At ThorpeWood, our mission is to provide the bounty of our natural resources to other non-profits and organizations, so that they might experience the wonder and beauty of spending time in nature. We work to achieve our mission in many different ways and this past Monday, we worked through the art of fly fishing.
Now, most of us would agree that fly fishing is an art – the way the fly line swoops over the water’s surface, calling the fish that lie beneath to leap toward the tempting offer – but perhaps it is accurate to say that many of us would think that fly fishing is out of our reach; an unattainable pursuit that requires already perfected technique.
And that, my friends, is just plain wrong.
What do nine middle/high school “kids” on a two-week community service project with United Way have in common with fly fishing? Not much you’d probably answer. But this past Monday, ThorpeWood was the venue for an afternoon dedicated to the joy of fly fishing – no experts expected. Well, except for Chuck – our fly fishing connoisseur.
Earlier in the post, we referenced the relationships we try to build here at ThorpeWood – relationships with other non-profits and organizations, and also with like-minded individuals who treasure nature as much as we do. That’s where Chuck comes in.
As Chuck puts it, “I have a long relationship with ThorpeWood and the folks that operate it dating back many years. At that time I was serving as president of Potomac Valley Fly Fishers, a group of fly fishers that met at the School for the Deaf in Frederick. Ted, another member and I were in charge of the club’s annual October banquet/fundraiser. We both felt it was time to find a new location to host it. One look at ThorpeWood told us we had found the right place. It reminded us of fly fishing camps that up until that time we had only seen in pictures. The banquet was PVFF’s best attended and most successful.”
Fast forward to May of this year when ThorpeWood reached out to Chuck to see if he would be willing to spend a few hours overseeing an outdoor activity with a group of youth that would be at ThorpeWood on July 29. His suggestion was to spend some time helping them learn to fly fish, or if the weather was not suitable, teach them fly tying.
The weather on Monday was perfect and at 12:30 Chuck arrived at the pond to meet Vita, the leader of the United Way youth. Chuck found them busily adding the finishing touches to a shirt tie-dying project. He set up his fly rod and tried a few flies. The first flies, ones Chuck has had relatively good success with on ponds, produced nothing.
“I was beginning to wonder if the pond held fish when a feisty largemouth emerged from beneath some lily pads to engulf my latest selection,” Chuck recalled. Convinced that fish could be caught he told Vita to bring on the group.
The first order of business was to find out how many had fished before – some, and how many had fly fished before – none. Chuck had five fly rod outfits that his club uses for teaching purposes and had the teens rig them up. After explaining the different technique needed to cast a fly rod compared to spinning or bait-casting outfits, they moved to an open section of lawn near the pond to practice casting.
A half hour of practice convinced Chuck it was time to get more serious and tie a real fly instead of a hook-less piece on yarn on the tippet of each fly line. The teens were anxious to put their newly learned skill into practice. He suggested locations around the pond where the fly fishers could spread out and hopefully avoid hooking anything but fish.
Chuck explained to the group that bass and bluegills tend to be light sensitive and shaded areas under willow trees or locations close to lily pads or other vegetation would most likely attract fish in the middle of the day. Those were the spots where their flies should be cast. It only took a few minutes before the teens fishing off the dock under Vita’s supervision had caught a bass and a bluegill.
By the time Vita informed the group that it was time to ride the van back to Frederick, each of the teens had caught at least one fish. A few caught as many as five. Most are now hooked on fly fishing.
According to Chuck, “I won’t comment on how many I caught. Suffice it to say I was out-fished, but my pleasure was in seeing the thrill of excitement that lit up every teen’s face as each fish was hooked and reeled in. Every fish was carefully released so it can be caught another day by other fishermen.”
Chuck – we know that their joy that day was due to spending time outdoors with someone like you – someone patient enough to pass on an art form to a group of kids who loved being a part of it. It’s moments like this that make us so proud of our mission, and thrilled with the outcomes of achieving it!
Does this sound like something your non-profit or organization could benefit from? If so, please give us a call. We would love have you become part of ThorpeWood’s story as well!