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.
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.
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
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
You can e-mail
me for more info,
or you can visit the club's little
which contains contact information. ~ Bob Mowdy
Donations for the fishing club can be sent to:
University of Maine
307 Maine Avenue
Bangor, Maine 04401
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