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photo by Kyla Kulpphoto by Kyla Kulp

Many of us know and follow the awesome fly fishing women we see on social media, admiring their huge catches and the pristine scenery around them. However, there are many women in fly fishing today that have helped to shape the entire industry, we just don’t know about them because they are not prevalent on social media. Earning them the title of “original fly fishing gangsters,” they were on the river long before it was cool. I am speaking of women like Kaitlin Barnhart.

These women are behind the scenes uplifting others. They are great instructors, admins on forums, article writers, and they pack up their goat and hike up in the Idaho mountains to chase trout – wait what?  Yeah you read that right. When Kaitlin and her best friend had infants, instead of staying at home like many mothers with newborns, they would load up “Bridger” the pack goat with pack-n-plays, bottles, diapers, and the like, doing whatever it took to get on the river.

Kaitlin learned how to fly fish while working at a lodge in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska during college. After college she used her social work degree to help and uplift others in need. Those that Kaitlin has served in her professional career range from cancer patients to foster children. No matter what the circumstances, she is able to connect and provide help and healing through fly fishing. There are three things that Kaitlin is passionate about: her family, her fly fishing, and her fly fishing family.

photo by - Kyla Kulp

Kaitlin is Co-founder of The Mayfly Project, a nonprofit organization that mentors foster children through fly fishing. She is leading the charge in program development and implementation of chapters of The Mayfly Project across the United States. She is gathering data to quantify that mentoring foster children through fly fishing improves self-esteem, confidence, and mental health, and will have a long-lasting effect on our children in foster care.

Kaitlin is also a talented author and her writing has been in numerous publications. Her style tends to focus on life experiences we can all relate to. She loves to inspire others to get out on the water, even if that means your child is swimming in the river around you while you try to fish. (You get bonus points if your kid can spot the fish underwater and tell you where to cast!)  Kaitlin always makes fly fishing a priority, no matter the stage of life.

photo by - Kyla Kulp

Without a doubt Kaitlin Barnhart is changing lives and impacting the fly fishing industry with her work.

Next time you see Kaitlin or any other “original fly fishing gangster” on the river, be sure to grab them and thank them for doing the thankless, behind the scenes work that makes a difference.