Many of us call the water home, Katie Fiedler Anderson is no different. Just after high school, she picked up a fly rod and has never looked back. Now, many years later, she is the proud owner of Anderson’s Fish Camp, a mother, and a wife. Her time in the industry has not been a walk in the park, so to speak; nevertheless, she is dedicated to sharing what she knows with all who are interested. Check out the full Women on the Water interview below!
Tell us a little bit about yourself, who are you both on and off of the water?
I am an outdoors person, I love the outdoors, I have since high school. I grew up in Saint Louis so I didn’t have a lot of the same opportunities as people who grew up in the mountains; I think that I have a big appreciation for things like skiing culture and fishing culture as a result. I whitewater kayaked in high school through a local YMCA, and that’s how I got into fly fishing. Right out of high school I went and worked for a rafting company in Maine, and I found a fly rod in one of the cabins I was living in. I went to the gas station and bought some stuff. I had no idea what I was doing. I recruited some friends and I was like, “Let’s do this! Let’s go fishing!” That’s literally how I started fly fishing, it was a mess but it was super fun. I still remember the complete shock of the first fish we caught with that rod. I always loved spending time on the water, that’s where I am happy and comfortable. I am also a mom, that occupies a lot of my brain and my time. I want to give the gift of the love of the outdoors to my kid. As far as my personality…well, I would describe myself as easygoing, I like to have fun and joke around, and I am really playful.
Who or what was your biggest influence when you were just starting to fly fish?
In the winter, I was working at a Patagonia shop in Freeport, Maine, and there was a guy who worked there, Captain Eric Wallace, and he was super into fly fishing. One day, Captain Eric decided to teach us casting as a field day. I had always spin-fished growing up, I would call myself a reluctant fisher person because there were definitely many times my dad would drag me along and I would just kind of sit on the bank and complain about not catching. But I do enjoy those memories for sure. Eric was really the one that showed me fly fishing; I remember being at his house, I was house-sitting for him randomly, and he had all of this fly tying stuff. We (my friends and I) would be up there messing with his vice and looking at all of his flies. He gave me a hand-tied fly one time when we were at work. I was just so interested in every part of the sport. I really truly don’t think that he understands that he made such an impact on me just by just giving me these little teaching moments, I carry all of them with me. And then when I found that fly rod in the cabin, I was able to piece it all together, even though my rig and skill set was an absolute mess.
Are there any specific fly fishing experiences or moments that have shaped you as an angler or as a person?
There have definitely been some experiences that I have had as a guide…it is one thing to be fishing and to be focused on the fun and the comradery, working as a guide I really started to grow. It hasn’t been the easiest road for me; when I started guiding I had no idea that women “didn’t” guide and that women “didn’t” fish. It never crossed my mind that I was in any way a minority because I was coming from the rafting culture where there are plenty of females in every aspect of the sport. I really had no idea what I was getting into. A story that I like to tell is when it was my second or third year guiding, it was high water, all the rivers were blown out, and there was a group of guys from Texas. It was a three-pack, we were wade fishing, and I had a San Juan Worm tied on all of their rigs because that fly was crushing fish at that time. One of the guys looked at me, right when we got to the river, and he goes, “No offense to you, but I’m not fishing with a girl fly,” because the fly was pink. I just remember being so shocked that I froze because I was young and naive. So I ripped the fly off of his rig and I stuck it on his waders, and I was like, “When you decide you want to catch fish, tie that on.” I couldn’t believe it. He huffed away from me and walked to the other side of the river, his buddies were all “Oh sorry, he’s an asshole, whatever.”
I was scared that I was going to get fired for being sassy and for being like “figure your own stuff out”, but at the same time I was like my job is to help you catch fish, and you don’t want to use the flies that I am suggesting, so what am I going to do? I guided his buddies on the otherside of the river, and they started whaling on fish; I was like thank God, somebody was looking out for me that day. That really started to shape my response to stuff like that. It wasn’t going to be the first time that somebody made a comment about my gender and my position, but I am proud of myself for not letting it bring me down and for being able to stick up for myself. And when the guy on the other side of the river saw his buddies whaling on fish, I look over and saw him with his head down tying that fly on. He later looked up at me and he goes “Katie, I caught one on the girl fly!” So that whole trip did turn around, and it made me feel good to be able to change his mind. For what it’s worth, I am not changing the world, I am not saving lives in the hospital, but it did feel really good to change his mind.
What was the inspiration behind Anderson’s Fish Camp?
