Time for her to fly


By Carrie Click

For 35 years, Robin Schmidt had a successful career as a software engineer.

Photo of Robin Schmidt guiding

Robin Schmidt, pointing, “guides” fellow CMC student Amanda Kovevar, who is acting as a client as part of Schmidt’s fly-fishing guide final exam. After completing the course, Schmidt is ready to help others appreciate fly-fishing – women anglers in particular. Photo Lauren Swanson

“I had an internal battle,” she said. “It was between what I’m supposed to do and what I want to do.”

So last year, Schmidt “uninstalled” her software career and began researching how to shift her life’s work from developing technology to fly-fishing. Her intent: to help people, and particularly women, learn to love getting outdoors and enjoying the adventure it offers.

Fly-fishing is not new to Schmidt. Her father introduced her to angling 25 years ago. “That’s when I developed a passion for it,” she said. Now, though, instead of being something she does on the weekends, she has set her sights on focusing on her outdoor pursuits.

Women anglers on the rise

Schmidt said she “stumbled across CMC,” and its fly-fishing program, on the internet. She then went to the Women’s Fly Fishing Showcase at the Fly Fishing Show in Denver last January, where she met women who inspired her and confirmed that she was making the right decision to earn a professional certificate in the sport.

Once registered at the college, Schmidt was surprised to learn that, out of six students, she was the only woman enrolled. She wants to change that. “I want to take every opportunity to promote women in the sport,” she said.

A trend is developing to introduce and empower women to fly-fish. According to a December 2017 New York Times article, “women make up about 31 percent of the 6.5 million Americans who fly-fish.”

Orvis, partnering with other manufacturers, has launched a campaign to raise that number to 50 percent by 2020. And companies like Patagonia and Cabela’s have developed waders just for women.

‘Exactly what I wanted’

As one of six certificate or degree programs in outdoor studies offered by Colorado Mountain College, the professional fly-fishing guide certificate is a six-week summer program at CMC Leadville. Accommodations are offered at the campus’s residence hall, though Schmidt chose to camp in her RV nearby.

Hands-on outdoor classes are offered on the upper reaches of the Arkansas River, paired with classroom instruction in small business management, aquatic entomology and outdoor leadership.

“It’s exactly what I wanted,” said Schmidt. “I loved the rigor and the competency of our instructors.”

Now, with her professional fly-fishing guide certificate in hand, she described her dream job as taking women on three-day backpacking trips up to high alpine lakes to teach them fly-fishing.

Dates for the 2019 session at CMC Leadville are being planned. Visit coloradomtn.edu for more information.