Check out the latest installment of Costa Behind the Guides presented by Costa Sunglasses. The Flylords team was lucky enough to catch up with Patagonia Ambassador, Kat Crump. Kate is a fly-fishing guide, mentor to fly women, and an all-around great individual. She is also pioneering some incredible things in North West Region of the U.S.
Flylords: Who is Kate Crump and what does she do?
Kate: I’m Kate Crump, formerly Kate Taylor. I’m a fly-fishing guide and an outfitter in Bristol Bay, Alaska and on the Oregon coast with my husband, Justin. We own Frigate Travel. We host anglers in Bristol Bay, Alaska for all types and species of salmon. We do trout, grayling, and arctic char. Then, in Oregon, we host anglers to chase winter steelhead.Flylords: When did you start Frigate Travel and what made you want to have your own business?
Kate: Well, we were guiding in Alaska together and in the winter, we wouldn’t work. We would just fish for steelhead and our guests would ask us, “What do you guys do in the winter?” I think our passion for steelhead carried over in our conversations with guests. “What if I want to go fish for steelhead?” We couldn’t really answer, but we were like “I guess we could take you.”So, we started trying to figure out how that worked, to be a winter steelhead guide. We organized a few trips our first year, then we became a business. This is our 9th winter doing it. It’s all very organic growth, but we’re almost booked for our season. Once we got momentum on running our own trips, we realized that we could do that in Alaska as well.It’s like jumping off a cliff, but we took that step. This last summer was our second season running our own guide operation in Bristol Bay. I think for both of us, we really appreciated the opportunity to make decisions and every year as a business decide how we’re going to do better and how we’re going to make our guests’ experience even better. It’s really great working for ourselves, working for each other, and doing it together.Flylords: What do you think has been the biggest challenge to running a fishing operation?
Kate: I think it’s like any small business owner, the challenges are knowing all the different hats and when to let other people wear those hats. So one thing that we learned through great leadership is that it’s important for us to do what we’re really good at. It’s also really important for us to find people that can do the things that we’re not good at. That would be things like bookkeeping and accounting. We pay somebody to do that part for us…For us, guiding is a lifestyle. It’s who we are and what we do. Part of that is breaking bread with our people and building more than just being somebody’s fishing guide. Most of our guests feel like they’re family. Having somebody new work for us and participate in that process and being part of the team can be scary. It seems a little risky to take those sorts of steps, but it’s paid off tremendously.Flylords: How can you compare the two fisheries of Alaska and Oregon?
Kate: There’s a couple of different ways to compare them. Environmentally, there’s a huge difference. It’s very apparent in Oregon how human influence has affected our fisheries the physical aesthetics. Whether it’s timber harvest or agriculture or just the many industrial influences.
Whereas in Bristol Bay, Alaska, it’s still wild, it’s still pristine. It’s all flowing out of the National Park and Wildlife Refuges. It’s very much wild still and there isn’t industry or anything like that. You have the largest run of sockeye salmon left in the world returning and the fishing is good year after year, unlike any other place along the west coast.
It’s really dramatic in that sense. We fly around in float planes in Bristol Bay. We’re flying over territory that you know no human has walked across. We see a ton of wildlife, and that’s a part of our everyday experience. In Oregon, I find myself really turning to different types of wildlife. I’m becoming a better birder and notice different types of wildlife aren’t necessarily the big game animals that I was looking for in Bristol Bay.
Flylords: Could you tell us the difference between the steelhead and rainbow in 2-3 sentences?
Kate: A steelhead is an ocean-going species; they go out into the ocean to grow up and get big and fat, then returns to its natal stream to spawn. Rainbow trout… I don’t need to go on with rainbow trout with you…
Flylords: Patagonia chooses very carefully who they want to associate their brand with. When did that happen and what was your reaction to that?
Kate: I think they made a mistake. That has been four years ago. It was so funny, Bill Klein calls me and said “Hey, you’re going to be getting a FedEx in the mail of our stuff,” and he went on for a long time. When he finally stopped, I was like “What are you talking about?” What is this package and what are we supposed to be congratulated for? He said “Oh, nobody told you? You’re a Patagonia fly fishing ambassador now.”
It’s really incredible to be a part of their company. I admire their ethics and their mission statement. We’ve followed that as well in our business. Trying to do less harm and trying to be very conscientious in the things that we do and every year trying to do better.
Like having water bottles for our guests is a simple thing, goes such a long way. And with that, having really clean water for guests to drink. Having good filtration system and even further reducing our waste as a company. I feel like that’s the beauty of Patagonia, they not only inspire us, but inspire a lot of other people and businesses to do better. To have more responsibility and to be more thoughtful about what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and how you’re doing it.
Flylords: Over the past 10 years, how have you seen female anglers change/adapt within the industry?
Kate: Even before guiding, I worked at a fly shop for a number of years. I looked at magazines all the time and saw few women anglers. I always used to cut out pictures of Judith O’Keefe, because she was the only female in the magazine thanks to Brian O’Keefe. So, I’d cut out magazine pictures and hang them on the wall. There just weren’t very many. I don’t think there was a platform for women at that time either.
