Interview with Angler Kara Tripp, Owner of Damsel Fly Fishing

Mon­tana native Kara Tripp is inspir­ing and empow­er­ing women to take up fly fish­ing and devel­op into self-suf­fi­cient anglers. She guides in Mon­tana, runs camps and clin­ics, and owns Damsel Fly Fish­ing. Kara is one of a grow­ing group of hard­core female anglers mak­ing big waves in the fly fish­ing com­mu­ni­ty.

The Clymb: At what age were you intro­duced to fly fish­ing? How did you get hooked?

Kara Tripp: I recall a con­ver­sa­tion with a cou­ple of boys in my sec­ond grade class about going fly fish­ing with their dads. I asked them what made fly fish­ing dif­fer­ent. They explained that the line was thick­er. At the time, all I had was a spin­ning rod, a cou­ple pan­ther mar­tins, and a love for dig­ging up worms. I remem­ber think­ing the thick­er line would be eas­i­er to untan­gle. That con­ver­sa­tion nev­er left my mind, and in the sum­mer going into eighth grade, those same boys invit­ed me on a fly fish­ing trip on the North Fork of the Flat­head Riv­er. I fished for 11 hours that day before I final­ly hooked my first fish on the fly! I’ve been hooked ever since…

The Clymb: Was fish­ing and the out­doors a big part of your life grow­ing up?

Kara Tripp: I did­n’t grow up in a fly fish­ing house­hold. My fam­i­ly was big on farm life, camp­ing, white­wa­ter raft­ing, and hunt­ing. I haven’t done much in the way of hunt­ing since pick­ing up a fly rod. I would like to pick up archery, but it con­flicts with steel­head sea­son.

The Clymb: Did you always want to pur­sue a career in the out­door indus­try? What was the turn­ing point that drove you into fly fish­ing full-time?

Kara Tripp: The idea that I could make fly fish­ing a career came to me just after grad­u­at­ing from Mon­tana State Uni­ver­si­ty. I real­ized my pas­sion for fly fish­ing was­n’t going away. I wish I had fol­lowed my heart then, but it felt like such a crazy choice when I had this graph­ic design degree I thought I should put to use. Look­ing back, I wast­ed a lot of time not lis­ten­ing to my heart. I would be fur­ther along if I had just accept­ed my fate.

The turn­ing point came with the down­turn of the nation’s econ­o­my around 2008. I had been let go from my snazzy pro­duc­tion artist job at a cor­po­rate print­ing com­pa­ny and joined the rest of Amer­i­ca in the unem­ploy­ment line. I took a job as the night man­ag­er at my family’s con­ve­nience store: schlep­ping Old Eng­lish and Marl­boro Reds was just the kick in the ass I need­ed to get moti­vat­ed and fol­low my heart.

The down­turn of our econ­o­my also coin­cid­ed with the trend of women look­ing to pur­sue the sport of fly fish­ing. My quest to find work lead me to The Fly Shop in Red­ding, CA, in hopes I could become a camp coun­selor at their high­ly acclaimed Fish­Camp pro­gram. I sent in my resume the win­ter of 2008 and by the sum­mer of 2009 I had my first job in the indus­try. The year I showed up to Fish­Camp they had more lit­tle girls and women attend­ing camp than any oth­er year, and they need­ed some­one young, per­son­able, ener­getic, and will­ing to eat, sleep and breathe fly fish­ing non-stop for sev­en straight weeks. I fit the bill per­fect­ly.

The Clymb: You were fish­ing and work­ing in the indus­try well before the recent pop­u­lar­i­ty growth with women…. What was your ear­ly expe­ri­ence as a female angler and what has changed?

Kara Tripp: A lot has changed over the years. When I first start­ed fly fish­ing, I did­n’t have any female friends that enjoyed fish­ing or any­one remote­ly inter­est­ed in fly fish­ing and there was­n’t a sin­gle piece of gear designed or mar­ket­ed to women besides hot pink tack­le box­es. In the last 10 years, we now have waders, boots and jack­ets, all specif­i­cal­ly designed for women, and through the pow­ers of social media, it’s eas­i­er than ever to find anoth­er like-mind­ed female to fish with!