Well, in Colorado we guided as independent contractors. I was sitting in Islamorada, Florida, we lived down there for one summer in 2009, and we were traveling back so I had some time to think. I wanted to start sharing what I did on the river on a Facebook page because I thought that it was cool and fun, and I thought that it could help build a community feeling for clients. I called the Facebook page Anderson’s Fish Camp. When my husband (he is a guide too) and I married, we were looking at finances and decided that we need to also be paid at Anderson’s Fish Camp. Then, after taking graphic design classes, I built a website to try and generate my own client leads to get more work, which was AndersonsFishCamp.com. We were still contracting through a shop for permits, but that became our business organically out of a desire to get out on the water more and make a career out of fishing.
After I gave birth to my daughter, there was a lot of commotion in the shop about me guiding and what rank I deserved since I took time off of guiding while pregnant. Immediately after giving birth, I tore my ACL, which further exacerbated my need to be human. I was never able to get in writing (I did ask) that I was “allowed” to take maternity time, just verbal promises. So when I came back and had my position jeopardized repeatedly for no reasons related to skill, or client retention, or tenure, I knew it was time to move on. The transfer from girl guide to mom guide was hard and really made me feel insanely isolated. I spent 12 years, at that point, building myself as a guide, building my business, etc, only to have that work threatened when I decided to start a family. I watched my husband and other guys at the shop make that same choice, and it was just business as usual for them. We decided that we needed to take Anderson’s Fish Camp to the next level because I hit a wall as far as growth, bottom line. If I wanted opportunities, then I saw no other way than to create them myself, because moving to another shop would’ve only put me at the bottom of another roster which can take decades to climb to the top of. With a lot of support from our community of loyal clients and family and friends; my husband and I now run what is 100% our own guide business.
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How does being a woman affect your interactions with others in the industry on a day-to-day basis?
It is always going to be in the back of my mind that I am different in this industry, that I am not the norm, but I made my mind up a long time ago that if you like doing something enough, you are going to deal with all of the little things that come along with it. I have had restaurant jobs where the manager sucks, and what do I do? I quit because I don’t really like working in that place. I had fishing jobs where not everything is perfect, and what did I do? I worked there for twelve years. You are going to deal with the hardships if you are doing something that you truly enjoy. I just try to show up as someone who loves what I do and put the rest of it to the side. I show up ready to have a good day, ready to have fun, and ready to be my authentic self. I am at home on the water, so I am not going to pretend like I am anyone else. I try not to bring gender into it; I mean it is there, I am different than a guy, but it is not the first thing that crosses my mind. In the end, I’m thankful for my journey, because I wouldn’t be in my current position without my past experiences. I am just happy where I am at, and open to what the future might hold.
In what ways do you see sexism within the fly fishing industry?
It is so obvious that it is there, I have had all of these experiences. I think that there are big strides being made, I mean I opened up The Drake the other day and the first two or three pages were really well-thought-out ads with women. There has been a lot of growth and I have been able to see that; when I first started fishing I could only find men’s waders, and now I have a few different options, I don’t have as many as men do, but it’s starting to tip a little bit. It’s still a little shocking to some people that a woman can crush fish. I think that sentiment alone sums up sexism in this sport. A woman can thread a line through a rod, tie knots, pick out flies, and trick a fish. It seems silly when you break it down. Nonetheless, there is still a shock factor with a woman crushing this sport and the only way I see to make it less shocking is for women to keep crushing it.
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What, as an industry and as individuals, can we do to be more inclusive (ie. gender, age, size, etc.)?
To be more inclusive we need to admit that fly fishing is a sport that can meet people where they are at. Can you be a different size and fly fish? Absolutely. My three-year-old, can she fly fish? I am going to say yes. Is it me holding the rod as she nets the fish or some version of that? For sure. She is not doing a false cast and setting the hook and doing it all, but if you ask her, “Do you fly fish?” she will enthusiastically say “I do”. There is no reason we can’t give that to her. The fish don’t see any of the differences that we carry. It is a sport that can be tailored to meet anyone; we have taken people in wheelchairs fishing, my husband is 80% deaf and he fishes just fine, I manage PTSD and can absolutely get it done; you can have so many things that you carry, and fly fishing sees none of them. Opportunities to get on the water, to have conversations about flies or fishing, to just be treated like the fish would treat you; these simple opportunities are gifts worth giving!
What advice would you give a woman or young girl who is starting to fly fish?
I would say have fun and make it your own. You don’t need to do everything. One of my favorite quotes, and it’s probably awful, is, “You can’t be good at everything”. You have permission to be confident and not know it all. You don’t have to tie flies to be a fly fisherman, you don’t have to have a double haul, you don’t have to have all the latest women’s specific gear, you don’t need any of it to be a fly fisher. The other thing is to keep trying to find people who get it too, and leave the rest behind. My best days on the water have been because I am with people who get it too. Fly fishing is a riot.