A postcard of “The Famous ‘Fly Rod’ Landing a big one at Mt. Kineo, Moosehead Lake.” The postcard was sent in 1908. Courtesy / Special Collections, Raymond H. Fogler Library, [email protected]

Ah, the famous Maine Guide. A tall, stout, square-jawed Teddy Roosevelt of the 21st century. Able to rescue a tourist with one hand and kill a bear with the other, a Maine Guide is the manliest of men.

Unless she’s a woman, of course … as the very first Maine Guide happened to be.

Tall and rugged she was, however. As Cornilia Thurza Crosby once described herself, “I am a plain woman of uncertain age, standing six-feet in my stockings … I scribble a bit for various sporting journals, and I would rather fish than go to heaven.”

According to maineguides.com, hunting guides in Maine had to register with the state starting in 1897. The very first license went to Crosby, who had been a bank clerk and a telegraph operator before her job was phased out by the invention of the telephone. She suffered from lifelong health issues and her doctor ordered her to spend time in the great outdoors.

Crosby wound up in the Rangely Lake region and fell in love with nature. At first she worked as a housekeeper at some of the local hotels, but she befriended local guides who introduced her to hunting, camping and fishing. Soon these pastimes would become her life.

After a friend gave her a bamboo fly rod in 1886, Crosby became an expert in the field. Once she landed 200 trout in a single day. Soon she was writing down her adventures and sent them in to a newspaper under the nickname “Fly Rod Crosby.” Her stories proved very popular, and she was syndicated in several major cities. Her life of independence and sportsmanship was at odds with the life of the typical woman, and she proved to be a powerful role model for young women in America. Crosby was compared to a Native American “brave” and she worked often with the Penobscot people.

Fly Rod Crosby helped popularize the Maine north woods. She set up a marketing display in 1898 at Madison Square Garden in New York during the first annual Sportsman’s Show. One can imagine the attention this towering woman generated with a mock hunting camp, a rifle in her hand and a “scandalously short skirt” made of doeskin leather. Between this famous display and her popular column, Crosby led thousands of people to discover the natural beauty of the Maine woods. Indeed, she had been hired to do exactly that by the Maine Central Railroad. A train was the easiest way to get to the north woods, after all. She was also working for the Maine Sportsman’s Fish and Game Association, which wanted to increase membership to 1,000 people.

Crosby was a good shot with a rifle, too. Besides her role as the first official Maine Guide, she was also the last person to legally shoot a caribou in Maine. Unfortunately, she suffered a knee injury that ended her carefree life in the forest. She continued to write her popular columns, however, and lived until the age of 92. Fly Rod Crosby died on Nov. 11, 1946.

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