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Fly-Fishing Pioneer Cathy Beck Passes at 71

She was one half of the “first couple of fly fishing."

Fly-Fishing Pioneer Cathy Beck Passes at 71

Cathy with an Atlantic salmon from Ireland's Ballynahinch River. (Barry & Cathy Beck photo)

Fly-fishing legend Cathy Beck passed away suddenly on February 7, 2024, while hosting a group of fly fishers at Laguna Verde Lodge, aka “Jurassic Lake,” in a remote region of Argentina. She was 71 years old.

Cathy and her husband Barry were there hosting a group of fly fishers traveling with Frontiers International. Cathy and Barry have been travel hosts for Frontiers since 1992, and have frequently spent more than 300 days a year on the road in exotic locations from New Zealand to the Bighorn River in Montana. They especially loved photo safaris in Africa.

Cathy and Barry have been an influential force in fly fishing since they first opened the fly shop Fishing Creek Outfitters in Benton, Pennsylvania together in 1988. In the decades that followed they have offered schools, clinics, and private classes on their home waters in Pennsylvania, gave presentations at fly-fishing shows across the country, and have been leading contributors at Fly Fisherman magazine for more than four decades. They have taught, entertained, and influenced tens of thousands of people during that time.

Tributes poured in on social media.

"She was one of the best people in our industry," Orvis guru and author Tom Rosenbauer said on Instagram. "Such an amazing person always with a smile. My deepest condolences to Barry and their family."

"Absolutely gutted to hear this," added Rio Products' Simon Gawesworth. "What a terrible loss, and what an amazing, wonderful and incredible person Cathy was. My heart goes out to Barry and the rest of her family."

"An incredible loss to the fly-fishing community," said the United Women on the Fly account. 

A GoFundMe has been created for the Becks to help cover the associated costs. 

Cathy was the first woman ever to appear on the cover of Fly Fisherman (1991) and has likely been on the cover more than any other person. They have been published in almost every major fishing publication imaginable, including Saltwater Fly Fishing, Fishing in Salt Waters, Game & Fish, In-Fisherman, Field & Stream, Outdoor Life, Gray’s Sporting Journal, Big Sky Journal, and Montana Outdoors.

Cover of the September 1991 issue of Fly Fisherman featuring Cathy Beck holding a fish.
Cathy was the first woman ever to appear on the cover of Fly Fisherman (September, 1991).

She was a world-class fly-casting instructor, the author of Cathy Beck’s Fly-Fishing Handbook (Lyons Press), Fly Fishing the Flats (Stackpole), and the designer of popular fly patterns like the Super Bugger, Cathy’s Fleeing Crab, and the Super Beetle.

No duo has more international fly-fishing experience than Cathy and Barry, and their photography and roles as ambassadors for many of the top brands made them the most recognizable fly-fishing couple of this century. They could do it all. Every brand they have ever represented has flourished by association, and they are universally admired by industry peers, many of whom have been mentored and influenced by Cathy and Barry over the years.

Barry Beck, Jimmy Carter, and Cathy Beck smile for the camera.
Barry and Cathy Beck pose with former President Jimmy Carter. (Cathy & Barry Beck photo)

Cathy and Barry have a cover photograph and a feature story titled “When the Quills Come” in the upcoming April-May 2024 issue of Fly Fisherman. As usual, Cathy was the last one to make edits and approve of the final text. Barry worked closely with art director Dennis Pastucha to get the photography and artwork just right. Cathy and Barry were the perfect fly-fishing pair–it seemed there was nothing they couldn’t do and they always did it together. They were often referred to as “the first couple of fly fishing.”

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The last time I saw Cathy she was on her way to give a fly-casting demonstration at The Fly Fishing show in Edison, New Jersey on January 26. She hugged me and told me how much she was looking forward to Laguna Verde Lodge the following week. She stepped into the spotlight on the casting pond, I could hear her voice in the microphone as I followed Barry to a dark theater where he gave a slide show on tips and tricks he’d learned over a lifetime of fly fishing. They taught and instructed fly fishers tirelessly throughout the entire weekend. Their energy and enthusiasm for people and fly fishing are boundless, and Cathy will be missed by many.

Lefty Kreh, Cathy Beck, and Elena Battani stand together and laugh.
Lefty Kreh shares a laugh with Elena Battani and Cathy Beck (right) at Casa Mar, Costa Rica, in 1992. (John Randolph photo)

The day before she passed away, Cathy posted a photo to the @barryandcathybeck Instagram account with a caption that said “The rainbows keep coming…” and I can imagine the excitement Barry must have felt when he took that photo.

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Barry And Cathy Beck (@barryandcathybeck)

Cathy and Barry were married in 1981 and have three children and four grandchildren: Annie Beck Galanda and her husband, Greg, of Benton, Pennsylvania and their two children Bridger and Colter; Wendy Blouin and her two children: Ethan and Henri, of Andover, Massachusetts; and a son, Ron Beck of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

At this time, Barry Beck is en route from Argentina to their home in Pennsylvania. No announcements have been made regarding services or memorials.

A fly angler battling a jumping fish with an angler standing by with a landing net.
Cathy netting a fish an Ireland's Nire River. (Barry & Cathy Beck photo)
A fly angler watching her drift on Montana's Bighorn River.
Cathy loved fishing Montana's Bighorn River. (Cathy & Barry Beck photo)
Barry and Cathy Beck in fly fishing garb smiling for the camera.
Barry and Cathy Beck. (Barry & Cathy Beck photo)
A fly angler dressing a dry fly below clouds of mayflies.
Cathy fishing a trico hatch. (Barry & Cathy Beck photo)
Barry and Cathy Beck posing for the camera.
The couple are members of the Catskill Fly Fishing Hall of Fame.
Cover of the February 1999 issue of Fly Fisherman featuring Cathy Beck holding a large brown trout.
Cathy has likely been on the cover more than any other person.



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