Editor’s note: Every so often, we’ll put movers and shakers in the fly-fishing world on the spot with our version of the Proust profile questionnaire. We’ve asked our subjects to be brutally honest and as forthright as they choose as they answer questions that might make them think, reminisce and look forward in their lives. And, honestly, some of these questions might make them a little uncomfortable, and that’s intentional, as it might make the answers more honest and revealing. The answers are not edited for content (but we’ll clean up the grammar and the spelling as needed).
Jen Ripple, editor and publisher of DUN Magazine, has worked her tail off over the last several years, throwing everything she’s got into her passion and crafting a publication that shows how relevant women really are in the fly-fishing community.
She started small with DUN — it was a glorified blog back in the early 2010s — and learned as she went. Today, it’s one of the most-respected fly fishing publications in the space, regardless of whether readers are male or female.
More importantly, Jen has consistently given female fly fishers a real voice in an industry that is working like crazy to bring more women into the fold. And the progress has been palpable — larger manufacturers from Simms to Orvis and beyond are now investing in the female angling market, something that wasn’t even on the radar 10 or 15 years ago. Women who fly fish can thank Jen for helping break the ice and carve important inroads into the fly angling industry. She is a true fly-fishing pioneer, and the sport is better because of her.
But she’s more than just a woman who fishes. She’s outgoing, super smart, gregarious and … she’s serious angler. She has taken DUN from a small online website to a full-on fly fishing and fishing culture publication in only a decade. Quite the feat.
These days, due to the pandemic, DUN is publishing online, but Jen plans to resume a print run in the future. For now, you can see for yourself what DUN is all about at the magazine’s website, and you can get to know Jen and other female fly fishers who produce come of the best fly-fishing content on the web.
On with the questions:
What’s the last good book you read?
Ah! That’s an easy one! Tampa Traffick by Vance Arnett. Vance worked for many years in the Tampa area in crime prevention (in some form, but not the normal you’d imagine) and this book is about a fictional group of unique individuals who take the sex trafficking situation into their own hands. There’s an element of fly fishing that runs through the whole story and it’s quite intriguing. This is the first in a series of three books, with only books one and two out. It’s the second time I’m reading this one, since I’m waiting on book three.
Who is your hero?
In my outside of fly life, my mom, no doubt. I’m a first-generation American and my mom, grandmother, great-grandmother, and uncle were sponsored to the US after WWII. My mom spent her first years in a displaced person’s camp and when she came to the U..S she spoke seven languages (as a 4-year-old!), but not English. To hear the stories that they went through and what they endured is unbelievable. I don’t think I would have survived it. In my fly-fishing life, Sarah Gardner. She’s the most incredible human, and she’s so out of the limelight. She is a hawker as well as an Outer Banks boat captain and is so interesting. I could sit and listen to Sarah tell stories and talk forever. She and her husband Brian have been so generous to the magazine over the years and her stories and his photography have graced many of DUN’s pages.
What do you fear the most?
Failure. Failure for sure. Be it in business, in my personal life … you name it. Failure is the name of my fear game. Maybe it’s because I’m a first child and very Type A, or maybe it’s because I’m such an entrepreneur (I’ve owned my own business since I was 21 years old), or maybe even it’s because I’m a mom and have failed my children many times, but you’d think by now I’d be less fearful of it, since I’ve had my fair share of failures over the years, but yep, that’s what keeps me up at night. My fear of failing, of letting people down, of not being successful enough, of making a mistake.
What trait do you possess that you wish you didn’t?
I inherited my parents’ and grandparents’ propensity to find a great deal. While I actually find this trait to be a positive one in general, I wish I didn’t possess it because I have a very hard time buying anything at a regular store and a very hard time buying anything at full price. In fact, I’ve never bought a new car. I’ve always bought a used car with low miles. It’s also made me a ridiculous thrift store and rummage sale junkie. In fact, for the last 30 years (barring last year) I’ve gotten myself and my children up and we’ve stood in line outside of the Winnetka Community House in Winnetka, Ill., before 4:30 a.m. to be the first ones in line for a sale that starts at 7. Now, mind you, this is at the beginning of May and at times it’s been very cold and very rainy. Haha. What I won’t do for a good sale. Now that I think about it, maybe that’s the reason my oldest daughter refuses to thrift shop.
What trait do you find off-putting when you notice it in others?
