Camping and fishing in the middle of a rainstorm wouldn’t usually be my idea of fun. But the Montana State Fly Fishing Club doesn’t let anyone rain on their parade. At the beginning of October, the Bozo Trout Bums held their semi-annual Women’s Fly Fishing trip on the Missouri River. This trip was designed to teach beginner anglers the skills they need to be independent and successful on the water. The student’s enthusiasm and love for fly fishing, mentorship, and community were contagious and inspiring. There were dance parties on the river bank, high-fives shared from boat to boat, hoots and hollers of excitement, and the occasional “What fly are you using?” shouted across the river with an honest answer to follow.
There was no ego or judgment on this trip, but rather stoke and smiles because everyone understood 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 fly fishing club network focusing on conservation and community and organized by Trout Unlimited and Costa Sunglasses. The Montana State Fly Fishing Club, based in Bozeman, has been striving to increase gender diversity and make fly fishing more accessible and accepting to all. Together twelve women and two men collaborated to make this truly remarkable trip happen. Brooklin and Wyatt, the club’s current co-presidents, answered a few questions for Flylords about the trip, the club, 5 Rivers, and what makes fly fishing so special.
Flylords: Brooklin and Wyatt! It was so fun to fish and camp with y’all this past weekend; the Bozo Trout Bums sure know how to have a good time! Would you tell me a bit about yourselves and how you got involved with the Montana State Fly Fishing Club?
Brooklin: I’m a senior in microbiology and biotechnology. I was born and raised in St. Ignatius, Montana and grew up spin fishing but only started fly fishing in 2019, and only really got serious about it in 2021. I decided to attend a club tying night after one of my mentors suggested it to me. Walking into that first event was pretty terrifying. I wasn’t sure what to expect or how the guys would react to a new girl in the club. But, I absolutely loved it. It was the first time I felt truly welcome in a fishing community, which was a little surprising to me because at the time we had very few girls in the club. The guys there were so kind and more than happy to teach me whatever I wanted to know.
Wyatt: I’m 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 couple of the 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 well and we still fish together today.
Flylords: When did you become co-presidents of the club? Did you have any particular goals with this position and how have you seen the club evolve during your presidency?
Brooklin: I became a vice president in January 2022 and then co-president in August 2022. Wyatt and I both wanted to improve the gender diversity in our club, and we wanted to give members opportunities to tie and fish–especially fish from boats since that tends to be too expensive for a lot of college kids.
Wyatt: I was a vice president during fall of 2021 and then took over as president in the spring of 2022 and asked Brooklin to be the co-president in August 2022. The two main goals in taking over the leadership role was to expand diversity and our event itinerary.
Flylords: Wyatt- I heard from some of the participants this weekend about the split sign-up sheets for club events and then I heard it was your idea. What motivated you to start splitting the sign-up sheets for 50/50 slots for men and women?
Wyatt: Brooklin told me about the feedback she was getting from female members that they were hesitant to attend events without knowing that there would be other women there. The motivation for splitting events was to increase our female attendance and allow them to feel more comfortable attending. The result was new members as a whole were more comfortable attending especially if they knew someone else attending.
Flylords: Brooklin- How has this new sign-up system changed the club dynamics? What other ways are you all working to make this club more inclusive?
Brooklin: We’ve seen much more female participation with this new system. I’ve heard that 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 kinda isolating and really intimidating, especially if you are a beginner. The new system removes that source of anxiety so girls are more willing to participate. Once they come to a club event, they often have the same realization that I had upon attending my first club event–all of the people in the club are great teachers, friends, and anglers.
Flylords: This past weekend was a women’s fishing trip. How did these trips come about and what is your favorite part about them?
Brooklin: I don’t remember when the idea exactly came about, 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 we had really generous support from Madison Gallatin Trout Unlimited and the Women on the River Collective. We went to a local river and caught a lot of big trout. This time we had amazing support from Big Boys Toys and Bozeman Fly Supply.
I love the excitement and empowerment on these trips. I was so impressed on this trip– we hadn’t figured out what fly those fish wanted, but by the second day the girls had clean drifts, good casts, and they were tying a lot of their own 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 participating in this club? What is your favorite part? What do you hope for the future of Bozo Trout Bums?
Brooklin: The people in the club have taught me so much about fly fishing, especially Collin and Wyatt. I was still a beginner when I joined last year. Now I tie almost all of my own flies, I double-haul, and I can run a boat fairly independently.
Wyatt has taught me that men can play a big role in getting more women into fly fishing. It seems like guys are often uncomfortable teaching women how to fish or tie because they worry that it will be interpreted as mansplaining. And that’s pretty fair! But it means most of the efforts to get more women into this sport are being led by women. It’s awesome 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 will remain a fun and inclusive community where anglers of all skill levels can learn from each other and come together to have a damn good time. College is exhausting–we all need a place to escape from the books for a little while to refresh our brains. I hope the club can be that for all of our current and future members.
Wyatt: I have 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 has shown me that we can do more events than we used to and include more people in them. Collin was an excellent predecessor who set us up for success. Collin and his co-president Nick both had large club events rolling and purchased the first club boat. Brooklin’s impact on the club has been substantial especially when it comes to planning events and including more women. She has become an excellent teacher, especially in fly-tying, and always has new ideas for events and club meetings. The future of the club will hopefully include more women and more events. I would agree with Brooklin and say that the club will remain a fun and inclusive place for anglers of any experience level.
Flylords: Would you tell me a bit about Trout Unlimited Costa 5 Rivers College Clubs? What is the benefit of this sort of nationwide network of clubs?
Brooklin: Five Rivers is a national organization of university fly fishing clubs sponsored by Trout Unlimited and Costa. We are all united by the fly.fishing platform, which is an online network that we use to connect with our club members and members of other clubs. There are Five Rivers clubs all over the country and they vary in size and activity, but all of them are focused on bringing young anglers together. It is a lot of fun to make friends all over the country through fly fishing. For college anglers who want to get involved in the industry after they graduate, Five Rivers is a goldmine of opportunities to network and find jobs.
Flylords: Switching it up a bit… The weather was a bit all over the place this weekend. What is your favorite pair of Costa Sunglasses for this sort of variable weather?
Brooklin: I love my Caldera’s with the copper silver mirror lenses. They are super effective in low or variable light conditions–I’ve used them for sight fishing quite a bit and they’re great every time.
Wyatt: I am a huge fan of the Ferg with copper lens. They perform well in every situation I have had them in including saltwater.
Flylords: Thank you both so much for organizing this trip and for your leadership in this incredible club! Anything else you wish to share?
Brooklin and Wyatt: Huge thanks to Trout Unlimited and Costa for their continual support of our club! We also want to give a huge and massive thank you and shout out to Big Boys Toys in Four Corners for providing us with boats and Bozeman Fly Supply for providing some awesome flies for the trip.