Changing Currents: How Fly Fishing College Students Are Changing

Camping and fishing in the middle of a rain storm would not normally be my idea of ​​fun. But the Montana Fly Fishing Club doesn’t let anyone rain on their parade. In early October, the Bozo Trout Bums held their semi-annual Women’s Fly Fishing Trip on the Missouri River. This trip was designed to teach beginning anglers the skills they need to be independent and successful on the water. The student’s enthusiasm and love for fly fishing, mentoring and community was contagious and inspiring. There were dance parties on the river bank, high notes shared from boat to boat, exciting whoops and hoots and the occasional “What fly am I using?” shouted across the river with an honest reply to follow.

There was no ego or judgment on this trip, but instead encouragement and smiles because everyone realized a win (or in this case a fish) for one was a win for all!

The Montana State Fly Fishing Club, better known as the Bozo Trout Bums, is one of the 5 Rivers College Clubs. 5 Rivers is a collegiate network of fly fishing clubs focused on conservation and community and hosted by Trout Unlimited and Costa Sunglasses. The Montana State Fly Fishing Club, based in Bozeman, has strived to increase gender diversity and make fly fishing more accessible and acceptable to all. Together, twelve women and two men collaborated to make this truly extraordinary journey possible. Brooklin and Wyatt, current club co-presidents, answered a few questions for Flylords about the trip, the club, 5 Rivers and what makes fly fishing so special.

Flylords: Brooklyn and Wyatt! It was so much fun fishing and camping with everyone this past weekend; of Bozo Trout Bums sure know how to have a good time! Tell me a little about yourself and how did you become involved with the Montana State Fly Fishing Club?

Brooklyn: I am a senior student in microbiology and biotechnology. I was born and raised in St. Ignatius, Montana and grew up reel fishing, but only started fly fishing in 2019, and didn’t take it seriously until 2021. I decided to attend a hookup club after one of my mentors suggested it. me. Walking into that first event was very scary. I wasn’t sure what to expect or how guys would react to a new girl in the club. But, I absolutely loved it. It was the first time I felt really welcome in a fishing community, which was a little surprising to me because we had very few girls in the club at the time. The guys there were very kind and more than happy to teach me anything I wanted to know.

Wyatt: I am a senior in Finance with a minor in International Business. I was born in Missoula, Montana and have been fly fishing for as long as I can remember. I attended a few general meetings when I first started because I was interested in finding people to fish with. I immediately had a small group of members that I got along with and we still fish together today.

Flylords: When did you become co-presidents of the club? Did you have a particular goal? with this position and how have you seen the evolution of the club during your presidency?

Brooklyn: I became vice-president in January 2022 and then co-president in August 2022. Wyatt and I both wanted to improve gender diversity in our club and wanted to give members opportunities to bond and fish – especially to fish from boats as this it tends to be too expensive for many college kids.

Wyatt: I was vice president during the fall of 2021 and then took over as president in the spring of 2022 and asked Brooklin to be co-president in August 2022. The two main goals in taking on the leadership role were to expand our diversity and event itinerary.

Flylords: Wyatt- I heard from some of the participants this weekend about the split recording sheet for club events and then I heard it was your idea. What motivated you to start? dividing the registration sheets for 50/50 slots for men and women?

Wyatt: Brooklin told me about the feedback she gets from female members that they are reluctant to attend events without knowing there will be other women there. The motivation for splitting the events was to increase female attendance and allow them to feel more comfortable participating. The result was that new members as a whole were more comfortable participating, especially if they knew someone else who was participating.

Flylords: Brooklyn- How has this new registration system changed the dynamics of the club? What other ways are you all working to make this club more inclusive?

Brooklyn: We have seen much more female participation with this new system. I hear they love the new system because they know they won’t be the only girl at any of the events. Being the only girl at fishing events can feel somewhat isolating and really intimidating, especially if you’re a beginner. The new system removes that source of anxiety so that girls are more willing to participate. Once they come to a club event, they often have the same sense I had when I attended my first club event – ​​all the people at the club are teachers, friends and great anglers.

