Our Man In Canada
October 13th, 2003

The Greying of Our Sport

By Chris Marshall, Publisher, Canadian Fly Fisher

Recently, while sorting through old family photos, I came across a shot of me cradling our eight-month-old firstborn son. We were folding a fly rod between us. Perhaps I was a bit premature, for although be tagged along with me on a number of trips when he was older; he never caught the bug. Neither did my other two sons. I've always regretted this and I watch with envy those parents whose offspring share their passion for fly fishing. However, this is more than a personal and family loss, it's also a loss to the sport. If I'd succeeded with my sons, there would be three more young fly fishers in our ranks.

The average age of the members of my local fly fishing club is well over 50 with only a handful under 30. I suspect that most clubs are somewhat similar. Yet we need those youngsters. We need a steady influx of them into our ranks. We need their muscle, their enthusiasm, their energy, their freshness.

Those of us with young children have a golden opportunity for recruiting the next generation of fly fishers. But there are plenty of opportunities for all fly fishers to get kids involved. Some clubs run special kids events. There are community events in which fly fishing clubs hold hands-on casting and tying sessions for kids in parks and malls. Fly fishing teachers run clubs in their schools. Kids organisations, such as the Scout and Guides, are constantly looking for individuals to give hands-on workshops - a perfect opportunity for offering tying, casting or bug collecting sessions.

The past summer, Jim Wilson of Wilson's Sporting Traditions in Toronto, has been working with Big Brothers and Big Sisters in conjunction with the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters to initiate "Help a Kid Fish." This is a programme which takes groups of youngsters fishing along with their Big Brothers or Big Sisters. Jim, and the staff from his store, provided the fly fishing component. After a number of initial promotional events, they held their first session with a group of "Bigs" and "Littles" at the Humber Springs Trout Club, east of Orangeville. Here, courtesy of the owners, Arlene Ladds and Sue Tiffin, they were treated to casting instruction and fishing by Wilson's staff on the club's stocked ponds, as well as a hands-on tour of the club's hatchery. Plans are currently in the works to extend the programme to the Greater Toronto Area and to the Scouts and Guides. Interested groups can get more information by contacting Wilson's at (416) 869-3474.

This kind of programme can be run anywhere. All it needs is for a club or group of fly fishing friends to get together for some initial planning and to make the necessary contacts. Groups such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Guides, Scouts, Conservation Authority summer day camps, and others will welcome your initiative with enthusiasm. Programmes should be kept simple, hands-on, and above all, fun. It helps if you can have kids actually catch fish. For this, stocked ponds are ideal. It's important to check out liability insurance, but if you're working with a recognised organisation, such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters, there should be no problem.

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Many fly fishers avoid clubs and formal gatherings, preferring to ply their sport along or with a few close friends. But there are always opportunities for an individual fly fisher to act alone as a mentor for a local youngster. After striking out with my own kids, this is what I did. One of the youngsters I took under my wing is now the photo editor for the magazine and a top rate fly fishing guide.

Besides the knowledge that we're nuturing the next generation of fly fishers, those of us who are already involved in teaching youngsters to fly fish, can attest to the satisfaction and delight which comes from sharing our passion for fly fishing with youngsters, in watching them embrace it, and in mentoring their growing skill. If more of us were to get involved, we would have no need to fear the greying of our sport. ~ Chris Marshall

Credits: This article by Chris Marshall is the editorial in the October/December 2003 issue of the Canadian Fly Fisher. We appreciate use permission.

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