Outdoor Writers Association of America
Northwest Outdoor Writers Association
This Week's View

by Bob Mowdy

March 29th, 1999


This week's view is a response to my recent column here on Attitudes. My thanks to Bob for his comments and efforts!

Dear Friends of Fly Fishing,

In haste, I snapped off a really nasty e-mail regarding the need for STILL ANOTHER trade organization in the fly fishing market, (Ladyfisher column two weeks ago on Attitudes) then thought better of it and decided not to send it. My basic premise is still "WHO NEEDS IT?" but I've decided that, for one, I DO!

You see, I'm one of those volunteers LadyFisher referred to in that editorial. I decided long ago that the plague of uneducated, selfish boors streamside was going to end with this generation, and unlike others, I don't advocate shooting the self-centered buggers. Rather I decided that we could not afford, neither as a sport, nor as an "industry" to rear up another "ME FIRST" generation of fly fishers, and instead of whining about it in all the magazines that helped produce this plague, I began to do something about it.

I started with one kid in my neighborhood. A kid with ADD [Attention Deficite Dissorder] and not a whole lot of successes in his trophy case. I got him a small outfit, taught him some tying skills, and took him fishing. [pub.note: To read about that adventure, click here.]

When the opportunity for some training in working with kids presented itself, I jumped at it.

A week at Cornell with the National 4-H Sportfishing program got me started, no, I should say INFECTED with the need to get kids into programs where they would be educated about fly fishing and about all the array of skills and knowledge that makes a well rounded person. I was delighted that the 4-H program included sections on Angler Ethics and Community Relations, on Habitat and Stream Structure, on Fly Tying and Tackle Craft.

Well, ten of us went to Cornell from Maine, and I'm the lone survivor with an active 4-H Fishing Club…..

What happened? Support happened, or didn't happen, and that is where the trade groups you took a shot at in your editorial came in. I got support from several trade associations. Some only sent bumper stickers, and advertising stuff, (the kids loved it) but some of the manufacturers sent enormous donations of materials and supplies. I guess I got the support, because I asked and the others didn't, But I got it, because there was a structure within which I could ask. That was the trade organization.

I recently got a survey form in the mail, and nearly threw it out before I realized that it was from one of the trade organizations that supports the National 4-H Sportfishing Program Training. I filled it out pronto, and sent it with a lengthy cover letter expressing my hope that they would continue to support the program.

Some of the Rewards

Why do I bother? It would be easier NOT to have a club meeting twice a month. It would be easier NOT to have to prepare, find speakers, get pros in to tie with the kids, plan a trip to a 'Buggy' stream for an entomologist, arrange for equipment for kids who can't afford it, and yes to even take 'em all fishing. But if I don't do it, there will be another generation of kids growing up into intolerable, self centered, destructive fishers, and when I consider that, I gotta say " NOT ON MY WATCH!"

I've seen too many kids grow from snotty little whiners into youth with whom I'm proud to share a pool. I've seen kids who hadn't accomplished anything of value, build a tolerable fly rod, and use it to catch fish. I've seen kids develop patience and persistence while tying a difficult pattern, and I've seen kids "Just Say No" to a whole lot of what our world has to offer that could do them harm.

When I look back at how we got here, I see a string of contacts. First with Organizations like FFF and TU , Our State Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and then a whole lot of support from companies who are part of TRADE ORGANIZATIONS.

If the trade organizations want to really make an impact on fly fishing, and at the same time build a clientele for their members, then the way to do it is to support GRASS ROOTS level involvement with groups that are working with kids. Most of us in the volunteer corps are common working stiffs with real life responsibilities. We're not the ones traveling all over the globe to fish. We're the ones who scrape together enough supplies for a class, teach it on our own time, and transport the kids to the borrowed space so we can.

Me and a new tier

Right now, I have needs that could swallow thousands of dollars. We need materials for Fly Tying and Rod Building, we need reels and line for kids who can't afford them, and most of all we need the equipment to produce our own instructional materials where none really exist. Just a digital camera of the quality we need costs a thousand dollars.

None of us receives a salary. A lot of the time we don't get a "thank-you" from the rest of the sport, rather a dirty look when we show up to fish with 6 or 8 kids in tow. But we know that when these kids grow into adults, they will make us proud that they learned ethics and manners from us and that we made a real contribution to the sport.

Manufacturers should know what a BIG impression their product makes on the kids. Imagine kids learning to fish with your brand name always in front of them. We had a donation last year of Cortland fly lines for all our kids. Guess what brand they will be looking for when they come to buy their own? We had 14 Sage rod blanks donated for the rod building project. Guess which brands the kids will recognize?? We had Gudebrod thread donated, guess again?

Our local Pine Tree State 4-H Foundation chipped in $400 for hardware, and the kids raised the balance at Carwashes. EVERY kid got to build a rod without paying anything!

I didn't get to fish more than 8 times last season without kids along. Would I have it any other way? Honestly, I covet a few more solitary days astream, but given the choice between private water and disappointing a kid, there's no contest.

SO WISE UP , trade groups. Are you in this for the long haul? Then treat the next generation of fishers and the ones who care enough to train them up, like the VALUABLE RESOURCE they truly are!! WE NEED YOU!! If you're in it only for immediate sales, then WHO NEEDS YOU?

You can e-mail me for more info, or you can visit the club's little web page which contains contact information. ~ Bob Mowdy

Donations for the fishing club can be sent to:
Fishin4H/Bob Mowdy
University of Maine
Penobscot County
Cooperative Extension
307 Maine Avenue
Bangor, Maine 04401

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