Orvis 50/50 on the Water fly fishing gear scholarship awarded to Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing guide volunteer
Turning Good Days into Great Days on the Water
Colleen “Cookie” Hooper is going back to school. This spring, the 52-year-old realtor from Arvada, CO will begin the Professional Fly Fishing Guide certification program at Colorado Mountain College Leadville—and thanks to Orvis’ Fly Fishing gear scholarship, she will be looking and feeling her best on the river.
Colorado Mountain College stands with Orvis’s 50/50 on the Water movement and is committed to providing opportunities for women to enter the outdoor industry as professional fly fishing guides. Orvis has generously donated fly fishing gear scholarships to help two women enrolled in the CMC Leadville professional fly fishing guide program. The gear scholarship includes ultralight convertible waders, ultralight wading boots, pro wading jacket, a 50/50 On The Water t-shirt and hat, and a HELIOS 3 Fly Rod complete with reel and line.
“Orvis is providing me with the very best gear,” says Cookie, “Orvis thoughtfully created these waders, boots, and jacket to fit a woman. They thought of things that matter to women like hip-to-waist ratios, getting giant neoprene feet into wading boots, looking good on the water, and every component being functional.”
Gear is expensive, and the up-front cost of owning high-quality fly fishing gear can be a major deterrent for students enrolling in the guide program. The Orvis gear scholarship, valued at $2300, is an extremely generous contribution that will make a big impact on Cookie’s success in the program.
“The Orvis gear scholarship means that I don’t have to make a financial investment above tuition, housing and taking a sabbatical from work,” says Cookie, “Without the generosity of Orvis, I would have gone through this course with sub-par equipment – my small men’s waders with enormous boots, and the cheap starter rod I have been using for 4 years. Good equipment means a lot and does make a difference in our ability to perform well.”
Reel Women Fly Fish
Robin Schmidt, a 2018 fly fishing graduate, and Kaitlin Boyer, a 2017 fly fishing graduate were both the only females enrolled in the program during their spring sessions. As a result, they have spent the last year working tirelessly to increase the program’s female enrollment numbers through various fundraising efforts and scholarship opportunities.
“Women bring new and very different possibilities to the sport and the industry,” says Robin Schmidt, “I am interested in working with women who are new to the sport and help them become self-sufficient on the water. I want to bring adventure into the lives of women who are seeking to challenge themselves and learn new things.”
Cookie learned about the CMC Fly Fishing Guide program through Robin, who has since become her own personal fly fishing guide cheerleader and introduced her to the Orvis scholarship opportunity.
“Being a woman in an arena that has been traditionally male-dominated can be intimidating,” says Cookie, “While most men are encouraging and happy to have us join them on the water, we still feel intimidated. We want to measure up, and not to just fish well ‘for a girl’.”
Of the 6.5 million Americans who enjoy fly fishing, approximately 31% are women, according to a New York Times article published in December 2017. The 50/50 on the water movement, a campaign sponsored by Orvis and other outdoor brands to create gender parity in fly fishing, wants this number increase to 50% by 2020.
“Most often, women learn better from other women,” says Cookie, “I want to continue to bring other women (and men) into this sport and gently teach them how to improve their skills, how to find the fish, how to find what the fish are eating, how to bring them in, and how to release them well.”
Keeping Her Day Job
Twelve years ago, Cookie started True Blue Realty, a realty and property management company in Arvada, CO. In addition to realty, Cookie and her daughter also co-own a coffee shop in Lakewood, CO called Hello Coffee.
When she’s not running two successful businesses, Cookie spends her time on the river. She discovered her passion for fly fish guiding while volunteering with Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, a non-profit dedicated to the rehabilitation of disabled active military service personnel and disabled veterans.
“Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing is a game changer and potentially life-saving for many of our veterans,” says Cookie, “I’m looking for a way to increase my skill level in order to help more vets catch more fish.”
Cookie has no plans to quit her day job(s) once she has a professional fly fishing guide certification under her belt. With no intentions of working as a paid fly fishing guide, she hopes to utilize her skills to pursue her passion for volunteering with veterans on the river.
“There are few things more gratifying than seeing the stress fall away from a veteran while they’re on the river,” says Cookie, “With the skills I gain, I should be able to help turn good days on the water into great days on the water.”