Remembering the Brilliance of Cathy Beck

Written by: Phil Monahan

Cathy Beck and her husband, Barry, have been the First Couple of Fly Fishing for decades.
Photo by Barry and Cathy Beck, via Facebook

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.

The day before she passed, Cathy landed this stunning rainbow.
Photo by Barry and Cathy Beck, via Instagram

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.

13 thoughts on “Remembering the Brilliance of Cathy Beck”

  1. A really tough loss for the fly fishing community. As Phil mentions in his article, Cathy was always a friendly and warm person whenever I had the good fortune to speak with her briefly at expos. She seemed like a born educator and someone who could make you feel like a friend right away. The community will miss her leadership, knowledge and eye for beauty and detail in this great sport.

    1. I would like to extend my condolences to Barry and his daughter Annie and the entire extended Beck Family on the untimely passing of Cathy. I was shocked and had heartfelt sadness when I learned of her passing . I had a brief conversation with Cathy and Barry at the recent Fly Fishing Show in Edison , NJ. This was at the conclusion of one of Barry’s presentations. I took the opportunity in this personal encounter with Cathy and Barry to thank them for all I learned over the years from them. ❤️ They thank me and were so gracious in our interaction. We lost another ‘Great One’ who showed us how to do it with grace, kindness, respect and a passion for her life’s work. Her passing has left a huge loss not only in the Fly Fishing Community but with Family and Friends around the world. She had the very uncommon ability to make you feel like family. To talk to you, not at you. She was indeed an expert in her craft and an amazing role model, something so lacking in our world. I’m sure there is flyfishing in Heaven and she is exploring new waters we can only imagine. Tight lines my friend, we love you. You will remain always in our hearts ❤️ thoughts and prayers until we all meet again. God Bless you Cathy and your Family. Thank You for what you taught us and the amazing impact you made on so many people in your time with us. You made a difference, You made us better in so many ways. Thank you.

  2. This is so unfortunate. The world is a little less brighter without Cathy.

    I’ve had the pleasure of staying with Barry and Cathy a few times at their place in Benton, PA. As the article says, they sure made you feel like family, thats for sure. I’ll miss Cathy and appreciate the time spent with her, she certainly made it look easy!

  3. I would like to send my condolences to husband Barry beck and to all those affected by cathy becks passing. I have tied and fished some of here fly patterns for smallmouth bass.

  4. Donald Fine
    February 10, 2024 at 8:00 pm
    On behalf of the ‘Friends of Lefty Kreh’ organization, to which Cathy served in an advisory capacity, we are saddened to hear about her death. Indeed, Cathy was a role model for all who loved the pursuit of a fish using a fly rod and adventures on the water.

  5. I have been fortunate enough to know the Cathy and Barry since their retail days when my father purchased my first fly outfit, the once popular Orvis Green Mountain series combo, of which I have handed down to my daughter, Sydney. Sydney was able to meet Cathy during their one on one fly casting classes and we speak about her often. We had been in recent discussions regarding she and Syd spending a day enjoying Fishing Creek. The Becks have left an indelible mark on the fly fishing community and those of us that live in NE Pennsylvania are we are forever grateful for their tireless dedication to the sport and ability to connect with those entering the sport as novices. I was fortunate to have my first casting lessons from Lefty in the 80’s at the PA Sportsman’s show and knowing that he and Cathy are still with us in spirit while waiting for us in the heavens is very rewarding. We cherish the memories we have had, while looking forward to more when we meet again.

    “Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops-under rocks are the words and some of the words are theirs.”

    Norman Maclean, “A River Runs Through It”

  6. The community and industry of fly fishing is full of incredibly talented people and skilled anglers – but few as nice as Kathy Beck. She was a wonderful ambassador for the sport, photographer, and personality.
    The smile she wore in all her photos was genuine, and she’ll be both remembered and missed.

  7. While I can’t say we were friends, I can say that we were friendly. Would see and talk with both Cathy and Barry at trade shows — too many to remember — I always thought that she knew me well. A vendor of bamboo rods and reels, I was frankly more interested in that retail world than in fishing. Always admired her for her distant friendship that I know we both enjoyed and admired her for her fabulous disposition and her ability to make you feel like she knew you and liked you without reservation. She was one in a million. The fly fishing world has lost a pioneer and a truly terrific person. So sad. And too soon a parting.

  8. Although we never met face-to-face, I have enjoyed reading and seeing Cathy in Fly Fisherman over the years. I remember the first cover in 1991 and still have a copy of it around here someplace. I would like to extend my condolences to Barry and his daughter Annie and the entire extended Beck Family on the passing of Cathy. As others have posted, the world is a little less bright without her but she will live on in the hearts of all who were touched by her.

  9. Barry
    So sorry for your loss.
    Cathy was such a great person.
    There is such a loss for the fly fishing community , but bigger loss for you❤️

  10. Cathy taught my wife Nancy to cast a fly rod. What a sweet and wonderful person she was. We are both so sad to hear of her passing. She’s casting with the Master now.

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