It drives me crazy when people who have done nothing in their life give out advice. I mean, by no means do I think I have it all together as far as being a magazine editor, far from it. But, for the love of God, if you’ve never worked a day in your life in any capacity, please don’t tell me how to run the magazine. Now, if you’re Tom Bie and you’ve successfully run The Drake forever now, please give me all the advice you want (and he has, and I’m forever grateful for it). But again, he knows what he’s talking about. It makes a difference.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Well, I’d say my children, but that’s too easy. I would say my greatest achievement, to date, would be DUN. Against all odds, the magazine made a name for itself and I did what the majority of people said couldn’t be done — created a magazine and a home-base for anglers that is directed at the woman angler but does not exclude men.
If you could pick one place to live, where would it be?
Why is it that this question has now taken me 20 minutes to think about? I guess there are just so many places I want to visit that I have never been where I would consider living, but having never been there… OK, if I had to choose one place to live right now it would definitely be on the Gulf somewhere. I guess Naples, Fla., but only if my home were on the beach and I had access to fish every day. I know my kids and their families would visit me there, and I’d always have friends who would want to come and stay. Right now, my home in Tennessee isn’t that big of a draw, and currently the fishing on Kentucky Lake sucks.
How would you like to die?
I’ve thought about this (maybe we all have?), and you know how like John Denver sang “Leaving on a Jet plane, don’t know when I’ll be back again,” and then died in a plane crash or the guy who invented the Segway died by driving one of a cliff, that kind of thing? I always figured with the last name of Ripple I’ll die from drowning, which is definitely not the way I want to go but is better than burning. If I have to go, I’ll say the old, peacefully in my sleep mantra knowing it will most likely be far from that. I’ll probably go by doing something stupid… like falling out of a drift boat.
Which living person do you most admire?
I admire my dad. He is one of those salty guys who has been a Coast Guard certified dive boat captain and instructor my whole life, but only for fun. He loves the water, gave me my love for the water, but in his everyday life is a home builder and master electrician, yet never finished school. He’s truly the smartest man I know. If there is something that needs to be built or fixed, no matter what it is, he can do it. He’s so mechanically inclined. My brother is just like my dad. Me? Not so much. I wish I could be just a little like them. I can’t find my way out of a glass house.
What is your greatest regret?
I got a divorce when I was in my 30s. My children were at very impressionable ages. I’m not saying I regret getting a divorce, but the way I left, and the aftermath haunts me to this day. It affected all of us, my children especially. What it did to my children is now, and will always be, my biggest regret in life.
What’s your closest brush with death?
When I was in the process of leaving my husband, I tried to kill myself. I figured my kids would be better off without me at the time. I took a whole bottle of pills and drank a bottle of wine (I didn’t drink at the time at all and yes I recognize this is the coward’s way out so you don’t have to send me to counseling — I’ve been there). I fell asleep and somehow woke up to go downstairs to apparently throw up. My husband woke up and found me, took me to the ER. I remember being in that curtained off emergency room and hearing the nurse or whoever talking with my husband and saying they will do their best, but there isn’t much to do but wait. They took blood gas and I remember barely waking up and looking over to watch, thinking, “This should probably hurt but I don’t feel a thing.” Then I remember going into convulsions and waking up a long time later. That’s the closest I’ve ever been. I’m thankful every day I wasn’t successful.
What’s the title of your autobiography?
What word do you have to look up to make sure you spelled it correctly?
Retrieve. See, I had to look it up. I know it’s always I before E except after C, but for some reason it just never looks right to me.
In three words, how would your closest friends describe you?
Smart, funny and loyal. Aren’t those the three words that every close friend would use?
What is the favorite car of all the cars you’ve driven?
I used to drive a 1986 Jeep Grand Wagoneer. I loved that car. It was this great burgundy color with beautiful tan leather interior. I just heard they’re coming out with one that looks just like it in 2022, so… I may have to get one. Unless of course they’re as pricey as a good 1986 is now. Then I’ll have to pass!
What is your guilty pleasure?
That’s easy. Ben & Jerry’s Tonight Dough ice cream with Reese’s Magic Shell on top. I could eat a gallon with five bottles of Magic Shell on top without flinching.
If you could go back in time, what year would you visit?
1955. I’ve always thought that looks like such a fun and yet innocent time. The world seemed like a much better place then.
What possession do you own that means the most to you, and why?
I have one of a set of hand-made dolls that my mom brought with her when she was sponsored to the United States. The doll is small but quite beautiful and I always think, I wonder what the doll would say if it could talk. My sister has the other doll.
What will you always buy, regardless of how much it costs?
A great pair of cowboy boots.
If you could pick your name, what would it be?
I like my name enough, but I think I’d pick something that has gone out of style and you don’t hear a lot. I think I’d choose Gretchen.