Cathy Beck passed away peacefully and quickly last week while hosting a Frontiers group with her beloved husband Barry in Argentina at Laguna Verde Lodge.  They loved fishing in Argentina.  A lot of folks head south for the winter…  the Becks though usually went WAY south — with multiple trips to Argentina during the summer seasons in the Southern Hemisphere.  They have been to Laguna Verde several times over the years in pursuit of the monstrous rainbows at Jurassic Lake.

I describe Cathy as one of the most caring and conscientious individuals in fly fishing and in life.  As an instructor, author, travel host, ambassador, fishing companion, or friend, Cathy was one of the nicest people on the planet.  Whether you spent an hour of casting instruction or day on the water with her, you left smiling because you just had a ton of fun, some laughs (mostly at yourself), and you left as a much better fly fisher.  She was simply, “one of a kind.”

Barry and Cathy are very well known in fly fishing circles. Cathy was the first woman on the cover of Fly Fisherman magazine and may have been on the cover more than anyone else over the years.  Cathy’s “Fly-Fishing Handbook” and multiple other books co-written by both of them, have been enjoyed by thousands.  Their articles have appeared in most major sporting publications and their photography is widely recognized internationally.  We are incredibly proud that this couple have been part of the Frontiers Team for many years.

I was approached by Barry and Cathy in the early 1990s about hosting trips through Frontiers.  Being from my home state of Pennsylvania, I certainly knew them, had run into them from time to time, and was super happy that they were reaching out to us.  At that time, we were the exclusive central reservations and marketing operation for many of the world’s top fly-fishing lodges.  About 25-30% of our bookings then were done through our Authorized Agent Program, which were essentially fly shops hosting trips in their offseason.

Barry and Cathy had some great departures arranged independently before working with us, but we were very helpful in handing a lot of the back-office issues – arranging flights, invoices and payments, travel insurance, itinerary extensions, hotels, ground transfers, etc.  We also were able to recruit our clients to help fill their departures.  At that time, I was in my 20s.  They had over a decade on me in the field and I was thrilled that they were joining Frontiers.  I was expecting a trip or two or three annually from them.  I had no idea then that over the next three decades they would play such an important role in our success and growth.

Cathy and Barry embraced the Frontiers relationship wholeheartedly and gave 1000% to our organization.  Their consistent bookings, complemented with world-class photography and the promotion of Frontiers through their published articles, books, presentations around the globe, and at the consumer shows they frequented, gave us a huge launch — helping us establish Frontiers as one of the preeminent outdoor focused travel companies in the world.  Their relationships with the leading gear manufactures and the media were also critically important to our growth.

Over the last 30-years, the Becks have hosted 192 trips with Frontiers.  Looking back, it’s incredible the number of new clients they have brought to our company; and at the same time, the great care that they have provided to our customers who we have placed on their departures.  They also helped tremendously on exploratory work – helping us discover and refine new programs.

As my career grew, Barry and Cathy developed into close friends, and I loved the time I spent with them in the field.  First of all, they are fun and exceedingly professional.  Secondly, I always learned something when I was with them.  It’s like having a fishing focused big sister and brother.  I was with Barry and Cathy when I caught my first permit on the fly and my first Super Grand Slam.  We experienced our first trip to the Ponoi River together and caught our first Atlantic salmon on dries that week.

I had been to New Zealand a few times by the late 90s.  After Barry and Cathy had a handful of Patagonia trips under their belts, I strongly encouraged them to head Down Under to the South Pacific based on their love of trophy trout.  I like to think that I had some influence on that New Zealand addiction, which lasted almost two decades.

Speaking of trophies, Cathy is probably the fishiest angler I have ever seen.  When I look at our vast client list over the last 55 years, I do not think that anyone ever connected to Frontiers has caught more big saltwater and freshwater fish on a fly around the world than Cathy.  We all know that she was one of the best instructors in the business, but she took that knowledge away from the trade show pool and into the wilds to land some monsters.  Luck had nothing to do with it… she was simply one of the best casters and fly presenters of all time.  Barry is equally competent, but he always seemed to enjoy watching her success through his lens!

Craig Fellin, Owner of Big Hole Lodge in Montana, called me on Friday to pass along his condolences.  He told me a story of fishing the Beaverhead with Barry and Cathy many moons ago.  They decided to walk up Poindexter Slough and there was a giant brown trout feeding.  Based on some trees, weeds, the current and other factors, Craig (one of the most veteran guides in the West) said, “the only way to get to that fish is from above, and he will not take because he’ll see us.”  Cathy politely and confidently said, “I’m pretty sure I can get the fly over him.”  She took the cast and caught the fish.  Craig chuckled and said to me, I have never seen anyone make a cast like that since…  That tells it all!

We will miss Cathy, a legendary icon of fly fishing.  She had an unmatched passion for the sport and a need to share her knowledge in a delightfully pleasant way through guiding, instructing, writing, and hosting trips with Frontiers.  There was no ego and no competitiveness… only a smile and a yearning to make everyone around her love fly fishing.  She was an incredible colleague and friend to all of us at Frontiers.

Please keep Barry and the Beck’s family in your thoughts.

As son of the Frontiers founders, Mike Fitzgerald, Jr. was brought up in the outdoor travel business. He has handled a number of sporting programs for Frontiers through the years. Today as President, Mike works closely with the Senior Management Team and the department heads and is quite involved with the Southern Hemisphere freshwater programs. Mike loves to travel with his fly rods, shotguns and cameras. He is passionate about trout, salmon and conservation. He sits on the boards of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and Bonefish & Tarpon Trust.