Local instructor helps women in fly fishing | SummitDaily.com

Local instructor helps women in fly fishing

summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado
Summit Daily/Eric Drummond

SUMMIT COUNTY ” An outdoors person at heart, flyfishing hooked local Char Bloom on every possible level.

“You’re in the river,” Bloom, a sports enthusiast and petite mother of three, said. “You hear it. You see it. You smell it. You feel the resistance of it against your body and at the same time the birds are flying around and the bugs are buzzing.”

Introduced to the sport by a friend 10 years ago, she did what most women do on their first-time experience with no equipment: she sat on a rock with a book and tried to read.

“Pretty soon I was doing more watching than reading,” Bloom said with a smile. “I’m not a really good watcher. I’m more of a doer, you know, when it comes to athletics. It looked like a lot of fun. I thought I’d like to try it.

“I have this belief that if you’re going to do something and it’s something you enjoy, you might as well do it well. For me I don’t enjoy it if I’m not competent at it.

Competency is something I highly regard.”

Bloom wanted to learn from the best, so she pursued the short-track to getting good. She journeyed to upstate New York for a four-day clinic with Joan Wulff, the “female pioneer of fly fishing,” and got certified as a casting instructor. And then she went to guide school to gain expertise and information about the sport.

After completing her education, she got her own drift boat and started floating rivers in Montana, Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and California to name a few.

“And everywhere I would go, I’d see mostly just men,” Bloom said.

“Ten years ago, there were very few women that I ever saw fly fishing. But when I did see one … she’d come over and ask ‘How’d you learn to cast like that?’ or ‘How’d you learn to do that?’ and I’d give her some information, tell her where I’d learned.”

Bloom makes Summit County her home because of her love for the outdoors and athletics, a passion that she worked hard to instill in her children, including her son, Jeremy Bloom.

A ski and snowboard instructor at Keystone and Arapahoe Basin for almost two decades, she initially wanted to keep fly fishing as a hobby for her own enjoyment.

But, one day she was fishing in the Arkansas River and there was a young woman across from her that was having a lot of trouble.

“I remember looking at her and thinking ‘She’s probably not going to catch any fish today,'” she said.

Bloom, who knew the spot and had the right flies on, looked up and saw the woman make her way towards her, across the river.

“As she got closer, I saw tears,” Bloom said. “She’d been coming out every weekend with her boyfriend and she said she’d never caught a fish. … It was like I heard another person’s voice say, “Well, I’ll help you.”

Bloom decided that since she was going to help this women improve her skills, she might as well put together a clinic. Twenty-two women attended the first class (no advertising, just word of mouth) and every other women’s clinic since then has had a waiting list to attend.

“Part of fly fishing is taking care of the river and taking care of the environment,” Bloom said. “… We rarely take (fish) home. We put them back and if they get exhausted from giving us a good catch, we sit there and resuscitate them in the river. I think that’s very appealing. I don’t mean just women. Men do that too. It’s the collective fly fishing philosophy.”

“There’s a lot of etiquette in fly fishing,” Bloom added. “… We take care of rivers. We volunteer to help make the habitat better. For people that are nature lovers, it’s a really good fit.”

Bloom, who initially didn’t have women friends who fly-fished, spent a lot of time with men on the river, some who didn’t want to accept her into the sport.

“There’d be some men that would leave the river,” Bloom said. “They’d look at me in disgust. … I think they just weren’t that welcoming to women in the sport.”

Her goal wasn’t to be welcomed on the river, however. It was to do something that she enjoyed. And over the years, it’s become her goal to expand fly fishing into a sport that women can relate to and participate in without feeling discriminated against on all levels.

“Until you learn how to cast well,” Bloom said, “you get knots, you get caught up in trees, you spend 20 minutes time on a couple flies …There’s all those frustrations when you’re trying to learn something.”

Her clinics are not only geared towards teaching women to fly fish, but she wants to do it in a way that enables her students to feel comfortable about their skills or lack there of and just have fun.

“If there’s a particular movement that you need, (Bloom) related it to an everyday movement,” Jean Helmer, friend and first-time student said of Bloom’s teaching techniques. “There is no intimidation with the learning experience or the sport itself. She takes that all away.”

Helmer, who took her first lesson because of all the women she knows who have taken up the sport, believes it’s something that she can use to relax after work and bond with her daughter.

Through her women’s only clinics at Edgewater Resort in Granby, Bloom hosts casting classes, as well as entomology and knot-tying lessons. She not only makes up terminology that’s geared towards women in her lessons, but she donates all proceeds to charity. In the past, she raised funds for the Denver Rescue Mission Champa House, a transitional housing program for single mothers, but now she plans to donate all clinic proceeds to Jeremy Bloom’s nonprofit, the Donna Wheeler Foundation: Wish of a Lifetime.

Bloom has also found other ways to give back to women’s fly fishing community ” women-specific clothing.

The gear available to Bloom when she first began almost made her not want to go fly fishing. Almost.

“My first fly fishing vest was an XL, brown, khaki, ugly looking thing,” she said, laughing in remembrance.

She looked at the stuff and couldn’t believe that she was about to spend that much money on ill-filling, unattractive activewear.

“I kept waiting for someone to come out with a line for women,” Bloom said. “When they didn’t, I started my own.”

A few years ago, Bloom got down to the drawing board and designed fishing vests that were longer in the front (to fit a women’s frame) and made them available in colors such as pink, green, red and purple. She also has sizes for children.

Bloom’s website, http://www.charbloom.com, also carries shirts, hats and rods designed for women. To contact Bloom about her clinics, e-mail her at char@charbloom.com.

Caitlin Row can be reached at (970)

668-4633 or at crow@summitdaily.com.

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