This is a subject that is very dear to my heart, my children mean the world to me!
Our great sport has many challenges ahead with clean water, usage rights, public lands and the list goes on and on, but without bringing new youth into the sport I’m afraid we are going to loose all of what we are fighting for.
Let’s start from the beginning, I was raised by parents who enjoyed the outdoors from camping, to fishing, to hunting we spent countless hours in the field and that has really driven me to try to replicate those experiences with my own children. To me a love for the outdoors starts at a young age, I would often take my oldest boy on outdoor expeditions when he could barely walk sometimes packing him in a backpack. I tried to keep it fun and excitable for him, letting him see the sights and sounds, including feeling the sand between his toes. As he aged, he started fishing and hunting with me. I worked extremely hard, at making sure I had planned the trips out so he was successful even if it meant spending a day throwing bluegill poppers at Sunfish. When he grew, his passion became infectious causing his younger brother to want to join which made it all the more fun! In fact to this day I can count the number of fishing trips I’ve been on without them on one hand, and I spend my fair share of days on the water.
Now I agree these are 2 boys and by this point they are both fly fishing addicts and even have a share in Meat Market Flies, but I also have 2 daughters and a younger son, who may not spend as many days on the water as my oldest 2, but, I will say both my daughters have caught fish on fly rods and enjoy being outdoors, consistently coming along when the weather and fishing conditions permit. One of my greatest memories was last summer when my oldest daughter caught her first smallie, with no help on a fly tied by her older brother.
In summarization I feel that the best way to involve youth in our sport is by getting them out there and sharing in the experience. As adults I feel that as our own children age and move out we should look to support youth organizations like Cast Hope and The May Fly Project so we can help children out that have less opportunities than we did so our sport can grow again, and the next time your on the water when some young kids come strolling along don’t be afraid to help them along because they are our future.