OUT: Kids learn fly-fishing at expo

Two young girls work on fly tying techniques.

You’re never too old or too young to learn to fly fish.

Well, maybe you can be too young.

“I wouldn’t recommend it for someone who’s not yet walking,” offered Taila Oulton of Gunnison, one of the featured fly tiers and speakers for the 11th annual Western Colorado Fly Fishing Expo set for Friday and Saturday at the Doubletree Hotel.

At 13, Taila knows something about learning young.

She tied her first fly at the age of “3 or 4,” she said, under the watchful guidance of father, Jeff Oulton, and was casting a fly rod shortly thereafter.

“My dad says I was 4 or 5 when I caught my first fish in some ponds a friend owns,” recalled Taila, who will be making her ninth appearance at the Expo. “I don’t remember but I know I’ve been tying longer than I’ve been fishing.”

She will be teaming with the brother–sister duo of Tyler (11) and Ava (8) Befus of Montrose to present a special youth fly-fishing program at 10 a.m. Saturday. The program will focus on how to get started, basic gear, casting techniques, and some individual instruction should time permit.

Teaching youngsters has some special rewards, both Taila and Tyler agreed.

“It’s easy to teach kids and I would say they respond to my teaching,” Tyler said Sunday while waiting out a breezy day at Sweitzer Lake State Park with his father, Brad Befus. “I think they feel comfortable listening to me and that’s a good thing.”

The same wind that was ruffling the surface of Sweitzer Lake was blowing white caps on Blue Mesa Reservoir near Taila’s home west of Gunnison.

“I’m not fishing today, it’s too windy to go out, I’d probably hook myself,” she said with a laugh. “I really like teaching kids and I think it depends on their age. I haven’t run into any serious challenges.”

The youth program is free, as are most of the events at the two-day Fly Fishing Expo. The notable exceptions are Friday’s day-long on-the-water clinic with featured guest Jack Dennis and the banquet Saturday evening.

Dennis, who helps kick off the Expo with a special presentation at 7 p.m. Friday, will headline Saturday’s banquet with his “Last Fishing Trip” multi-media show. As part of the evening’s festivities, Dennis will give all banquet attendees a free copy of his special Western Colorado Fly Fishing Expo DVD.

Banquet tickets are $40 each and are available from Pat Oglesby (434-3912, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)) and Steve McCall (210-7941, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)).

Expo information is available at grand-valley-anglers.org.

The youth portion of the expo has proven immensely popular, with many of the youngsters returning each year and some of them becoming talented fly tiers.

All youths attending the Expo will receive a free special-edition T-shirt.

Reaching out to youths about fly fishing is a vital part of the future of the sport, said Tyler, who will be making his fifth Expo appearance.

“It’s good for the future of fly fishing because at some point all the older guys will be gone and we need to keep young people interested,” said Tyler, who already has a book (“A Kids’ Guide to Fly Fishing”) to his credit with another due out soon.

Although he’s barely into double digits age-wise, Tyler is well known on the fly-fishing expo trail, having been a guest speaker at shows from New Jersey to Denver and Phoenix and as far as Japan.

He, too, started fishing well before his fifth birthday, and he and Taila remind youths that it’s never too late to get started.

“I don’t think you’re ever too old to learn to tie flies and fly fish,” said Taila. “I had one kid tell me he was too old and he was, like, 10. I told him, ‘You’re not too old.’ ”

Both Taila and Tyler are members of the Whiting Farms and Ross Reels professional teams.

In addition to teaching youth casting lessons, all three of the youth speakers also will take their turns at the fly tying tables Saturday alongside the more than 50 other (mostly older) tiers from around the state and region.

Saturday’s events begin at 9 a.m. and include hourly fishing seminars and presentations, free fly casting instruction and equipment demonstrations, raffles and door prizes.

And, equally important, a chance to meet the future of fly fishing, which at the moment appears to be in good hands.


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