Each year in early May, The River’s Edge and SIMMS Fishing Products host a women’s fly-fishing event in Bozeman – Chica de Mayo, an annual gathering that has evolved into the largest women’s fly-fishing event in Montana, the United States, and well, probably in the world! This event celebrates women in fly-fishing and offers educational clinics, phenomenal speakers, prizes, a cocktail party and networking, and much more. The upcoming 2019 event will mark the 11th Annual Chica de Mayo – a labor of love and cause to celebrate.
When we first held this event in 2009, we hoped for maybe 20 to 30 women to attend … 60 women showed up! In the early years, Chica de Mayo was held on a Thursday night for a two-hour timeframe at the fly shop. However, as more and more women continued to show up and bring their friends, we realized we needed to change the event format. In 2016, we shifted Chica de Mayo to a Saturday afternoon four-hour format, and moved it out to the larger River’s Edge – West location. This format has accommodated our participants and allowed us to amp up our education component. I honestly think we could turn Chica de Mayo into a weekend event - with a lot more space and funding of course (insert hinting laugh).
Speaking of funding, 2018 was the first year we were able to secure outside sponsorships from two amazing Bozeman organizations - Madison-Gallatin Trout Unlimited and Yellow Dog Community and Conservation Foundation. Their generous support, along with our 50+ industry and community donors, helped offset event expenses, which allowed us to make the 10th Annual Chica de Mayo the best one yet. I am hopeful for continued support this year to allow us to keep improving the overall experience for ladies.
Survey feedback from last year’s event revealed that most participants are interested in Friday night pre-events and more education on conservation and casting. Oh, and they would also like to see more beverages! In summary, they’re educationally and literally thirsty for more (#beer). From this information received, we are currently planning a Friday night pre-event and making plans for special, early sign-up morning clinics for our 11th annual event. Wait, what? Is that nearly a full weekend event I smell?
The number and diversity of women that want to connect with other female anglers, and learn about this lifetime sport is simply astounding. We’ve reached maximum capacity at around 200+ women who have consistently showed up the past several years. How cool is it that there are even a handful of ladies that have attended every Chica de Mayo event?
The expansion of Chica de Mayo has led to more discussion and action around conservation. It’s only natural that an event that seeks to educate women about fly fishing also includes this crucial piece. Guest speakers have presented on Kick Plastic, Aquatic Invasive Species, and other topics, and have shared their personal work journey in conservation. Several local conservation organizations have recently joined in to educate and invite women to their boots-on-the-ground projects. It’s exciting to grow this passion in women anglers towards preserving the health of our fish, rivers, and habitat.
Throughout the day, merchandise sales, and pink bucket raffles also raise funds for Casting for Recovery — a non-profit organization offering breast cancer survivors a unique retreat program that combines breast cancer education and peer support with the therapeutic sport of fly fishing.
“From the 2018 event fundraising, a check for $10,000 was presented to Casting for Recovery — double the amount raised in 2017,” said Diane Bristol, SIMMS Sr. Director, Employee & Community Engagement. “Between this and the continued growth in participation, it indicates that women are not only excited to potentially win an amazing prize, but also really want to support other women and get out fly fishing.”
"We're so pumped to be the charity partner of Chica de Mayo," said Whitney Milhoan, Executive Director of Casting for Recovery. "The outpouring of love and support from SIMMS, The River's Edge, and the women's' fly fishing community at this event is so incredible. All of the money raised will be applied directly toward providing healing fly fishing experiences for women with breast cancer. We're so grateful!"
Last year’s dollar amount raised at Chica de Mayo provided the River’s Edge the opportunity to join SIMMS as a Casting for Recovery National Sponsor. This kind of support from participants is incredible, especially when I look back on our early years of fundraising to give back to our community. We have come a long way!
Chica de Mayo is pulled off on a small budget, a testimony to what creative planning, industry support, and generous community donors can build. Call it fortuitous or call it random, but the 11th Annual Chica de Mayo falls on May 11th this year!
The River’s Edge and SIMMS Fishing Products would like to invite all women anglers, near and far, to attend this year’s Chica de Mayo. As the date draws closer, a team of incredible lady anglers are highly motivated to make this year an epic celebration of women who fly fish. Watch The River’s Edge and SIMMS Fishing Products Instagram and Facebook feeds for updates and to plan your trip to Bozeman to help us celebrate 11 years!