WON Landing Page OCT 2022

Special exhibit celebrates women in fly fishing

A Graceful Rise: Women in Fly Fishing Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow, the first large-scale exhibition to celebrate women’s contributions to fly fishing, opens Saturday, June 11, at The American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont.

The American Museum of Fly Fishing, Manchester, VT. Photo courtesy AMFF

This landmark exhibit honors the key roles women have played in fly-fishing history, as well as how these pioneers continue to inspire new generations of female anglers. A Graceful Rise is self-guided and divided into three sections (Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow), spanning 700 years and featuring 50 women who have made significant contributions to fly fishing. Highlighting the firsts, the best, the celebrated, and the sometimes lesser-known women, the exhibit features those who have moved fly fishing forward with a visual and thorough display of artifacts, art, photos, and more. Many items have been lent from the anglers’ personal collections.

This tastefully crafted presentation tells the tale of fly-fishing pioneers, of fly tying and rod making, the women who broke gender barriers in competitive casting, record holders, writers, artists, guides, educators, and conservationists.


Taking a look at fly fishing’s past, Yesterday’s women include such names as Dame Juliana Berners, who is historically credited with writing A Treatyse of Fysshynge with an Angle in 1496. Though controversy surrounds the true author’s identity, the Treatyse is one of the earliest works of angling literature. Also featured is Cornelia “Fly Rod” Crosby (1854-1946), a legendary angler and hunter from the state of Maine, who was the first licensed guide of any gender in her home state and a frequent fixture at 19th-century sportsmen’s shows. On exhibit will be her tea service, among other items. Carrie Frost (1868-1937) of the C.J. Frost Fishing Tackle Manufacturing Company began her fly-tying business in 1896, and the exhibit includes one of her company’s famed bass flies.


Today’s women features many who have broken through the gender barrier to gain recognition apart from their male peers. Joan Salvato Wulff competed against men in fly casting competitions and broke distance records as a young adult during the first half of the twentieth century. On display will be the rod she used to set the unofficial women’s world record in 1960, as well as her first casting trophy from the Paterson Casting Club, received in 1939. In addition, a few of the coveted treasures include: the casting instruction booklet Annette Lilly Russ (daughter of Bud Lilly) used in the 1970s to teach women to fly-fish; the fly-fishing outfit worn by Karen Graham in a 1999 Estee Lauder ad; and Mari Lyons’s original illustrations for the books A Flyfisher’s World and My Secret Fishing Life.

Lori-Ann Murphy with a fly-rod bonefish in Belize. Photo courtesy of Lori-Ann Murphy


The exhibit will examine contemporary women whose contributions to the sport can be seen in both traditional and nontraditional roles. The Museum has the unique opportunity to speak directly with the current and upcoming “movers and shakers” to obtain firsthand knowledge of their contributions and visions for the future. Included are film producer Kristi Denton Cohen, as well as women’s organizations like Casting for Recovery and Sisters on the Fly. Other highlights include: the rod used by Diana Rudolph when she became the first woman to win the prestigious Don Hawley International Tournament in 2004; Kathryn Maroun, president of What a Catch Productions will have on display a fly box of her favorite flies, along with a personal narrative; and the first reel and fly box owned by Cathy Beck, renowned for her fly-fishing photography featured in many magazines and websites.

The exhibit will launch with a weekend-long event and symposium on June 11-12. More than 20 of today’s top women anglers featured in the exhibit are scheduled to participate in the event. Visitors can attend a series of presentations, demonstrations, and casting workshops, which will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on both days. This is a perfect opportunity to meet some of the most significant women figures in the sport today, including: Fanny Krieger, Lori-Ann Murphy, Diana Rudolph, Joan Salvato Wulff, famed watercolorist Diane Michelin, and many others.

More information, including a complete schedule of events and list of participants, is available on The American Museum of Fly Fishing website at www.amff.com. This opening event and symposium are sponsored by The Orvis Company, which is also offering two separate two-day women-only fly-fishing schools on June 9-10 and June 13-14. Both schools will be hosted by Molly Semenik. All attendees of these Schools receive 10% off Orvis purchases at the time of the school and will be granted free admission to the museum and opening weekend event. For more information on these new and exciting schools, visit www.orvis.com.

The exhibit will run through April 2012 and is sponsored in part by The Orvis Company, the Lintilhac Foundation, Berkshire Bank, Northeastern Fine Jewelry, and the Urban Angler. Media sponsorship is provided by Black’s Fly Fishing Directory.

The American Museum of Fly Fishing, founded in 1968, is a nonprofit educational institution accredited by the American Association of Museums, one of only five museums in the state of Vermont to have earned that honor. The Museum’s mission is to promote understanding of and appreciation for the history, traditions, and practitioners of the sport of fly fishing by collecting, preserving, exhibiting, and interpreting the artifacts, art, and literature of the sport and uses those resources to engage and benefit everyone.


  • About The WON

    The Women's Outdoor News, aka The WON, features news, reviews and stories about women who are shooting, hunting, fishing and actively engaging in outdoor adventure. This publication is for women, by women.


The Conversation

  • Mark Minshull says: October 10, 2013 at 1:43 am

    This is an awesome article – thank you! Metiefly

  • Barbara Baird says: June 9, 2011 at 11:53 am

    Hey! Aren’t you going to Paris this month? Maybe you should be a travel writer, Beth! 😉 You could do it!

  • Beth says: June 8, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    That water is absolutely breathtaking! Wish I was there now!

    • Bill Bowers says: June 8, 2011 at 11:55 pm

      @Beth: You got that right! Kinda makes you, um, aquamarine with envy, doesn’t it?

      • Beth Cowgill says: June 9, 2011 at 11:51 am

        Yes it does, Bill! Wish I was booking a trip to Belize today!

        • Bill Bowers says: June 10, 2011 at 12:22 pm

          And I wish I was going to France with you! Lived in Paris for a year, been there other times, but not for a long time now.

          Barb’s right, you could be a travel writer.

          Je te souhaite un magnifique séjour. [Wishing you a wonderful trip.]

  • Bill Bowers says: June 8, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    Can’t wait to visit AMFF and Orvis this weekend in Manchester and meet the outstanding staff and distinguished guests! Stay tuned to The WON for more news about women’s invaluable contributions to the sport of fly fishing over the centuries, from Dame Juliana Berners to Joan S. Wulff and Lori-Ann Murphy.

    • Barbara Baird says: June 9, 2011 at 11:54 am

      We will be waiting with (baited) breath, that was a pun Mr. Editor, for your report from the museum. Have safe travels and thanks for going and representing Team WON.

      • Bill Bowers says: June 10, 2011 at 12:00 pm


        LOL on the baited breath! It’s an honor and a privilege to represent Team WON.