Learning to fly
Ten-year-old Robby Andya had been fly fishing since he was four years old.
Austin Diemer, on the other hand, was casting his luck on the fly for the first time.
But both members of Boy Scouts Troop 855, and several other scouts, walked away with more than their merit badges after spending a few days with members of the Gold Country Fly Fishers this spring.
For the fourth year, the local angling club offered their expertise with scouts seeking to give fly fishing a try at a private pond north of Nevada City.
“I thought it was pretty fun,” said Diemer, a Magnolia School sixth-grader who will celebrate his 12th birthday in July. “I thought it was interesting. I liked casting it out there, spending time with my friends and just having fun.”
Though he often went fishing with his father, Brian, on family camping trips, this was Austin’s first experience with a fly rod. The fact he was a rookie didn’t matter much, thanks to the Gold Country Fly Fishers.
“I was amazed at how patient those guys were,” Brian Diemer said. “They donated a lot of their time, money and resources to show these kids how to fly fish. I imagine people would pay a lot of money to get that kind of one-on-one time.”
Allan Gere, the club’s conservation chairperson, said that’s whole idea. The Gold Country Fly Fishers use the program to promote what they what they consider to be more than just a sport. Gere said the program offers insight into a fragile water ecosystem and all its inter-relationships.
Scouts learn much more than how to cast a fly rod, he said. They learn about the entire food chain, including fish, insects, plants, soils, amphibians, reptiles, birds and small mammals.
The program offers a foundation for the scouts on how to read the water where fish lie, how to select the right fly and how to enjoy the fun when a fish takes hold of the fly.
“I think we planted a seed,” said Gere. “The kids were really enthusiastic. It’s something they can do for life.”
Though Gere grew up in San Francisco, he said he began taking trips up to the Gold Lake Basin on long weekends with friends when he was 18 years old.
Back then, like the Diemers, he started fishing with a rod and reel. It wasn’t until later that he found out how fun fly fishing could be.
“I started with bait and spinners, bubbles and flies,” he said. “Eventually I bought my first fly rod and really learned how much fun it was to have the magic wand in the water and enjoy the outdoors.”
Among topics covered in the program’s clinics, which included one counselor for every two scouts, were knot tying, casting, entomology, basic equipment, stream-side ethics and fishing safety. Each scout caught two species of fish ” bluegill and bass ” catching and releasing one, while cleaning and eating the other.
For the experienced Andya, the variety and extensive subjects covered made sure he and others who had fly fished before came away learning something new.
“I’ve only been a boy scout a few months, but I have been in cub scouts before, and this was my first merit badge,” said Andya, a fifth-grader at Deer Creek Elementary. “I learned to cast a lot better and I learned how to tie flies, because I’d never tied flies.
“Usually I go with my dad and he’s an expert fly fisherman.”
“I’m not sure about that,” said Mike Andya, Robby’s father. “I don’t if anyone is an expert at fly fishing. Usually I do the knots for him, but I don’t have the time to tie flies. For him to get interested in that, it’s something he can now do himself.”
Mike said he enjoyed being with his son during the program, taking photos for the club members volunteering their time. The father and son enjoy being together, whether Robby is working on his next project ” he’s thinking of building a radio to land his electronics merit badge ” or on finding his next catch on the water.
“This is a hobby that obviously we could do for a lifetime,” Mike said. “And to share that is really cool.”
Gere said the family time fly fishing offers is just icing on the cake for those who take the time to learn the craft.
“That’s kind of a bonus for us,” he said. “This promotes the family getting together. And it’s not just father and son. It’s mom, too.”
To contact Sports Editor Brian Hamilton, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4240.
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Another week on the track and another win for Brad Sweet.