The Clymb: Who are your biggest influ­ences in fly fish­ing?

Kara Tripp: I have a list of names a mile long of peo­ple who have influ­enced, coached, men­tored, inspired, moti­vat­ed and encour­aged me to keep pur­su­ing my pas­sion. Every year the list grows longer. If I start nam­ing them all off I’ll sound like a name drop­per and I would feel ter­ri­ble if I for­got some­one. It takes a vil­lage to raise an angler. Those who have helped me along the way know who they are, includ­ing the Clymb! To all who have helped me get to where I’m going I’m eter­nal­ly grate­ful.

The Clymb: What inspired you to launch Damsel Fly Fish­ing?

Kara Tripp: A dis­ap­point­ing pur­chas­ing expe­ri­ence for a pair of wad­ing boots, and the pass­ing of my moth­er. The wad­ing boots were the cat­a­lyst for me to start think­ing about design­ing wom­en’s fly fish­ing acces­sories. In 2007, I bought the domain name www.damselflyfishing.com with the idea that some­day I would start build­ing my dream. It was­n’t until the death of our moth­er in Sep­tem­ber of 2014 that my sis­ter and I decid­ed to start build­ing Damsel Fly Fish­ing.

The Clymb: Tell us about the prod­uct line and ser­vices. What are you try­ing to accom­plish with the brand?

Kara Tripp: Damsel Fly Fish­ing was start­ed in 2015. With my sis­ter as my busi­ness part­ner, we start­ed to breathe life into what was once only a dream. I want­ed to start mak­ing the designs that I would often think up while swing­ing runs for steel­head or cast­ing to fick­le trout. I also work for and with out­fit­ters to cre­ate fish­ing work­shops that are geared toward women, to help build a com­mu­ni­ty of edu­cat­ed and self-suf­fi­cient anglers. All those years of fail­ing, and then learn­ing from the expe­ri­ence, is now being passed for­ward to women look­ing to enjoy the sport.

The guid­ing and teach­ing is the ser­vice that helps empow­er and cre­ate self-suf­fi­cient and well-edu­cat­ed anglers. The prod­uct line is what they pur­chase to help show the world they love fish­ing and that they’re part of this grow­ing lifestyle. We focus on acces­sories rather than tech­ni­cal gear (waders, boots and wad­ing jack­ets). Women love to acces­sorize, mix and match, and look unique. Cur­rent­ly our line up of prod­ucts is sim­ple: col­or­ful wad­ing belts that coor­di­nate with our snoods and a gor­geous trav­el bag with match­ing rod case. Since our com­pa­ny is small we are able to change out our designs and keep it fresh.

The Clymb: Can you share one of your favorite fish­ing expe­ri­ences?

Kara Tripp: My first North Umpqua steelhead—there were so many firsts on that trip! It was a sum­mer steel­head, the sec­ond week­end in July. Fish are present in the sys­tem but num­bers are low. We did­n’t care; the place is mag­i­cal, it’s a bless­ing to just be in the pres­ence of the riv­er and to be in that space. It was an all-girls trip and my friend Allison’s first trip to the North Umpqua.

We spot­ted fish surf­ing the cur­rent in front of the ledges of lava bedrock from the van­tage point of the famous Mott Bridge on our first evening. By 6:30 the next morn­ing, I was com­ing tight to my first North Umpqua wild steel­head. I caught it on a spe­cial fly my friends had gift­ed to me for my 30th birth­day the pre­vi­ous sum­mer. Upon receiv­ing the fly, I called out its des­tiny. I told my friend Whit­ney and Mike that their gift was going to be the fly that I catch my first North Umpqua steel­head on, and I did, almost a year lat­er. I was fish­ing the last run to have shade on it before noon, fish­ing the tai­lout, stand­ing on a slip­pery ledge. I bombed a beau­ti­ful cast with a spey rod and caught my sec­ond steel­head, but my first on a skat­ed dry. The expe­ri­ence was so insane, I actu­al­ly blacked out for a moment and woke up to one hell of a fight!