Women’s Fly Fishing in the Northwest

by J. “Kat” Loren / Photo ©  Dan Anthon

Once the domain of men, women are stepping into the world of fly-fishing wherever a river runs, especially where a campfire or even a spa awaits at the end of the day. Women who are comfortable outdoors now make up the fastest growing population of newbie fly fishers. Schools are catering to women, resorts are offering more amenities for women fly fishers, women-only trips are full far in advance, and manufacturers now make gear to better fit a woman’s body. The times have never been more favorable to women who have not yet taken that first step towards the water.

Where Women Learn to Fish

Partly art and mostly form, the intricacies of fly fishing can take years to learn. Casting techniques vary as much as the type of fly needed during certain seasons and locations on Northwest rivers. But don’t let that stop you from enjoying the beauty of claiming your own private spot on a river. Orvis is one of the top fly fishing schools hosting trips all over North America. Women learn to fish alongside men in their weekend fly fishing schools. According to Gwenn Perkins, director of the company’s Women’s Outdoor Program and a nationally recognized fly-fishing instructor, women in classes is quickly approaching 40 percent.

Tucked away in some of the most beautiful scenery in the Northwest is the popular vacation town of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Many Orvis schools are held at Coeur d’Alene Resort right on the lake. Other courses are perfect for vacationing couples near Bozeman, Montana. The company is also offering a new school in September that focuses on learning to hook Pacific steelhead at Morrison’s Rogue River Lodge, located 16 miles downriver from Grants Pass.

Besides fly fishing, Morrison’s is also famous for the Rogue’s outstanding white-water rafting. Some women find is easier to learn in women-only groups and many guides are catering to that desire. Noted fly fishers of this current generation include April Vokey of Fly Gal Ventures in British Columbia, a province known for its giant steelheads during the winter and summer runs. Vokey leads classes and trips in various parts of B.C.—Chilliwack, Smithers and Bella Coola—for both men and women. She is quick to state that she will talk about fly-fishing only in gender-neutral terms.

Exclusive Trips for Female Anglers

While the beauty of the river calls during the day, the nights are for relaxing. Some groups are known for sitting around a campfire in the company of other women, cigar in one hand, gin and tonic in the other, swapping fish tales and laughing at the snags of line and life. Other trips cater to those who like life a little less rustic at the end of the day. Two of the best-known operators include Sisters on the Fly and Reel Women Fly Fishing Adventures.

Sisters on the Fly is known for the camaraderie of those who like to camp and fish in comfort. They circle their campers in various summer events, fish and hang around a campfire. For those who don’t have their own tricked-out camper, Sisters on the Fly also offers resort-based trips for women in Oregon and Montana, such as their famous Cowgirl Sister Retreat. With top women instructors and guides, Reel Women Adventures guarantees accelerated learning during their two-day fishing retreats based in Willow Creek, Montana. Guests fish the Madison, Jefferson and Gallatin rivers during prime dry fly season. They also operate in Teton Valley, Idaho. The Northwest has plenty of opportunities for women of all ages to get out on the river by day and enjoy the company of others in the evening. Fish on!

6 Fly Fishing Destinations Women Love

Women who fish don’t just spend all their time in the water. Some of the best lodges and resorts offer a variety of activities including horseback riding, hiking, golf and spas. Although Montana rivers are perceived as the Mecca of Fly Fishing, Central Oregon is an insider’s paradise. Here are the top six resorts that women love in both states.


The iconic western rivers of Montana include the Yellowstone, Madison, Gallatin and Jefferson rivers as the “headliners.” It takes a local to know the smaller streams, each with its own unique wild-trout habitat.

  • At Blue Damsel Lodge, 40 minutes from Missoula, guests stay and dine in rustic luxury while fly fishing the four different trout streams in “A River Runs Through It” country. bluedamsel.com
  • Nine Quarter Circle Ranch, within driving distance of the Gallatin, Madison and Yellowstone Rivers, offers a real western experience with overnight pack trips, hayrides and campfires. Fly-fishing guides come at no extra cost. ninequartercircle.com
  • The Lone Mountain Guest Ranch offers private cabins, a saloon and horses to ride, as well as week-long inclusive programs that focus on fly-fishing. lonemountainranch.com


Oregon Rivers are well known for exceptional fishing, particularly the Metrolius River in Central Oregon. The area surrounding Sisters has several resorts that go beyond fishing with many other recreational opportunities.

  • Besides fishing, if its golf, horseback riding and spa services you want, check into Black Butte Ranch. blackbutteranch.com
  • For hiking in Deschutes National Forest followed by pampering in a top-rated spa or a pint in the local brew pub, try the romantic Five Pine Lodge in Sisters. fivepinelodge.com
  • An elegant ranch complete with equestrian activities, golf and spa services with fabulous dining on the premises, Brasada Ranch offers the best local fly-fishing with the amenities of a world-class resort. brasada.com
Previous articleJourney to Ritzville, WA
Next articleChef Bobby Moore