The American Museum of Fly Fishing and its “Exhibition Profiles” are the profiles of important women fly anglers, fly tyers, artists, conservationists and guides of yesterday, today and tomorrow
The American Museum of Fly Fishing and its “Exhibition Profiles” are the profiles of important women fly anglers, fly tyers, conservationists and guides of yesterday, today and tomorrow“ Exhibition Profiles” are from the book “A Graceful Rise” written by Catherine Comar, executive director of the museum. Promotional narrative for National Endowment for the Arts is provided by Fly Life Magazine.com. Copyright the American Museum of Fly Fishing (AMFF) – 2014. More images are viewable in the book.
Meet Margaret A. Merriman
The “Fly Fishing Lady of the West” is none other than Maggie Merriman. She grew up in southern California and was fortunate to be raised by two parents who were avid outdoor enthusiasts who enjoyed fly fishing. Merriman began fly fishing at the age of ten and says, “Fly fishing was as natural as walking and breathing.” Angling was an important part of their family life, and they frequented the Gallatin River and the Nine Quarter Circle Ranch in Montana. It was at this ranch in 1972 that Merriman was offered her first job as a casting instructor.
In her late thirties, Merriman saw a need on the West Coast for a woman instructor to teach women’s classes. As professional fly-fishing instructors were new to the sport in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Merriman honed her casting and teaching skills and apprenticed with some of the early pioneer instructors. One of her first professional jobs was with the San Francisco Sports & Boat Show, where she provided casting tips and casting demonstrations. Merriman was later hired by Ed Rice and made appearances for numerous years at Rice’s International Sportsmen’s Expositions.
In the summer of 1973, she returned to the Nine Quarter Circle Ranch to be the director of their summer fly-fishing school. Merriman continued the California–Montana schedule for a few more years, and in 1978 she founded the Maggie Merriman Fly Fishing Schools. Merriman’s school was the first separate fly-fishing school for women, taught by a woman, in the western United States. The schools were operated through a number of fly shops in Montana, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, and California. These women-only schools were popular and filled with enthusiastic students.
From 1978 through 1982, Merriman was busy in the fly-fishing industry. With her new western schools established, she saw the need for women-only schools on a national level, and in 1978 she organized and developed the first-ever two-day women’s school at the Federation of Fly Fishers conclave in West Yellowstone, Montana. The following year, she organized the same women-only classes at the Golden Gate Angling & Casting Club in San Francisco. In 1981, Merriman was hired as a consultant by the rod company Lamiglas and developed her signature Maggie Merriman Rod for women. It was during her work with Lamiglas that she was given the title “Fly Fishing Lady of the West.” Not settling for just a rod, in 1982 Merriman independently designed, manufactured, and released the first women’s fishing vest designed by a woman. Her accomplishments continued in 1982: she launched a series of fishing accessories under her own label, and she permanently located Maggie Merriman Fly Fishing Schools to West Yellowstone.
During her career, Merriman, a past member of the Outdoor Writers of America, has written fly-fishing columns. For three years she wrote a regular product-evaluation column for Fly Fishing Heritage, and she started a regular column on women’s issues for Flyfisher, the national magazine of the Federation of Fly Fishers. Merriman herself wrote the column for Flyfisher for more than five years, and to this day, the column continues to be part of the magazin
Merriman has been active with the Federation of Fly Fishers for much of her career. Besides organizing the women-only schools at the annual conclave, she developed and served as the coordinator of their National Women’s Educational Fly Fishing Program from 1995 until 1998. She has received two honors from the federation: Woman of the Year in 1995 and one of the Legends of Fly Fishing in 2003. In 1998, she was the U.S. representative at the prestigious Chatsworth Angling Fair in England.
Merriman continues to run the Maggie Merriman Fly Fishing Schools in West Yellowstone from May through September. She lives in Huntington Beach, California, the remainder of the year, teaching casting and entomology workshops, making appearances at sportsman shows, and traveling to different fishing locations. The Federation of Fly Fishers continues to offer the two-day women’s school. Regarding women making great contributions to fly fishing, Merriman says, “There are many new chapters to be written. I am highly encouraged as I look around at all the women involved in our sport.”
American Museum of Fly Fishing, 4104 Main Street Manchester, VT 05254 802-362-3300. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 10am to 4pm –