Back in September 2016, Texan Karen Clark was visiting Vail, Colorado with her husband, some friends — Beth Paterson and Leisha Scaling — and their husbands.
“Our husbands were golfers,” she says. “And we were looking for something fun to do. So, we decided to try fly fishing.”
Karen, Beth, and Leisha had never really fished before. But they went out with Katie and Cooper Anderson (of Anderson’s Fish Camp) and were instantly hooked on the sport.
“We loved it so much that we decided to form a little fly fishing club and start an Instagram account,” Karen says of herself and her two friends (all of whom live in the Dallas area).
And that’s how 4 Seasons Fly Gals was born. When I caught up with Karen and Beth, they were visiting Karen’s rental cabin in Branson and had been out fishing on Lake Taneycomo in 24-degree weather.
“They stock rainbow trout in Taneycomo,” Karen explained. “We’re still very new to it. We’ve got to the point where we’re going out by ourselves — without guides — wading, and actually catching fish. But there’s still so much to learn.”
The Fly Gals have added another twist to their new pastime, as well.
“We’re strictly catch-and-release,” Karen says. “I would never eat anything I catch. But we take pictures of our fish. And sometimes when we get back to the cabin, we’ll print off the pictures and paint watercolors of the fish we caught. That’s always fun. We also keep a fly journal of each trip we go on.”
“About a year ago, we took the Orvis fly-tying class,” Karen says. “I bought the set, and I’ve tied a few flies. Every time I come to Branson, I try to the flies I’m going to need. I’ve learned to tie an egg pattern. I’ve learned the wooly bugger, I’ve learned the sculpin. The squirmy worm, the San Juan worm — we fish with a lot of those in Branson. Tying flies is a lot of fun.”
As much as they enjoy fly fishing, the Gals are occasionally met with incredulity.
“I get tickled,” Karen says. “Sometimes, we’ll be walking through the airport with our fly rods and guys will come up to us think we’re carrying our husbands’ fly rods. I’ll be like, ‘No, it’s mine — he’s the golfer.’ We do attract plenty of men with our fly rods.”
For the Gals, the learning has been a big part of the joy they’ve found in fly fishing.
“Every time you go out, you learn something new,” Karen says. “There’s always something to learn.”
She referred to their outing that day as an example.
“Today was the first time that she went out and waded by herself, and she caught her first fish,” Karen says.
“Without a guide,” Beth clarified.
“Usually, in Colorado, we go with guides because we love Katie and Cooper so much,” Karen says. “We’re all grandmas, and they’re excited to see people our age taking up something like this.”
“Especially women,” Beth adds.
Most importantly, the Gals are creating many memorable moments as they continuing honing their fly angling skills — even if some of them don’t involve catching fish.
“I was fishing for the first time by myself for the first time at this little lake. Some other folks who were fishing there suggested that I move to a spot where the fish had really been biting,” Karen says. “I picked up my rod, but I didn’t hook my fly onto it — I just let swing. And as I ran over to the new spot, I hooked the fly in my calf.”
“I didn’t know what to do, so I decided to go back to the fly shop and see if they could get it out of my leg,” Karen says. “So, I was walking back, and this gentleman goes, ‘What kind of fly were you using today?’ I put my leg up and said, ‘Well, it’s right here if you want to take a look.’ He said, ‘Come on over here. I’m a surgeon, and I can pop that right out for you.’ It was really funny.”
Beth recalled a recent trip to Mexico.
“We went to Punta Mita, and we thought we were really big stuff. So, we chartered a boat and went out on the ocean, fly fishing,” Beth says. “I got sick as a dog. They finally took us back to the bay.”
Although the fly outing didn’t go as planned, Karen did get a jack crevalle on spinning gear after they returned.
“That was a little more fun because we really didn’t know what we were doing with the other,” Karen says.
Karen and Beth have a wonderful sense of humor about some of their missteps. Make no mistake, though. The Gals catch plenty of fish, and their enthusiasm for fly fishing has taken them on plenty of adventures.
“It’s fun at this point in our lives that we could find something that we just love to do,” Karen says. “It’s just such a learning experience. Every time you go out, you learn something new. And we’re just beginning.”
“It’s like a treasure hunt when you’re out there fishing,” Karen says. “You just don’t know what the day’s going to be like. You don’t know how it’s going to turn out, but you’re not going to leave until you catch a fish.”
“It’s beautiful, the scenery…,” Beth says. “It’s just a great way to spend the day.”