I jumped at the opportunity when the Clark Fork Coalition reached out to my women’s fly tying group in search of a lady angler willing to spend a morning teaching fly fishing basics to a group of girls from Missoula group homes. The Clark Fork Coalition is a local non-profit that is dedicated to protecting and restoring the Clark Fork River basin. They also diligently work in community outreach to help educate Montanans about the Clark Fork River, a vital resource. By partnering with the Missoula youth homes system they are able to empower and engage teen girls in the stewardship of their watershed and explore river science. Recently they thought teaching fly fishing would be a great way for the girls to actively get involved, and learn about the sport that brings millions of tourists to our backyard rivers.
To me, fly fishing has always been a way to feel present in the moment, appreciate my environment, an outlet to all the external stresses in life. Although it can be incredibly frustrating when I can’t figure out which fly the fish are eating, or I can’t seem to get the perfect drift to that big brown trout, I have had some of my most humbling and rewarding moments on the water. I wanted to share this enriching opportunity with some teens who face a lot of adversity in their daily lives.
We met the girls, introduced ourselves and shared something we knew (or what we wanted to learn) about fly fishing and headed down to the confluence of Rock Creek, a blue ribbon trout stream, and the Clark Fork River.
I explained to the girls that fish are lazy (aka: trying to conserve energy) and find slow currents in the water to accommodate this habit. They utilize the current as a food conveyor belt of sorts to pick and chose what they want for their next snack. Our main objective as anglers is to place our “fly” onto this conveyor belt and hope the fish chooses our bug, rather than the real insect we are trying to mimic.
We talked about the mechanics of casting a fly rod and after a quick demonstration the girls each got their own rod to practice with. The girls picked up the concepts quickly and all we all had a great morning honing in our skills. It was an inspirational morning and we all left with smiles on our faces. I can't wait to do it again next year!
Learn more about the Clark Fork Coalition here: https://clarkfork.org/