I’ve written often about watching my older grandsons as they move along the continuum of depending on me for their fishing success when they were very young to seeing them become accomplished fly casters able to handle fishing situations on their own. Now they often out-fish me!
I look forward to doing the same thing with my two younger grandkids. My 4-year-old granddaughter has not had a fishless trip yet, and I’m sure her younger brother will be fishing soon.
I don’t get to see my grandkids as much as I would like as they live in the Valley, but I stay engaged with kids at Julia Randall Elementary School (JRE) and Rim Country Middle School (RCMS) and try to help them enjoy fishing as much as I did as a kid.
The fly fishers at both schools helped build 15 fish structures for Green Valley Lake this spring. These structures will improve fish habitat and enhance fishing for everyone who uses the lake for years to come.
This year there were 13 fly fishers at JRE. Some were in their second year of the program and tying their own flies, while several more were learning to fly fish for the first time. They had a blast catching fish with a fly rod.
Most of the kids in the program shared that they had never caught so many fish before. Nicole Goebel, who is a fifth-grade teacher, helps me with the JRE program and has become an accomplished fly fisher in the process.
This was the first year for the fly fisher program at RCMS. We had six students in the program all year, and four of them have been part of the program since they were in fourth grade.
Jake Swartwood helps me with the kids at RCMS. He is a very skilled fly fisher, but relatively new to fly tying. It was fun seeing the kids provide him with some fly tying instruction that immediately improved his success at tying.
As I reflect on the year with these RCMS kids in particular, it is amazing to see how far they have come with their fly fishing skills and how that skill has led to confidence. Even the two newest members of the group showed great skill and understanding and were quick to apply what they learned.
Both Kaden White and Dustin Dando became great casters and caught more than their fair share of fish. Dustin is creative with is fly tying. His flies are a bit flashier than mine, but consistently get the job done. He was so inspired by learning how to tie flies that he created a beautiful portable work station for his fly tying stuff.
I asked the kids to present some of the many aspects of fly fishing and fly tying that we have worked on throughout the year to members of the Mogollon Sporting Association (MSA) and the Payson Flycasters Club/Gila Trout Trout Unlimited Chapter (PFC/GTTU). Both the MSA and the PFC/GTTU have supported the fly fisher program with rod/reel outfits, tying vises, and a variety of equipment and supplies the past three years.
Kaden, as the newest member to the group did not hesitate to take on a couple of the more challenging stations to share. He expertly explained the anatomy of a trout and how to handle it and return it to the water carefully. He also impressed the adults with his knowledge of aquatic insects and theories on trout diet preferences.
Logan Maluuci, Tristan Alvarez, Trinity Davis and Nathen English have been fly fishing with me since they were fourth-graders. Now as sixth-graders, they constantly bring a smile to my face as I see their successes each time we gather to tie flies or fish. Logan has become skilled at fly tying, and impressed the adults at the presentation with his knowledge and dexterity.
Tristan has become so skilled, that he offered to teach the kids, Jake and me how to tie an egg pattern. A sixth-grader leading a fly tying class! Impressive. Nathen followed suit with a demonstration on tying a leech pattern.
Trinity has started her own fly tying business. She can crank out wooly buggers faster than Jake or I can. Nathen recently shared a YouTube that he made that was quite a thrill for me. Look it up: “Fishing with Nathen English.” He demonstrates how to tie a zebra midge that he modified from the traditional beaded style into an effective beadless style.
He graciously gives me a nod at the beginning of his video that I told him will motivate me to follow up on. He talks about a book that I have written called “Fish Psychology,” which I haven’t actually written. It is a great title! And it certainly fits with what we have talked about for the last three years in terms of increasing your fishing success by thinking like the fish you are trying to catch.
These kids have been a joy to work with and constantly inspire me. I feel really good about the future of fish and fishing in Arizona knowing that kids like these will be part of that future.