Students get hands-on lessons in fly fishing, outdoor adventures

Lauren Howell, a senior at Grand Junction High School, admires the bass she caught using a fly of her own creation during a recent visit to Riverbend Park as part of the school’s Lifetime Activities class.

A little fish can make a big difference in a young adult’s life.

At least that’s the premise of a well-received program involving volunteers from the Grand Valley Anglers Chapter of Trout Unlimited and students from Grand Junction-area high schools, including Sandy Story’s’ Lifetime Activities class at Grand Junction High School.

The class that’s not your ordinary high school class begins with sessions on fly-tying and introductory fly casting, two skills that admittedly might not land you a $100,000 a year job, although there are some who converted those skills into a lifetime of economic stability.

Those skills will, however, provide you with a lifetime of thoughtful recreation and an interest in conservation, water quality and, perhaps, simply being outdoors.

“We try to expose them to a lot of different lifetime activities so they can understand the ramifications of each and are able to participate in those activities for their lifetime,” Story said.

The class, part of the school’s physical education curriculum, is open to any student, Story said.

“But the kids have to drive themselves, so we encourage only juniors and seniors,” Story said.

Among the activities offered in the class are bowling, archery, rock climbing and, of course, fly fishing.

“This is the second time we took the students out fishing,” said Pat Oglesby of Grand Valley Anglers. “Last spring, the town of Palisade had just stocked the ponds (at Riverbend Park) and we caught bluegills and some bass.”

The two-day session includes one day of class work (doesn’t school always entail class work?) and then a day out fishing, using the students’ creations.

“It was neat to see how much the kids enjoyed it,” Oglesby said. “Some of them caught their first fish.”

Anyone spending time at a fly-tying vise knows the feeling of pride and sometimes surprise that comes from catching a fish with a hand-tied fly.

It’s true for any age, and Story said her charges are no different.

“The kids get to learn to tie flies and the next day to fish with them,” she said. “I think they all look forward to the class and really have a great time.”

Story said she called Oglesby several years ago after reading an article about his involvement in fly fishing and he, in turn, referred her to Jon Gartz, one of the volunteer coordinators for Grand Valley Anglers.

“It’s just wonderful that they give of their time to do this,” Story said. “Each time we have the class they bring more and more volunteers.”

A similar program is offered at Central High School with faculty member Laurence Gurule.


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