keep me pretty occupied and allow me to fish year-round. In the fall I head up to North Carolina and fly fish for false albacore.
What river(s) and lake(s) do you guide/fish?
The biggest lake of them all, the ocean. The Atlantic is where most of my fly fishing occurs. My family lives out west, so I get to do a fair amount of fresh water fly fishing on the Provo river. I’ve also fished in Alaska quite a bit.
How long have you been guiding/fly fishing?
I have been fresh water fly fishing for several years. I moved to the coast a few years ago to work and finish my graduate degree in fisheries at the Duke Marine lab in North Carolina. I picked up salt water fly fishing then and haven’t looked back. The old guys in town would pick me up at 6 am to go fly fish and drop me off at the marine lab dock so I could be back in time for class. By the time graduation came around the professors were asking me about fly fishing.
Why do you fly fish? What does it “do” for you?
I fly fish because the sport combines everything I love. The challenge of catching a fish on your own fly, the conservation aspect of the sport, and the incredible feeling I get from being outside on the water. It grounds me and reminds me to stay in the present and to appreciate my surroundings. I love that there is always more to learn as well. Whether that be learning a new fly pattern, a new fishery, a new technique, etc.
As a woman guide/angler, you're definitely in the minority. What made you decide to be a guide/angler?
My dad treated my sister and I like the strong girls we were, and raised us no differently than he would raise boys. That means we played in the dirt, went fishing a lot, were constantly making things in our woodshop in the basement, and more. My grandmother (my dad’s mom) was a badass lady who always encouraged my sister and I to go after everything we wanted. Whenever I encounter a situation where someone makes a comment about my gender I think about how my grandmother would have handled it. Nothing made me decide to become an angler; I fell in love with it from a young age and was fortunate to have parents who fostered that love.
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?
It has definitely been an issue. Unfortunately, it is something I deal with a lot and I think it should be talked about more. It is a double edge sword for me because I want to be treated equally and not have attention brought to my gender, but at the same time I think we need to talk about these issues to bring effective change.
Many times when I go out on the water on my boat or am fishing from the beach someone says something about my gender. I’ve heard it all from “There is nothing sexier than a woman with a pair of pliers on her hips,” to “I’ll take you fishing, but you have to wear a bikini,” to “Come be a mate on my boat with those legs,” etc. I usually ignore these comments and focus on the fish and the beautiful place I am in. I am still figuring out the best way to handle these situations.
The worst experience I have ever had was when I was actually kicked out of a men-only rod and gun club a few years ago. They escorted me off their property because I was a woman trying to fish at their pond with my dad. I wrote about the experience and it was shared thousands of times on social media. Several people left the organization and they have since taken down their website, but I believe the club still exists. As terrible as that experience was and the comments I receive every now and then, there are so many amazing supportive men in my life. I wouldn’t be where I am without those friendships, their support, and guidance. I also think it is incredibly important that women support other women. Groups like United Women on the Fly and Orvis’s 5050 on the water campaign are wonderful groups who organize great events. I host women specific fly fishing events with these groups in the Charleston area with local businesses and tackle shops.
I also have a lot of dads contact me asking what they can do to help their daughters love the outdoors and fishing. I tell them to treat them the same way as their sons. Take them outside. Take them fishing. They will never forget those experiences. While change takes time, the fact that we having these conversations is a sign we are definitely moving in the right direction.
Do you think being a woman gives you a different perspective as an angler/guide? If so, how?
Fishing for me is about the overall experience. Of course, I love catching fish, but it isn’t a numbers game for me. I feel like so many guides get hung up on the number of fish when it should really be about having an awesome day on the water. If I am out on my boat, I am going to have an amazing day. Also, snacks. Women always have snacks (at least my lady friends do). I always have the best snacks and craft beer on my boat. No one wants to be hangry out there.
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?
Do not be afraid or intimidated to ask questions. I often hear women say they are nervous to get into the sport because there is so much to learn and it is intimidating with the amount of gear. To me one of the great things about fly fishing is that there is always more to learn.
What’s your favorite new piece of gear?
My new 16.5 ft maverick mirage II skiff with 70 hp Yamaha 4 stoke motor on the back! She is a beauty. Additionally, as a female angler, it is really hard to find functional practical gear for the salt water. I am in the sun for hours, wading in the marsh, or am hoping in and out of the boat. Living in the South we have some gnarly bugs so it is important for me to protect my skin. The AFTCO women’s electra leggings are amazing and even have a place for my pliers. I also love the wanderlust leggings that are quick drying and come in some awesome patterns.
What is your favorite fly? (To tie, or catch fish on?)
Oh that’s a tough one. My favorite for the salt is probably a chartreuse and white clouser fly or a tutti frutti. I’ve probably caught more fish on a chartreuse and white clouser than anything. I love tying new redfish patterns. They vary so much depending on the season it’s fun to see what the fish will bite on.
Best catch of all time?
Each catch means something different to me. But, my favorite catches are those I catch on my own flies without a guide. I caught a permit off the beach when I was in the Dry Tortugas on my own fly. This past year I caught a redfish on my own fly on my boat. Catching false albacore on my own flies is one of the best feelings as sometimes they can be incredibly picky. This year I’m bringing my skiff up to North Carolina and hoping to land a few on my boat.
What's your "Dream Trip"?
I love flats fishing. I would love the opportunity to go to Christmas island, the Seychelles for GTs, or Belize for permits. I would love to go back to Baja and catch rooster fish on a fly rod from the beach. I have done it from a boat with a guide, but I want to do it on my own.
What are some of the best places you’ve been fishing?
Cape Lookout in North Carolina is a second home to me. I grew up going there as a kid and it will always be a special place for me to fish. It is a unique place where the Gulf current meets the Labrador current. There is a plethora of marine life out there. Since I am a marine science nerd I geek out over the leather back sea turtles, whales, great hammer head sharks, cobia, huge blue fish, schools of busting albies, massive bait balls, spinner sharks, etc. There are a few others, but I want to keep them secret.
How do people follow you on social media or reach you?
You can follow me on Instagram @thebeardlessfisher or find me on facebook. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to get in touch. You can also find me through my business CAST AWAY. Through CAST AWAY I teach people how to throw cast nets of various size in the Low Country. I am expanding to CAST AWAY to teaching fly casting lessons this year.