I think it’s natural to want to see other people like you doing what you love to do. I don’t know if this is a product of social media, but women just started fishing because they had access to… All of a sudden, there were more women anglers. Every day I go online, and I see even more women anglers.
I definitely see more young women fly fishing guides. For the longest time, it was myself and two other women in Bristol Bay. Then just over the last few years, there’s been two other women now guiding Bristol Bay. That’s so exciting to see. I want to see more women out there. There’s no reason why women can’t be great fishing guides.
I think it would be really good for the sport to see more women. I’d like to see women on the Oregon coast guiding for winter steelhead. I rarely see women doing it… There’s definitely some, but I don’t see them on a daily basis, and I’m out there every day. How great would it be if there were other women out there doing it?
Flylords: For a girl or a woman who has the goal to become a fishing guide, but is intimidated about trying to take something like that on, do you have any advice for them?
Kate: I think it’s totally valid to be intimidated by entry into the sport. There still aren’t that many women. Even though there’s a lot of women fishing guides, there’s not that many full-time female fishing guides like there are in comparison to males. So I think women should be slightly intimidated. It’s the nature of the beast. I think there are a lot of places in Bristol Bay that wouldn’t hire a woman, simply because she’s a woman. So that’s frustrating as well.
However, any female that wants to achieve it, it’s a matter of being perseverant. I think you have to seek out and apply if that’s what you want to do. Most guides that go up for their first time don’t know how to do it, or they know very little, and they have to learn. I know that’s why I don’t see that many women on the Oregon coast, because it’s not easy, you can’t just jump in and do it.
Flylords: Have you faced any sexism in the industry?
Kate: You know, I think early on I did. I rarely experience that kind of thing in Bristol Bay anymore. In Oregon, I always have this list of one liners that people say to me when they see a woman rowing a boat on the Oregon coast in the winter time. It’s like a lot of people, their mouths just drop open. I get several comments and take it like it’s not meant to be mean or even rude, it’s really just ignorance.
It attests to that there aren’t very many women doing it. So it is a surprise when they see a woman rowing two 60 year old men down the river in the middle of winter in the rain. They’re like “What the hell is this?” I’ve had people on the river bank like “Wow, way to give the old man a break.” Things like that, where it’s really just funny. You can’t take it too serious or personal.Flylords: Do you have a favorite pair of Costa frames that you like to wear and do you have a different lens for Alaska versus Oregon?
Kate: I basically only wear the Costa Inlets. It’s a problem being a gal, the hats come down super low and the Inlets slide right underneath and behind my ear very well. I actually use the copper lens in both Alaska and in Oregon, but if it’s a super sunny day I’ll use the green mirror.
Flylords: If somebody wants to come out and fish with you guys, when’s the best time to be in Alaska and when’s the best time to be in Oregon?
Kate: For Alaska, June through the middle of October and then for winter steelhead, we’re guiding December through the beginning of April.
Flylords: If somebody maybe has never gone steelhead fishing before, what’s something that they can prepare for before coming out with you?
Kate: Prepare to have a good time. I really don’t think that there’s anything anyone needs to prepare for. That’s my job, is to help you learn how to do it and show you our moves and show you steelhead and immerse you in that experience.
People are always so scared of winter steelhead I think that’s probably been by design from steelhead fishermen that it’s just a terrible and miserable experience and you never catch anything. I think I should dispel that myth. The way we do it, it’s definitely something that almost anybody could do.
Flylords: On the Oregon coast, you have to be a little bit more careful/secretive versus Alaska about where you’re fishing?
Kate: Yes, I would say that’s a really interesting thing about the two fisheries. Alaska has plentiful resources. We’re all out there doing the same thing, not the same thing fishing wise, but the same operation. Whereas in Oregon, the resources are so much more limited. The collaboration is very limited. It’s very secretive and the truths are never full truths between guides and fishermen.
Flylords: Do you have any role models in the fly fishing industry?
Kate: That’s a good one. One of my role models and also happens to be my mentor is Dylan Tomine. He’s a writer and Patagonia fly fishing ambassador. He’s helped me a lot with my writing and is a good person. He’s been a great mentor along the way and a real role model. My husband is also a pretty great role model too. That sounds kinda cheesy, but it’s true.
Flylords: What’s it like guiding with and running a business with your husband?
Kate: It’s so great! I think for us, we’re really learning what our strengths and weaknesses are. That was an important part of the learning process, but it’s so great to have somebody that you can really trust and communicate with on the water or off the water to hash things through.
Always having a cheerleader or somebody that believes in you is definitely really incredible. I’m very blessed in that way. We work really well together. I don’t have too many complaints.
Flylords: Where did you guys meet?
Kate: We met in a fly shop in Bellingham, Washington.
Flylords: Was it love at first sight?
Kate: No, he actually got hired the week before I got hired. Then he suddenly didn’t have any hours, so I don’t think he really liked me at first. We didn’t meet for about a year after that. Then he came into the store and my boss invited him back in to come work with us. He came in with Brian and Judith O’Keefe doing the leads. I was like “Whoa, who’s this guy?” My first thought was “I wonder if he kisses well.” It took a while to find out.
Big shout out to Kate for taking the time to talk with us, if you are looking to land large salmonoids check out their guiding website! Also, make sure to keep up with everything Costa at @Costasunglasses.