Female Fly Fishing Guide Scholarships Create New Outdoor Industry Opportunities for Women

CMC Leadvill
Colorado Mountain College Leadville Professional Fly Fishing Guide student Heather Richie was the recipient of the 2021 Colorado Women Flyfishers Karen Williams Memorial Scholarship. Heather poses by high alpine lake in her fly fishing gear.
Colorado Mountain College Leadville Professional Fly Fishing Guide student Heather Richie was the recipient of the 2021 Colorado Women Flyfishers Karen Williams Memorial Scholarship. PC: Kaitlin Boyer

Colorado Women Flyfishers scholarship recipient is making a splash in the fly fishing guide industry in Ireland

Fly fishing is making a splash in the outdoor recreation industry and women are pulling on their waders and joining in on the fun. With the growing interest in fly fishing comes a demand for qualified fly fishing guides. The Colorado Mountain College Leadville Professional Fly Fishing Guide program is helping to train the next generation of fly fishing guides and scholarship opportunities are making it possible for more women to join the industry.

Colorado Women Flyfishers (CWF) is a non-profit women’s fly fishing organization formed in 1997. The Colorado-based organization enjoys a diverse membership of women of all ages and fishing abilities, across many states, who seek fly fishing education, adventure and friendship. CWF services include on-the-water clinics, organized trips, monthly meetings, social events and tools to stay connected and build camaraderie around the sport.

The Karen Williams Memorial Scholarship is named in memory of long-time member of the Colorado Women Flyfishers—Karen Williams. In 2020 Karen was diagnosed with Stage 3 lung cancer, which took her life quickly. To honor her memory and dedication to helping women join the sport, the Colorado Women Flyfishers created a $500 scholarship for females interested in the professional fly fishing guide program at Colorado Mountain College.

CMC Leadville Professional fly fishing guide scholarship recipient Heather Richie poses with a salmon on the last day of the Atlantic Salmon season at Delphi Fly Fishing Lodge, Ireland.
CMC Leadville Professional fly fishing guide scholarship recipient Heather Richie poses with a salmon on the last day of the Atlantic salmon season at Delphi Fly Fishing Lodge, Ireland.

In 2021, Heather Richie was the recipient of the Karen Williams Memorial Scholarship. Heather graduated from the Professional Fly Fishing Guide program this past spring. She then returned to Delphi Fly Fishing Lodge in Ireland where she put her new training to use.

“Following the program, I was able to return to Delphi Lodge for the remainder of the 2021 season,”  says Heather, who is originally from Atlanta, GA “I had the opportunity to shadow guide with Teddy Coulter and help start the Delphi Fly Fishing School.”

Richie has also built relationships writing for Orvis UK and Midcurrent, and serves as an ambassador to the UK for United Women on the Fly. Through her work with these organizations, she is motivated to bring more women to the west of Ireland for fly fishing experiences.

“I am working actively to focus on female clients,” says Heather, “There is an inherently different vibe when women fish together.”

The fly fishing guide certification program at Colorado Mountain College is a six-week summer program in Leadville, CO. Students are immersed in all things fly fishing, including fly tying, entomology, business skills, and guiding techniques. 

There are several scholarships designed specifically for women interested in the Professional Fly Fishing Guide certification, including the Karen Williams Memorial Scholarship, the Leadville Professional Fly Fishing for Women Scholarship, and the Orvis 50/50 On the Water Fly Fishing Gear for Women Scholarship. Though the program runs exclusively in the spring, scholarship applications open on November 1, 2021.

Colorado Women Flyfishers is currently raising funds for a scholarship exclusively for women enrolled in the Summer 2022 session. If you’re interested in donating to the scholarship fund, please visit the CMC Foundation donor link

To donate to the Colorado Women Flyfishers scholarship fund:

  1. Visit the donor link
  2. For Location Designation, select LEADVILLE
  3. For Program Designation, select Other – specify below
  4. For Other Designation, type  “Colorado Women Flyfishers”