What are fly fishing exchanges?
Fly fishing exchanges are partnerships between communities of incredible fly fishers. Women and marginal fly fishers have found a need to create space for themselves in the sport, which usually takes form by establishing a women’s group, POC network, or similar initiative near their home base - but what support is available when you’re exploring new waters? Fly fishing exchanges match community initiatives to extend networks and ensure welcoming, supportive fly fishing experiences away from home. Exchange programs - typically a long weekend or a week in duration - highlight the knowledge and expertise of each community by exploring what fly fishing is like in the local context, designing a mindful and welcoming learning environment utilizing local waters, and opening doors for fly fishers from away. All skill levels are welcome!
Confluence Collective began facilitating fly fishing exchanges between Maine and Montanan women in 2019. The first partnership is comprised of a July fly fishing experience in Bozeman, Montana followed by a Summer 2020 experience hosted in Maine. The exchange collaborates with preferred vendors and industry partners who join us in a mission of inclusive access and sustainable practice. Proceeds from the exchanges go back into supporting the hosting communities, funding local conservation projects and community initiatives.
Interested in becoming involved? Let us know!
What does a fly fishing exchange include?
Each exchange is different: the experience is designed to highlight the local fly fishing culture and environment, which means each program is designed uniquely for the destination. A few key components can be expected in each exchange:
Local community connection: interaction between hosting and visiting fly fishers is the backbone of each exchange experience. This can take form in fly tying sessions, happy hours, fly fisher homestays, joint fishing opportunities and more.
Sustainable practice and education: the future of fly fishing is rooted in conservation initiatives, preserving the natural spaces we fish. Each exchange highlights local projects and preferred practice to ensure healthy fisheries for the future and thoughtful interaction in the present.
Amazing on the water opportunities: by working with guides and industry figures connected by our mission of a more diverse future for fly fishing and welcoming learning environments, we ensure guides are informative and supportive, and are in tune with the local bite beat.
The exchange program [regardless of location] includes accommodations, transportation for all planned activities onsite, a few social events, guided fly fishing experiences, and some free-form fishing time led by hosting community members. Once you find an exchange that interests you, Confluence Collective will host information sessions and pre-departure meetings specific to your program to make sure you are prepared for the experience ahead, and will guide you on booking flights and any other necessary arrangements. Get ready to explore fly fishing through the eyes of the locals!
Are these programs just for women?
Nope! The whole idea behind fly fishing exchanges is to offer a welcoming and accessible space for marginal fly fishers; women make up a large minority in fly fisher demographics, but diverse perspectives outside of typical gender norms are necessary on the riverbank to establish a more inclusive sport for the future. These experiences are intended to create an approachable environment to explore new waters alongside allies, develop skills, and open up dialogue in the industry beyond the majority white male voice.
Come be a part of the change, make some friends, and catch some beautiful fish while you’re at it!
Fly fishing trips you book through a fly shop or gear company focus on one perspective: the fly shop or gear company. Trips like this are offered as a product to make the shop or company money. Sure, you can have a productive fly fishing experience in this way, and maybe even luck out with an incredible guide who is thoughtful in approach and sustainable in practice - but it’s not a sure thing. Definitely ask for referrals if you’re going this route!
What’s the difference between a fly fishing exchange and a fly fishing destination trip?
Fly fishing exchanges are a partnership between communities, which ensures mutual benefit and mission remain central to the experience - not money. These programs are more about creating a supportive environment to enjoy and learn within the sport, and connect you with other fly fishers who prioritize mindful interaction, conservation, and healthy fisheries for the future. We work with guides who we know and trust - and if anything, provide introduction to the right shops and companies for your independent adventures!
An added benefit of participating in an exchange is the group environment: booking a trip on your own can be super expensive. Fly fishing exchanges not only put you in touch with other awesome fly fishers, but the experience is accessible at a much lower cost than if you book something on your own. You can definitely try to corral your buddies to all sign up for the same trip, but you’ll be missing out on the local perspective: meet new friends without the headache of coordinating a group, and benefit from their local insight!
Finally, you can feel good about your impact: proceeds from programs go back into local conservation projects and community initiatives to support the awesome people doing awesome things in awesome places, within their local context.
Is this an NGO?
Confluence Collective is a social enterprise. While not classified as a non-profit, our mission may sound more like an NGO than corporation: proceeds from programming and membership go back into community initiatives and conservation projects, and also allow us to financially support community members who make exchanges happen. We don’t think our industry partners who employ sustainable and inclusive practice should make a lower living wage for being good people. Instead, we want to build them up to be successful not only in mission, but business. We aspire for a day when every guide, shop, and fly fishing community group welcomes diversity in the sport and in their clients - we want to change the standard practice of business to be more inclusive as a whole. We won’t achieve our goal of real change in the industry by relying on favors and donations.
We’re not looking for charity - we’re looking for allies, and plan to support those in the industry who join us in our mission. By collaborating with Confluence Collective, you contribute to important initiatives keeping our waters clean and helping those who need a day on the water most get that opportunity. Each fly fisher exchange experience funds projects like Casting for Recovery, The Mayfly Project, and local community initiatives to further their reach and impact.
Absolutely. There are a lot of amazing fly-fishers-in-waiting out there who love being outside and get excited by the idea of exploring nature with a fishing objective. Our exchanges welcome all levels: there will be newbies and seasoned experts in the group, and we’ll learn from each other through the experience. Each program will have the flexibility for a very packed schedule of on the water time - or not! You’ll choose how hardcore you want to be and how you want to spend your time.
Need gear? Let us know. Want to hone a more technical skill? No problem - we’ll make sure you have the time, space, and guidance you need to improve, at whatever starting skill level you come with. We aim to foster an open learning environment where you should feel comfortable asking questions, exploring new skills, and talking through process. Let us know where you’re at!
I’ve heard a lot about fly fishing, but am definitely not an expert. Can I still participate?
Because Confluence Collective is just getting started, we are actively exploring new partnerships. Even if you don’t see a program you want to join now doesn’t mean we won’t have one in the future! Stay up to date with new offerings and let us know what’s on your bucket list.