About one-third of fly fishers are women. It should be no surprise, then, that two new groups who work with women in fly fishing have emerged in Colorado in the past couple years. Both are fast growing, women-founded, and prioritize education and conservation within the fly fishing community.
First, Artemis—which is part of the Boulder-based National Wildlife Federation—was founded in 2017. The group has chapter leaders scattered throughout the West, and offers women’s-only hunting and angling clinics, and is also on a mission to teach sportswomen and sportsmen how to engage in conservation on every level, from volunteerism to policy change. “Fishing has always been a passion of mine,” says Artemis co-founder Kara Armano. “I’ve done it my whole life. I want to help protect the wild places that I know, and to impress that need on all demographics, whether that’s fishers or elected officials.”
Armano’s interest in conservation leadership grew in the Roaring Fork Valley, where she and her husband lived for 12 years, and she volunteered with the local Trout Unlimited chapter. “I worked on the Thompson Divide issue, which is the headwaters for the majority of the valley’s drinking water, let alone where my husband hunted and I fished,” Armano says. “I wanted more time to work on conservation issues and educate people on policy change.” So, she moved on from her full-time public relations job with Backbone Media to help launch Artemis with nine cofounders (scattered throughout the Rocky Mountain West) in June 2017. Artemis spearheads events in six western interior states: Colorado, New Mexico, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and South Dakota.
Artemis partners with other organizations to create educational programs, including Braided, a Durango-based nonprofit that offers conservation workshops and women’s-only fly-fishing clinics. Braided was co-founded by angler Kami Swingle in 2017. The first meet-up drew 25 women, and the nonprofit has since grown to 300 members—women and men—in the Southwest. A Northeast chapter opened that fall and now has 140 members. Additional branches have been requested in Florida, Montana, Washington, North Carolina and Colorado’s Front Range.
Artemis has grown quickly, too. The nonprofit’s newsletter subscriber base has ballooned to more than 5,000 (there is currently no membership model), including 70 women in Durango. The interest in Braided and Artemis is no surprise considering that women, ages 6 and up, are the fastest growing demographic in the sport of fishing, according to the Outdoor Industry Association’s 2017 special report on fishing. The data shows that 31 percent—no small number—of U.S. fly fishers are female.
Artemis and Braided hope to grow that number even more. For example, last weekend, Artemis and Braided teamed up with Trout Unlimited to host a day trip to visit the Silverton area’s Superfund site, tour the mine spill, and learn about the impact on the headwaters—followed by an afternoon of fishing.
Artemis also plans to launch an ambassador program, as well as add more skills clinics and conservation workshops in remote, rural locations that wouldn’t otherwise have those resources. “If we don’t speak up for habitat health, who will?” Armano asks. “If there are not fish for future generations, then we’ve done a big disservice to ourselves and to them.”