Flylords: Last weekend was a women’s fishing trip. How did these trips come about? about and what is your favorite part about them?

Brooklyn: I don’t remember exactly when the idea came to me, but as soon as I had the idea I decided I had to make it happen. We had our first trip in April 2022 and had really generous support from Madison Gallatin Trout Unlimited and Women on the River Collective. We went to a local river and caught many large trout. This time we had amazing support from Big Boys Toys and Bozeman Fly Supply.

I love the thrill and power of these rides. I was very impressed with this trip – we hadn’t figured out what flies those fish wanted, but by day two the girls had clean slides, good casts and were tying a lot of their knots. I love seeing how much they can grow in just one weekend of fishing.

Flylords: On a more personal level, how have you (both) learned and grown by participating in this club? What is your favorite part? What do you hope for the future of Bozo Trout? The booms?

Brooklyn: The people at the club have taught me a lot about fly fishing, especially Collin and Wyatt. I was still a newbie when I joined last year. Now I tie almost all my flies, do two tackles and can run a fairly independent boat.

Wyatt has taught me that men can play a huge role in attracting more women to fly fishing. It seems that boys are often uncomfortable teaching women how to fish or tie because they worry that it will be interpreted as slander by the man. And that’s fair enough! But that means most of the efforts to get more women into the sport are being led by women. It’s great to see a male leader doing so much recruiting, planning and teaching to get more women involved. It just goes to show that men can play a big and important role in improving gender diversity in this sport.

I hope the club remains a fun and inclusive community where anglers of all skill levels can learn from each other and come together to have a good time. College is exhausting—we all need a place to escape from the books for a while to refresh our brains. I hope the club will be like this for all our current and future members.

Wyatt: I learned a lot about the fly fishing industry as well as how to best manage clubs and events in an efficient manner. Collin and Brooklin have been influential, especially Brooklin, she’s shown me that we can do more events than we’ve been doing and get more people involved in them. Collin was a great ancestor who set us up for success. Collin and his co-president Nick both had big club events and bought the club’s first boat. Brooklin’s influence on the club has been essential especially when it comes to planning events and getting more women involved. She has become an excellent teacher, especially in fly tying, and always has new ideas for club events and meetings. The future of the club will hopefully include more women and more events. I would agree with Brooklyn and say that the club will remain a fun and inclusive place for anglers of all experience levels.

Flylords: Can you tell me a little bit about Trout Unlimited Costa 5 Rivers College Clubs? What is the benefit of this type of nationwide network of clubs?

Brooklyn: Five Rivers is a national organization of university fly fishing clubs sponsored by Trout Unlimited and Costa. We are all united by the platform, which is an online network that we use to connect with members of our club and members of other clubs. There are Five Rivers clubs all over the country and they vary in size and activity, but all are focused on bringing young anglers together. It’s a lot of fun making friends all over the country through fly fishing. For college anglers looking to get involved in the industry after graduation, Five Rivers is a gold mine of networking and job opportunities.

Flylords: Turning it up a notch… The weather was a bit all over the place this weekend. What’s your favorite pair of Costa sunglasses for this changeable weather?

Brooklyn: I love my Caldera’s with the silver copper mirror lenses. They are super effective in low or variable light conditions – I’ve used them quite a bit for sight fishing and they are great every time.

Wyatt: I’m a big fan of Ferg with copper lenses. They perform well in every situation I’ve had them in including salt water.

Flylords: Thank you both so much for organizing this trip and for your leadership in this incredible club! Anything else you’d like to share?

Brooklyn and Wyatt: Big thanks to Trout Unlimited and Costa for their continued support of our club! We also want to thank and shout out to Big Boys Toys in Four Corners for providing the boat and Bozeman Fly Supply for providing some great flies for the trip.

Thank you Costa Sunglasses for supporting Trout Unlimited and 5 Rivers across the country! If you want to learn more about the 5 rivers CLICK HERE.

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