NEAR RED LODGE — Fly fishing has been around in Montana since rivers carved their way through our beautiful state, and harnessing that power as a world sport is exactly what Lindsay Szofran of Red Lodge plans to do.
“It’s a lifetime passion and sport for me,” said Szofran.
She recently became the latest member of the United States Ladies Fly fishing team hoping to compete on an international stage in 2022. Her beginnings with the sport started out simple. As a born and raised Montanan, Szofran grew up on a family farm and fished as a kid. She explained, “Like many Montanans, when the movie came out the whole family got interested in fly fishing."
The movie she is referring to is, of course, A River Runs Through It, the 1992 film adapted from the book and starring Brad Pitt. The movie depicts a love of fly fishing by two brothers growing up in Missoula and fishing on the Blackfoot River.
“My dad started pursuing it and us kids said, 'Well, that looks interesting, we want to try it too,' and so we got into that in the 90s,” she said.
Szofran has been fly fishing ever since. But it wasn’t until years later that her fly fishing hobby would become something more. Her husband Andy has a lot to do with that.
“Our first date we went golfing, but our second date we went fly fishing,” she said.
Together they guide on the Stillwater and Yellowstone Rivers in Montana. She says Andy has encouraged and supported her in her mission to compete.
“I’ll give credit where credit is due, he’s been a very patient man for many years and has really taught me most of what I know about fly fishing,” she said. “He’s really instrumental in getting me to this level and being on the women’s team.”
Perhaps even long before they started fishing together.
“It’s kind of funny, Andy had a fly shop back in 1993 and my brothers and I had stopped in his fly shop and purchased some flies. It wasn’t until 1998 that I met Andy. But I remembered going into his fly shop and him being there, which was kind of funny,” she said.
The opportunity to compete on the world level is reserved for only six women across the country and Lindsay Szofran is one of them.
“As a kid, I was always active in sports and so was my family. I come from a very competitive family. I never thought I would the opportunity to compete on a world level,” she said.
The competitors consist of two from Pennsylvania, and one each from Georgia, Colorado, and California. Szofran adds to the team with her experience fishing on Montana’s rivers and streams.
“Montana is a mecca for fly fishing,” she said.
She says, usually with competitive sports athletes are young and in their prime
“With this, it’s years of experience that have gotten me to this level,” she said. “I probably got my competitive side from my dad who is a competitive trap shooter.”
The first U.S ladies fly fishing competition is set for 2022 in Europe. But because of the pandemic competition was canceled for this year. It will be the first lady’s specific world competition – in addition to an adult team and a youth team.
“It’s a great opportunity to have a women’s team to meet women from across the country that have the same passion for the river and the fish that I do is really rewarding,” she said.
She says what’s helped her get to this level is Montana’s rivers and streams. Szofran says Montana’s stream access laws allow people to access the river at public access points - a perk the U.S team has over its world competitors.
“When you get over to Europe where we will be competing, it’s mostly private,” she said.
But competition isn’t solely on her mind. For many Montanans getting on the river to fish simply means clearing the stresses of life.
“It does kind of clear my mind and I forget about the laundry that I need to do at home or whatever those tasks are that we all have,” said Szofran.
Ultimately, Szofran hopes to cast this widely loved sport in Montana onto a national stage.
“It’s still something that I am wrapping my head around that I have the opportunity to make that happen, so I am working really hard,” she said.