Women in Pennsylvania learning camping skills from sisters group


A group of women adventurers is providing opportunities for outdoor fun, education and friendship across the country including Pennsylvania.

Sisters on the Fly was started in 1999 by sisters Maurrie Sussman and Becky Clarke while camping and fishing with friends in the West. Their mother, Mazie, taught the sisters how to fly fish, and from those beginnings Sisters has grown into the largest outdoor adventure group for women in the country.

Fly fishing guide Ari Capotis explains fly fishing techniques to Sisters on the Fly members Sept. 24 in Potter County.

Sisters has drawn more than 21,000 members since 1999, and of the 7,038 active members there are more than 100 in Pennsylvania.

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“I will tell you what I love the most about the Sisters is getting together and right away you know that everybody loves being outdoors and doing something that’s related to being outdoors,” Marie Scalera, a member from Erie, said in a telephone interview.

Marie Scalera of Erie stands near her camper during a Sisters on the Fly event.

“Every single week of every single month there’s something going on in some state around the whole country.” She added there are even members in England and Australia.

“The rules are no men, no kids, be nice and just have fun,” Scalera said. “I tell you, we have more fun than anyone.” 

Gay Warshaw, a volunteer co-wrangler for the organization in several states including Pennsylvania, said events include camping, fishing, hiking, kayaking, canoeing, horseback riding, bicycling, stargazing, sporting clays and antiquing and flea markets.

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The volunteer wranglers offer advice to women who want to put on events as well as welcome new members.

Warshaw, who lives in Catonsville, Maryland, has been involved in the organization for seven years and enjoys helping with events in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware and Washington, D.C.

During the camping outings, the women learn to do everything that’s required to camp. Many of the women have their own campers and others are fine with sleeping in tents. Still others stay in cabins at the campgrounds. “If somebody is new to towing a trailer, there’s always other Sisters who are willing to answer questions, to help them with the technical aspects of that,” Warshaw said.

Gay Warshaw enjoys camping adventures provided through the Sisters on the Fly organization.

She said the other Sisters don’t take over the tasks, but teach how to do things the right way. The range of opportunities span from fly fishing to outdoor cooking, fire building, putting up a tent, and most anything involved in camping.

Members-only events have gone on at various locations in Pennsylvania over the years including Caledonia State Park, Pine Creek Gorge at the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, along Potter County trout streams, a meet-and-greet in Warminster, a hot air balloon festival near Meadville and camping in Sigel, Gettysburg, Lancaster, the Laurel Highlands and various campgrounds in northeastern Pennsylvania. “Some Sisters, once they become friends, will also get together outside of the official events,” Warshaw said.

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There were about a dozen events in the state in the past year and close to 30 in the mid-Atlantic region. “It all depends on how far someone wants to travel,” she said about members being welcome at all events in the country.

Scalera is learning how to fish. “I want to get more women involved in fly fishing. That was my main goal in joining and getting other women involved,” she said. “This is their break. To get away from their husbands, their kids, their pets, and just unwind and have fun.”

Sisters on the Fly events include a wide variety of outdoor-related activiites including bicycling. This event was held in Wellsboro.

Warshaw said there are women from all walks of life. “It’s across the board, all walks of life, and what brings us together is our love of the outdoors,” she said.

Scalera retired in March from in-home health care and now enjoys spending time outdoors. “It’s like being a kid all over again,” Scalera said about camping trips and other outings. One woman has a camper themed around Elvis Presley.

The adventures are aimed at friendships and building the confidence of women who want to travel and enjoy camping.

“It’s a very positive environment, supporting other women,” Warshaw said.

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All members must be at least 21, and most members are in their 40s, 50s and 60s. There are mothers and daughters and biological sisters who are involved. Annual dues are $70.

“It’s an opportunity to just have fun and learn something new,” Warshaw said.

Email Warshaw at gay.warshaw@gmail.com or visit sistersonthefly.com for information and membership details.

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“We are always open for new women to join, it’s great,” Scalera said. “We have more fun than anyone, that’s our motto.”

Brian Whipkey is the outdoors columnist for USA TODAY Network sites in Pennsylvania. Contact him at bwhipkey@gannett.com and sign up for our weekly Go Outdoors PA newsletter email on your website’s homepage under your login name. Follow him on social media @whipkeyoutdoors.


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