Teach a child to fly fish and change a life
Tying a first fly gives a young person a sense of pride and accomplishment. Catching a fish on a fly they tied is even better.
Belle, my faithful collie and occasional fishing companion, sees it differently. From her perspective, you can't teach an old human new tricks.
She's been watching as I have attempted — without success — to master playing the guitar. The fact that she howls at every third chord tells me I've got a long way to go.
I appreciate her honesty and constructive criticism. It's part of the learning process.
When I was young, I did a fly-casting session with someone who claimed to be an instructor.
Prior to the session, I couldn't hit a circle 50 feet away. After four hours, I wasn't able to hit a circle 40 feet away. The only response the instructor gave the whole time was, “You're doing good” and “That's looking better.”
At least Belle would've barked when my cast went bad.
Teaching casting to young people — or even slow learners like me — requires more than an ability to cast well, or an understanding of casting mechanics, faults and fixes.
A good instructor needs to be able to convey that knowledge into very concise, simplistic terms. Sort of like a Cliff Notes for casting.
The Federation of Fly Fishers has a Casting Certification program for the purpose of enhancing the overall level of instruction. There are more than a dozen FFF-certified instructors (CCIs) in Louisiana, including yours truly. You can contact us by going to the FFF website at www.fedflyfishers.org.
Some of the CCIs are master-level, which means they can help students prepare to become instructors themselves.
Each year we teach a couple hundred people in our state fly casting. Most of my students are 18 and under.
Teaching youngsters to fly fish has become a passion of mine. They enjoy casting, and really enjoy catching fish on the long rod. There's a level of enthusiasm few adults reach (except for those of us with an inner child).
A good youth instructor also needs to assist his students with the proper tackle and accessories, fish-handling techniques, knots and leaders, and much more.
Usually the No. 1 question comes from parents, not students: “How much?”
Every fly shop in our state, including the big retailers like Cabela’s and Bass Pro, carries both beginner outfits and youth outfits. You can get an entire outfit — rod, reel, line, backing, leaders, even a few accessories — for under $100.
Most of that equipment will last many years. The rod is likely a throwaway if it breaks. However, by then, the student may be at a level where a quality rod that carries a warranty, such as a TFO Pro Series ($149), would be an appropriate replacement.
If the young man or woman has started tying flies, then the experience of catching a fish on a fly they tied is nirvana!
As with casting, young people seem to learn quicker how to tie flies. The problem with tying is that, with a few exceptions, the quality of beginner-level equipment is poor. Vises where the hook constantly slips, and bobbins with sharp edges that constantly break off thread, can lead to frustration and resignation from the hobby.
Most fly-fishing clubs hold tying sessions once a month that are open to the public. It's a golden opportunity to see what equipment is used, and put together an a-la-carte list of tying tools and materials to buy. For dates and locations, go to the calendar page on www.laflyfish.com.
If you decide to go with a kit, look for online reviews of these kits. One that I highly recommend is the Lefty Kreh series. They come in trout, freshwater or saltwater. Pick the one that you'll tie the most flies for. Later you can add materials for fishing the other species.
One young man, who our local club adopted as a member, fell so in love with our sport, it changed his plans for college. He later earned a degree in marine science.
That experience led to the Red Stick Fly Fishers offering free membership to any high school or college student. Other state clubs that offer free student membership include Acadiana Fly Rodders (Lafayette), Contraband Fly Casters (Lake Charles), Cane Country Fly Casters (Natchitoches), Pontchartrain Basin Fly Fishers (Mandeville), and Fin-Addict Fly Fishers (Houma).
Each year, the last Saturday in September is National Hunting and Fishing Day, with activities at four venues across the state. Members of local fly-fishing clubs are usually on hand to demonstrate fly casting and fly tying, and talk tools and tackle.
If you happen to be at Minden, stop by the North Louisiana Fly Fishers booth. If in Baton Rouge, stop by the Red Stick Fly Fishers booth. Bring a kid and we'll teach them — and maybe you — to tie a fly or cast a fly rod.
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