Written by: Phil Monahan
The fly-fishing world was shocked and saddened yesterday to learn that legendary angler, photographer, and traveler Cathy Beck had passed away while hosting a trip at Argentina’s Lago Strobel (a.k.a. Jurassic Lake). Cathy and her husband, Barry, have been fixtures in the angling community for more than three decades, and their photography has graced the covers of countless magazines. In fact, Cathy was the first woman to appear on the cover of Fly Fisherman, in 1991.
In a sport dominated by men, Cathy was a pioneer –a true master angler, fly tier, and teacher. Her enthusiasm and warmth attracted people to her wherever she went, and at consumer fly-fishing shows, she was often surrounded by fans and well-wishers. She greeted every person as an old friend and was unbelievably generous with both her time and expertise.
I first met Cathy and Barry when I was a low-level editor at Outdoor Life magazine in the mid-1990s, and after I took the helm of American Angler in the summer of 1998, they were among the first people I called for help. In my decade running a fly-fishing magazine, I published hundreds of Beck photos, which meant that I got to talk to Cathy all the time. When I went to trade shows and consumer shows, hanging out with Barry and Cathy was always a highlight.
In the early 2000s, I visited the couple at their Benton, Pennsylvania, home, and they couldn’t have been better hosts. We spent a day on their stretch of Fishing Creek, where I landed some beautiful trout, several caught on Cathy’s Super Bugger streamer. They had the remarkable ability to make you feel like family, in a genuine way. I always described them as “the nicest people in fly fishing.”
It’s been fifteen years since I left the magazine world and stopped working with Barry and Cathy, but they still greeted me the same way every time I ran into them at shows. When the sea of humanity–mostly middle-aged guys like me–got to be too much, I could always seek out Cathy, whose smile and warm hug was a welcome respite. We’d talk about business, fishing, and what her daughter, Annie, was up to. Our meetings have been infrequent in recent years, but I’ve been thinking about them a lot in the past 24 hours.
Fly Fisherman editor Ross Purnell has written a beautiful remembrance of Cathy, which you can read here.
All of us at Orvis offer our condolences to Barry and Annie, and we know that Cathy lives on through amazing photographs, videos, and the memories of those who were lucky enough to know her.