The Boise Valley Woolly Buggers

The Boise Valley Woolly Buggers

Teaching the next generation to fish and care for the environment

  • By: Mark Barker
Since its inception in 1994, the Boise Valley Woolly Buggers Youth Fly-Fishing Club has had over 600 children pass through its program to the benefit of the kids, fly-fishing and the environment. "Our motto is, 'There's more to fishing than catching fish,'" says 15-year-old member Kyle Letterlie. "Fishing teaches us not only how to hook a fish, it teaches us life skills and cooperation and learning about the environment and thinking about other people besides ourselves." In 1984, club founder Clayne Baker was the chairman of the Federation of Fly Fishers' conclave in West Yellowstone, Montana.That year they held a youth program in which 84 children participated. The kids were taught the fundamentals of fly-fishing: casting, knots, gear, flies and catch-and-release. The program was a success, and Clayne realized these children represented the future of fly-fishing, and teaching them at a young age was critical to the preservation of the sport. Although it wasn't until a decade later, Clayne eventually formed the Woolly Buggers to teach the next generation of anglers. Club members range in age from 7 to 16. When the group meets they talk about fly-tying, rod building, entomology, angling art and literature, knots, fishing tactics and environment. Club founder and director Baker recruits guest speakers to attend the meeting. Past presenters include former Idaho governor Cecil Andrus, fly-fishing legend Joe Humphreys and Boise State football coach Dan Hawkins. However, it's the club members themselves who generally take responsibility for the content, activities and the development of the organization. The younger kids learn the fundamentals of fly-fishing while the older kids learn life, leadership and mentoring skills by working with the younger members. Along with angling, the Woolly Buggers teaches its members responsibility, social skills and the positive impact they can have on others. "It just makes you feel good about yourself," says club vice president Sam Robinson, 15. Many former Woolly Buggers have applied the skills they learned there to life after the club. One former Woolly Bugger works for the Idaho Fish&Game department. Four others have worked in fly shops and three now work as fly-fishing guides. Conservation is a big part of the Woolly Buggers program. For the past two years, club members participated in the Owyhee River cleanup. They also helped "beaver-proof" the main fork of the Boise River that flows through town. Boise Park Volunteers wrapped chicken wire around tree trunks along the river's edge to prevent beavers from felling trees into the river. One of the highlights of the year is the "Old Time Fishing Party" during which the kids dress up in old-time fishing garb and have a picnic. Club president Kam Thomas, 16, sums up the program: "We try to show that you can still enjoy the environment and think about how we can make it better and preserve it." Would you like to publish an article about your own fly-fishing hero? Send your manuscript-no longer than the one above-along with a couple of good color slides or prints to Fly Rod&Reel Magazine, Ford Presents: River Keepers, PO Box 370, Camden, ME 04843. If we use it in this space, we'll pay you $200; otherwise, we'll do our best to publish it online at www.flyrodreel.com, with your byline.