Like many other anglers, it was my Father that taught me how to cast a fly line, like his father did for him. When he saw that my interest in the sport was genuinely piqued, he bought my first, very own fly rod for my 12th birthday. It was an 8ft 6wt Wright and McGill rod with a shiny, yellow fiberglass blank and smooth, clean cork handles. It was a typical production rod of the day and definitely on the affordable side, but it was my own rod and reel; mine to take care of. I still have it, although it hasn’t been used in almost 40 years.
Dad’s fly rods, however, were the other end of the spectrum. His beautiful Tonkin bamboo, split cane rods were custom built for him by the famed Detroit rod maker, Paul H. Young, in the late 1940s and early 50s. As a kid, I was never allowed to handle (or even look at) his treasured fly rods outside of his presence. Years later with my own children and before his death, he handed them down to me when he felt he was too old to risk standing in a river’s current – a day that still holds vividly in my bank of memories with him. He took magnificent care of his fly rods for almost 50 years, and I’ve pampered them for the last 25. I’ll still take them out on sunny days, just to flex them – and to remember.
Besides such family heirlooms, there was a more important legacy left behind for me to inherit: Not so much the physical gift of fine tackle, but more importantly, the life-long gift of the sporting life. Lessons learned back then, as well as the lessons learned on my own, to this day and every day. The life of a fly fisher usually leads one to seek the values of solitude, quietude and keen observation, as well as a harmonious understanding of nature’s order and life cycles all around us. Eventually and with maturity, the river itself should become more important than the trout within.
When I introduce youth to the art of fly angling, my intention is to incorporate hints of patience – they’re going to need it. Ethics for the ways of the river and empathy for all wildlife, from flora to fauna, are of key importance. Such life’s lessons are useful, even years later or when far away from the river.
Every summer, from June through August on Mondays through Thursdays, I’ll provide free fly fishing instruction to boys and girls staying at North Rivers Lodge. They must be between the ages of 12 – 17. It’s important that they have at least some interest in the sport before proceeding, not just to be kept busy with activity by Mom and Dad. Group instruction or one-on-one, as the situation calls. I offer this service free of charge for our lodge guests – not only as an added amenity, but also because I would never charge to teach children how to ride a bike, tie a shoe or hold a spoon, for that matter. Those things, as well as fly fishing, all come naturally to me! It’s my hope that others will one day follow (or perhaps even teach) in the steps of the seasoned angler.
For more information on the North Rivers Lodge Summer Youth Fly Fishing Days, please contact at 231-266-6014 and make your summer reservations.