Since the late 1990s, Sisters on the Fly (sistersonthefly.com) has been RVing in vintage trailers, telling tall tales around campfires, and having “more fun than anyone.”
The idea for the group began when real-life sisters Maurrie Sussman of Phoenix, Ariz., and Becky Clarke of McCall, Idaho, were fly-fishing in a drift boat on Montana’s fabled Madison River.
“We were happily drinking a glass of wine in celebration of catching an 8-pound Brown trout,” recalled Sussman in a telephone interview from her home, “and we thought it would be great to share the fun with our girlfriends.”
That was 16 years ago and their girlfriends now number more than 4,500 across the United States, Canada, England and Australia. They range in age from 21 to 93.
“We’re a group of women who challenge ourselves in all that we set our minds to do,” said Sussman. “We’re committed to getting women outdoors to become more independent and self-reliant. We encourage them to pull their own trailers, fly fish, kayak, camp, and be a cowgirl.”
Members include mothers, daughters, and grandmothers. Most are married, some are single, some work, and some are retired. Some are school bus drivers and dog walkers; mayors of small towns and school teachers. The rules are simple: “No Men, No Pets, No Kids, and Be Nice.”
On fishing and camping trips, about half the women pull small vintage trailers. Each rig has its own name and most are decorated with Western or outdoors themes. Among these classic campers are teardrop and canned-ham trailers from the 1950s and 1960s that range in length from 12 to 16 feet. Makes include Shasta, Scotsman, Aloha, Airstream, Scotty, Holiday, Ziema, Aljo, Leigh, Crown, and Empire.
Organizer Sussman owns several trailers, one being “Pretty Shield,” a 1943 Franklin classic that’s painted turquoise and accented with stylized Indian ponies.
“At the campground,” she said, “we open up our doors, pull out our tables and chairs, along with table cloths and all the little rugs. It’s really funny. We each have a little living room set up outside.”
Women, however, do not need vintage trailers to join. Some prefer late-model recreation vehicles, tents, bed and breakfasts, or laying under the stars in a sleeping bag. Annual membership fee is $60.
Because of the sheer numbers of members, in addition to the dozen or so national trips, members gather regionally for adventures closer to home.
While camping is the major focus for the majority of the women, fly fishing remains a huge interest for the group. Every year Sussman and her son, outfitter Austin Lowder (montanaflyfishingoutfitter.com) coordinate a Fly Fishing 101 School in Absarokee, Mont.
“Fly fishing is such a beautiful sport,” said Sussman, “and if you put that in the middle of nowhere on a Montana river, it is such a positive and peaceful experience.”
Sussman and Clarke learned to fish and camp from their “amazing mother” Mazie Morrison, 93, of Oregon. She still “loves to fly fish” and has joined her daughters on many of their adventures.
For women who know how to ride and handle a horse, Cowgirl College is held each June. The week-long event takes place at The Willow Creek Ranch at the Hole-In-The-Wall, a 57,000-acre cattle and horse ranch about 60 miles north of Casper and 35 miles southwest of Kaycee, Wyo.
If you don’t have solid experience in the saddle, but still love horses, consider the seven-day Cowgirl Boot Camp in Kaycee, Wyo., in August. “This is a place where you are reminded of the all the things you might have forgotten about a horse.”
Basics cover actually catching your horse, haltering and saddle your mount, and, of course, riding it. Gathering cattle and learning to rope them are also on the working agenda.
Sussman said, “We’re all just average women having extraordinary adventures and having more fun than anyone.” — Julianne G. Crane, Motor Matters
Photo 1: Wagon wheels, whiskey barrel and a galloping horse decorate 1967 Yukon Delta, “Runaway Daisy,” owned by Karen LeGlue. (Photo credit: David Foxhoven)
Photo 2: “Sisters on the Fly: Caravans, Campfires, and Tales from the Road” (2010) by Irene Rawlings, Andrews McMeel Publishing.
Photo 3: Pink dishes and floral fabrics add a “girly” touch to the rugged cowgirl theme of this vintage travel trailer. (Photo credit: David Foxhoven)
Photo 4: Sisters on the Fly frequently travel in caravans of vintage trailers along two-lane back roads to their fishing and camping destinations across America. (Photo credit: David Foxhoven)
Copyright, Motor Matters, 2014