The last weekend in April was an intensive two-day, fly fishing extravaganza. On Saturday morning, we took our middle school fly fishing club on their first big trip. We’ve had a lot of fun working with these guys every Friday morning during the school year for the past two years. Over that time, they’ve learned casting, set-up, knots, and become proficient fly tiers. It’s been a lot of fun to watch them perfect their skills, but this trip afforded them the opportunity to put their skills to the test. Besides the trip with the kids, a TU fundraiser in Decorah, and a long-awaited float trip on the Upper Iowa was on the agenda.
We left at 7:30 Saturday morning and could tell that we were in for a great weather day. By the time we arrived at the stream around 9am, the temperatures were in the low 60s. We guessed the streams to be busy with bug hatches and fishermen, and we right on both. After a long winter, who wouldn’t want to be out on the water enjoying a great day? After rigging up and a short demonstration to help get the bearings straight, we were off and fishing. Jared worked some downstream water with one boy, while I walked up with the other four. It wasn’t long before we could hear hoots and hollars from downstream. “C” worked a great riffle upstream, allowing his nymph to make a great drift. About 3 casts later, he found a great bow, and played it out like a professional. “J” was next, just slightly downstream from us, sight casting nymphs to feeding bows. You had a feeling at this point that it was going to be a great day. By this hour, we were began to see caddis and bwos coming off the water, so we switched out rigs and headed to a new location. After a quick demonstration and reminders on dry fly fishing, the boys were set to fish. Jared went downstream with two, and I went up with 3. Downstream, “L” bombed a monster cast and hooked up with his first fish, while upstream “J” expertly worked a nice run and set the hook on a great brown. As fly fishers, we all have days where setting the hook on a dry fly is tough- these guys seemed like they had been doing it for years thanks in part to a great hatch and some positive attitudes. Several hours later, each member of the Fly Fishing Club had caught (and released) 2 to 4 fish each. With smiles all around, we loaded up and headed for home. We couldn’t have asked for a better day.
Two things really struck me on this trip. First, for teenage students whose only prior experience with casting a fly rod on water was a swimming pool, these guys did GREAT. They listened, picked up on concepts quick, and had fun (that’s what it’s all about, right?). Second, it was great to have the support of our community of fly fisherman while on this trip. Time on the water is precious, and it’s understandable when you see a group of 7 fly fishermen coming at you, that you might be anxious. However, we had several supportive comments that made the kids feel welcome.
After dropping the students off, we headed back to Decorah and made our appearance at the TU meeting. I got the chance to talk about our Trout in the Classroom project and thank the chapter for all its support. TU Driftless has been a generous supporter of our project.
Tired, we headed to a campsite and made preparations for the next day- a float trip on the Upper Iowa in Jared’s drift boat. To say he’s been excited to do this is an understatement. We chose a short trip, and threw a variety of streamers and nymph rigs all day. It was great just being on the water with Amanda and Jared. Fish were a little choosy, but the takes we had were incredible- monster swipes and later a huge explosion. In months and years to come, this is going to be a terrific (not to mention beautiful) way to fish this water. The flows were good, and with a bright and sunny day after a dreary winter, it was a beautiful day on the water.