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
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
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.
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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