Cornelia “Fly Rod” Crosby was a legendary fly fisher and columnist who promoted outdoors activities in Maine in the late 1800s. She is being honored with a statue that will be unveiled this month at the state Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife headquarters in Augusta. Courtesy of the Maine State Museum

Many in the Rangeley Lakes Region know of Cornelia “Fly Rod” Crosby, and how the legendary fly fisher and writer worked tirelessly to promote outdoors activities in Maine in the late 1800s. Now more people will learn how Crosby, the state’s first Registered Maine Guide, launched Maine as an ecotourism destination long before ecotourism was a word.

A statue commissioned by two Rangeley summer residents will be unveiled on Feb. 14 at the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife headquarters in Augusta, the first public venue where the statue will be displayed.

“Imagine a woman in the 1800s helping to craft the legislation for the Registered Maine Guides license to (make sure) guides were responsible outdoor people. She was so ahead of her time. Imagine the status of women at the time she did that. There probably wasn’t a woman in the legislature,” said Master Maine Guide Roger Lambert of Strong. “In her time she was arguably the most known Maine person, other than Joshua Chamberlain. I bet today less than 5% of the people in Maine know who she is.”

Born in 1854, Crosby began to pursue an outdoor life hunting and fishing around Phillips, her birthplace in Franklin County, after contracting tuberculosis. When she started actively fishing in her 20s, her love and success exploring local trout ponds earned her the name “Fly Rod,” which she later took as a pen name when she wrote for her hometown newspaper.

Her outdoors column soon was picked up by national publications. Her outdoor adventures in the Rangeley region appeared in the Chicago Evening Post and the St. Paul Times in Minnesota, according to her biographers, Julia Hunter and Earle Shettleworth Jr., the Maine state historian.

A statue of Cornelia “Fly Rod” Crosby will be unveiled on Feb. 14 at the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife in Augusta. Courtesy of High Peaks Alliance

The Maine Central Railroad hired Crosby to promote Maine’s sporting camps at a time when wealthy hunters, fly fishers and nature enthusiasts ventured to the Maine woods for clean air, natural beauty and big fish. Crosby traveled to sporting expos to help draw people to the Maine’s woods. At Madison Square Garden in New York City she set up a life-sized log cabin with animal mounts. One time she transported a box car full of stocked trout in a fish tank to display.


Back at home, Crosby grew a reputation as an ardent conservationist. She worked with the state’s first committee to establish fishing and hunting bag limits to help preserve Maine’s natural resources. 

Yet as famous as she became, “Fly Rod” was best known for her love of the Maine woods, as she shared in a famous quote: “I scribble a bit for various sporting journals, and I would rather fish any day than go to heaven.”

Robert Cram and Michael Mooney commissioned the carved wooden statue with New Hampshire artist Brian Stockman initially for their camp on Richardson Lakes in the Rangeley region.

“When Brian Stockman finished it, we were blown away and started thinking how many people in Maine would see it if we had it 10 miles down a logging road,” Cram said. “We figured it needed to be more in the pubic eye. We firmly believe art needs to be seen so we loan out our art collection throughout the country.”

The Farmington-based High Peaks Alliance helped to find a public venue for the statue where it would help tell Crosby’s story, since educating the public about Crosby’s legacy is part of its mission. In 2011 the alliance built a 25-mile trail in honor of Fly Rod that stretched from Phillips to Rangeley, where she often fished.

“One thing I like about Fly Rod is she showed the difference one person can make. She is an example of how we benefit from Maine’s natural resources and also how we can take responsibility for them,” said Brent West, the alliance’s executive director.


Because the Maine State Museum currently is undergoing extensive renovations, IFW stepped in to help display the Crosby statue in the very place where people come to take the guide’s test. Historical information about Crosby’s life will be included with the statue.

Guides in western Maine consider “Fly Rod” as notable a champion of the Maine outdoors as any in history. 

Registered Maine Guide Sheri Oldham said it’s ironic Crosby’s story will be made more public at this time – after a public health crisis sent people in droves into the outdoors for the physical and mental health benefits.

“History repeats,” said Oldham, an active member of the Rangeley Region Guides and Sportsmen’s Association. “The reason Fly Rod spent so much time outdoors was because she had tuberculosis, a very contagious bacterial disease. So she learned how to fly fish. And Rangeley was great for it. Now 125 years later, because of COVID, people have rediscovered Rangeley as an outdoor destination. Certainly the boom in the new housing construction and tourism speaks to that.”

Lambert, one of the founding members of the High Peaks Alliance, said the 25-mile trail built through Crosby’s hometown a decade ago was always intended as a starting point to begin telling Crosby’s life story. Now he hopes the statue installation at IFW is one of the first such monuments commemorating Fly Rod’s legacy.

“I always thought there should be a bronze statue of her at the capitol (complex) in Augusta,” Lambert said of Crosby, who died in Lewiston at age 92 in 1946. “She is relevant today because we need to keep the connection to the outdoors. A lot of guides and land trusts are trying to keep people connected with Mother Earth. She championed that idea back then. One of the reasons I became a guide was to promote Maine. She wrote the book on it.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.