Like many of you, some of my favorite moments in fly fishing haven’t involved me catching a fish, but rather helping family and friends to catch a fish on a fly rod. One of my finest moments in a life spent fishing, is the day I helped both of my daughters get their first trout on a fly rod. However, a close second has been getting other young people their first fish on a fly through my involvement with the Foster the Outdoors Mentor Program with Minnesota Trout Unlimited. There’s an undeniable thrill and sense of accomplishment here that you can’t really get anywhere else.
In 2018 I had the privilege of mentoring a young man named Max and his adult Big Brother Xau from Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Twin Cities. Max already had a great sense of natural curiosity and was a joy to be with. On our outings that summer, we would take turns pointing out turtles, muskrats and eagles to each other. Of course there were also fish. He lived on the east side of St. Paul, so we focused on lakes in that area. The first fish that Max caught on a fly was a sunfish on a popper and he loved it. We later took him to a trout stream where he hooked his first trout but didn’t quite get it in. The thrill on Max’s face when he hooked that trout, even though we didn’t land it, was unmistakable.
The FTO program has been on hiatus for past couple years due to the pandemic but is back in 2022. The program is the brainchild of Tim Hemstad who founded the program back in 2017. Learn more here https://mntu.org/mentoring/. The concept is very simple, pair up a youth and their adult guardian with a volunteer mentor, who introduces them to the world of fly fishing and the outdoors. Fellow TCTU members, this is where you come in! We need mentors for the 2022-2023 program. I can guarantee you that you won’t regret it or be overwhelmed by the level of commitment, which is only a few hours every few months. All that’s really required is just a little knowledge of fly fishing and a desire to help a young person grow in their own knowledge and outdoor experiences. You don’t need to be an “expert” at all. This isn’t rocket science, but it can be magical.
The program kicks off every year with a mentor matchup event. The 2022 mentor match up event is May 21 10AM-2PM at Lake Phalen Regional Park in St. Paul. To register, please click here. Even if you can’t commit to being a mentor, we can always use help at this event and you’ll get to see firsthand the impact of this program. Please reach out to myself or Rich Femling via the contact information below with any questions.
Thanks in advance for helping introduce a young person to fly fishing and the outdoors!
Foster the Outdoors Co-Coordinators
Kevin Wier 612-867-5768
Rich Femling 763-807-5878
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