- By: Greg Thomas
I’ve been shooting a compound bow lately and getting in shape for hunting season, also sorting and readying a backpack so I can leave at a moment’s notice and head into the mountains for elk.
I did this through college, too, getting up early and calling to elk until noon, then driving down to the Clark Fork River for afternoons spent matching fall olive and Hecuba hatches. When those hatches faded around 4:00 p.m., I returned to the mountains for an evening hunt.
This didn’t happen every day, nor will it this year, but sorting through gear and preparing for a single task gives me a spark that feels familiar. Mostly, it reminds me of buying new hunting boots each year, Texas Longhorns if I remember correctly, and the excitement that fueled. My father, who had to buy those boots because my feet were growing two sizes at a time, probably felt different. But buying those boots meant adventure was near and that nothing else in the world mattered more. Remember when it was like that?
I still get all fired up when some big trip draws near, and even when I just get a break that allows me on the water for an afternoon. And I still feel that almost instantaneous and instinctual urge to catch a fish when I see one rise, but the excitement has never been more pronounced than when I was a kid, just getting into the outdoor sports between the ages of eight and 18.
There are a lot of fly-fishing companies, to their credit, who are trying to figure out how to make the new generation feel that way. When I was in Ventura, California this past November, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard proposed to a group of media, “What are you going to do to bring young people into this sport?”
Which made me wonder if Chouinard’s question may be broader than it appears: What are we going to do to bring youth into our sport? Redington makes youth waders; Orvis, Cabela’s and Dan Bailey, too. And you can get your kids into these breathable waders for as little as $99. So there’s no excuse to keep kids off the water.
But, in the big promotional picture, there’s no easy answer because fly-fishing lacks a governing body. Hunting has the hunter-safety program; skiing has numerous private clubs; soccer, basketball and track (plus 29 additional sports) have the Amateur Athletic Association and the Junior Olympics; and there’s the YMCA and school teams as additional options. Our market just isn’t structured that way.
All of this means we have to be more creative to draw young anglers into our sport. And there are some pretty good examples of that if you look for them. We’re happy to support one of those, The Fly Shop’s Learn to Fly Fish FISHCAMP, which awards two kids a free four-night, five-day fly-fishing adventure in northern California. To enter the contest, kids need to write a 100-word essay on why they want to attend FISHCAMP. The most compelling essays win the award. Turn to page 31 for more.
OK, maybe two kids isn’t a lot. But having a contest allows plenty of kids to think about fly-fishing and relate why they like it. And providing a great experience to just two kids could produce the trickle-down effect; we’re hoping that the two winners will head back to school and say to all of their friends, “Oh, snap! FISHCAMP was a blast. You have got to start fly-fishing with me, snap.”