Al Campbell, Field Editor

October 8th, 2001

NWTF Family Day
By Al Campbell

When was the last time you spent a day teaching others a skill you have? Better yet, when was the last time you spent a day teaching kids a skill you have? If you haven't volunteered or at least consented when asked, you've been missing something important.

I have the opportunity to work about a dozen of these events per year. Notice I said "opportunity?" I mean what I said. I have never caught a fish as beautiful as the smile on a youngster's face when he/she hooks that first fish on a fly. A handshake from a 10-year-old who just learned how to cast a fly is more reward than a big fish on a thin tippet. If you haven't experienced that, you don't know what I mean or what you're missing. If you have, you know I'm speaking the honest truth.

The NWFT Clinic

Recently I was invited by the local chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation to teach 25 students how fly-fish at a family day event. As you might imagine, some new and unique knots were formed in lines, leaders and tippets. A few flies were lost to a cracking sound at the end of a back-cast. A couple dozen fish were caught and a couple dozen new fly-fishers were born.

First fish for a new fly fisher

I'm sure a few of these new converts will drop out of fly fishing within a year. Some sports just aren't for everyone. I'm also sure there will be a few who will be fly-fishers for the rest of their lives. So, in one small way, I've impacted my future and the future of fly-fishing. I have also impacted the future of a young person who will someday step up to the casting platform and pass this baton on to another future fly-fisher. It's a legacy I cherish.

I won't focus on the lack of involvement from TU and the FFF in my local community. There are too many people like me in this world who will work a youth event for free. Profit driven "certified" instructors aren't terribly attractive to youth programs like the Scouts and NWTF youth programs. One "certified instructor" held a (fly shop sponsored) event here the same weekend I did the NWTF event. His fees were $65 per head for people attending his show. I'm not saying his time and travel weren't worth the fees; I'm merely pointing out a difference in philosophy and priorities between different kinds of organizations.

My fees for the event I taught were nothing, zilch, zero. I traveled an hour and a half each way in my own vehicle. We used my personal gear for the instruction and fishing that followed. In other words, I volunteered. The NWTF did reimburse me for my gas and most of the flies that were used, but I didn't ask for it; they shoved it into my hand with a smile, a thank you, and a bag of tasty treats for the ride home.

I'm betting I reaped the biggest rewards that weekend. I didn't go home with more money in my pocket than I started the day with. In fact, if I added it up, I probably "donated" more leaders, flies and tippet material than I care to count; but I went home much wealthier than I was when I left home that morning. I went home with a bag full of smiles, a couple dozen new friends and enough handshakes to last me a few weeks. They don't print that kind of wealth on green paper.

If you want to enrich your life, volunteer your time to a youth program. I'm not just talking about fly-fishing organizations either. There are many organizations out there working hard to provide an outdoor experience for our youth. They need volunteers who are willing to donate their time and talents to worthwhile youth programs. If your local fly-fishing groups or organizations are profit driven, to hell with them. Donate your time to a group that is dedicated to our youth. Money can't buy the rewards you'll reap. ~ AC

Previous Al Campell Columns
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