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Fly-fishing with a feminine touch
Fishing guide and instructor Stacy Jennings uses a colorful piece of yarn to help her teach casting technique. Jennings, whose business cards read "fly fishing schools for women, children and well-behaved men," says she is a firm believer in humor.

Written by DARYL GADBOW Photographed by KURT WILSON of the Missoulian

Clinic features top local female experts in the art of casting

Missoula's Terri Rauglund, a licensed fishing guide for 10 years, says her philosophy of teaching fly-fishing to women is the same as teaching men.

"I tailor it according to the intensity of the angler I am helping," says Rauglund, "but always start with a basic premise that fly-fishing should be fun."

Fun will be a top priority Saturday, when women interested in learning or improving their fly-fishing skills will have a chance to share the insights and experience of seven expert women anglers at a clinic at Missoula's Caras Park.

The free clinic "by women, for women" is sponsored by Missoula's Westslope Chapter of Trout Unlimited. The seven experts will provide hands-on instruction on a variety of fly-fishing skills, including a basic introduction to fly-fishing, reading the water, gear designed especially for women, casting, where to go fishing locally, entomology, knot-tying, and more.

Besides, it's opening day of Montana's general fishing season.

Classes are designed for novice and intermediate-level fly-fishers. Activities begin at 10 a.m. at the Caras Park Pavilion near the Higgins Avenue Bridge on the Clark Fork River. The clinic ends at 3:30 p.m.

Here's the clinic's lineup of expert instructors:

  • Diane Bristol of Bozeman, director of marketing and customer service for the Simms wader company, has been involved in the company's research of women's wader fit and development of women's products. She has given clinics on wader fit and product benefits through the International Women Fly Fishers organization. She's served on the board of directors of the organization, which promotes women in fly-fishing. She co-wrote an article about proper layer dressing in the March 2001 issue of Fly Fisherman magazine.

    "I have always felt that there is more effort needed to educate women and men about products that are available on the market and making sure the products they purchase are the correct fit," says Bristol.

  • Annette McLean has worked for the Winston Rod Co. in Twin Bridges for 18 years, with experience in nearly every area of the business. For the past two and a half years she has been production manager. She completed fly-fishing guru Joan Wulff's school for casing instructors and has conducted clinics throughout the U.S. for the past eight years. She helped Wulff establish a line of rods designed especially for women.

    "I am very excited to offer casting clinics during the day," McLean said of the Missoula event. She'll also be able to explain the differences in rod designs and actions.

  • Stacy Jennings, a licensed Missoula fly-fishing guide, has taught women, children and men about the mechanics of fly-casting, entomology, and catch-and-release techniques for nine years. She is a graduate of the Joan Wulff Fly Fishing Instructor's School and incorporates several different methodologies and styles in her teaching.

    Jennings says she enjoys sharing her lifelong knowledge and appreciation of fly-fishing with clients. She says she's a firm believer in the use of humor, and insists that learning about fly-fishing, related gear, reading water, entomology and safe wading and floating practices should all be fun.

  • Jenny West, a professional fly-fishing guide from Hamilton, is a member of the board of directors of the Bitterroot Chapter of Trout Unlimited. She's been featured speaker for other groups, presenting a slide show and talk about her fishing and guiding experience. She started a women's fly-fishing clinic in the Bitterroot Valley last year.
  • Carolyn Persico, co-owner with her husband, Doug, of the Rock Creek Fishermen's Mercantile, has taught many aspects of fly-fishing to groups of women. She's as knowledgeable about fishing Rock Creek as anyone around.
  • Maggie Farrell of Missoula says her life changed 10 years ago after she moved to Missoula discovered fly-fishing on a float trip on the Clark Fork River. This is Farrell's fifth season of guiding fly-fishers on area streams.

    "As a guide," she says, "I work to enhance the experience that all my clients have. Fishing is what brings clients to Montana, but I like my clients to enjoy the whole experience of floating a Montana river, catching fish and "taking it all in." Each river has something different to offer. For instance, stripping streamers in the rocky, fast waters of the Blackfoot requires different sills from drifting dries on the meandering bends of the Bitterroot, or nymphing the riffles on the Beaverhead, or a dry-and-dropper on the Clark Fork. Whatever the scenario may be, the safety and well-being of my clients is a priority and everyone should have a good time."

  • Terri Rauglund works at Kesel's Four Rivers Fly Shop and is co-owner of Blackfoot River Outfitters in Missoula.

At the shop, Rauglund says, "we have a photo wall with the standard grab and grin fish pics. Virtually every week I am asked, 'Did you catch that?' this is only ever asked of me - never my male counterparts, hoisting their fish. A quick response of 'No, my husband let me hold it' usually wakes them to the question's true underlying meaning. I find this mildly amusing, although perplexing. Who do they think really caught the fish? Are women, by definition, less adept at fly fishing? I just don't get it."

"Guiding allows me to be in places most dear to my heart, and actually make somewhat of a living doing it," she says. "Taking women fishing is more of a recent phenomenon for us, gaining more and more popularity in the last five years. I relish the opportunity to take women. And I encourage women to get out there whenever they can, and I now know how hard that can be since the birth of my daughter 21 months ago."

Reporter Daryl Gadbow can be reached at 523-5264 or at

Clinic schedule

Here's a schedule of classes that will be offered at Saturday's women's fly-fishing clinic at Caras Park. Some classes are geared for anglers of different ability or experience levels:

  • 10-11 a.m. - Novice and intermediate. Gear discussion (waders, vests, layering, sizes, maintenance. Safe wading practices.
  • 11a.m.-noon - Novice and intermediate. Local fishing destinations for floating and wading, river access rules, catch-and-release techniques.
  • 10 a.m.-noon - Novice. Introduction to fly-fishing, including line, leader, tippet selection, hands-on practice of knots, entomology, fly selection, reading the water and river safety. Casting clinic of various methods, roll and overhead casts, and fishing techniques.
  • 10 a.m.-noon - Intermediate. Entomology, nymph and streamer fishing, benefits of using a dropper. Casting clinic, including casting on vertical, diagonal and horizontal planes, use of drift time, solving wind problems, rotation of hand for changing direction, shooting line on final backcast, single-haul and double-haul techniques. Methods to improve fly presentations, mending and casting techniques.
  • Noon-1p.m. - Lunch.
  • 1-2 p.m. - Novice and intermediate. Gear discussion.
  • 2-3 p.m. - Novice and intermediate. Local fishing destinations.
  • 1-3 p.m. - Novice. Introduction to fly-fishing.
  • 1-3 p.m. - Intermediate. Entomology, nymph and streamer fishing. Casting clinic.
  • 3-3:30 p.m. - All. Questions and answers.
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