I believe the world would be a better place with more kids fly fishing

Hark back to days of yore

Transport for youthLast year’s model DG, equipped with the Tuff wheels and long cranks, was the neighborhood’s standard-issue implement for the attainment of glory. A three foot by two foot piece of weathered plywood propped against spare cinder blocks, in a driveway cleared by the adults for jump hour, drew challengers from far and wide (or at least within an earshot of their own front doors). The queue would form along the runway, most onlookers determined to outdo the prior contestant. There would be cheers and jeers, and maidens would swoon. Then some spoiled punk (who’s parents owned a persistently bankrupt parking lot resurfacing business) would show up in a shiny new gold FMF and momentarily steal the show with a single, perfectly executed table-top maneuver. We knew that’s all he had, but we’d feign impression, and then like clockwork the crowd would disperse.

To go fishing

South FloridaThose BMX bikes could fly, then so could the casts. The knobbies would morph utilitarian, carrying bands of brothers (and the much welcomed, curious sisters) across plots of land that would later, much later, be labeled suburban sprawl. To a dark canal, constructed in the duality of road fill and flood control, and home to freshwater shrimps and a lifetime supply of pet turtles. Or a lesser known, sparsely hyacinth-ed pond, tucked away behind a seldom used stable, an electrified fence, and the occasional moo-cow. And misplaced, juvenile alligators.

Our adventures were always enveloped in discovery. We’d cross paths with red and yellow rat snakes, and if really lucky, a king snake. On the travels back all the better, a new found addition to converted aquariums (after all, it just didn’t seem right holding fish captive). A pile of discarded wood fencing often held scorpions, and we were certainly not afraid of them. They’d be harassed and harangued for an amusing dance, and some fool would always be carrying one of mom’s Bell jars to guarantee an “A” at school show-n-tell. Spotting a panther, preferably a black one, would capture our hearts and our minds for a moment as fleeting as the cat’s own legs. The end-game was fishing.

Boxes contained but a few token baits, and leaders were an item valued in terms of the number of lawns one had to mow to afford them. Nevertheless, fish were always caught. Call it a benefit of the fish’s own lack of education back then, but it reminds this angler that he probably has more flies that he needs now. And has taken too much for granted.

I would not trade the memories of my youth, growing up an outdoors person at heart, for the world. Well, maybe the world, at which point I could do whatever I want and promptly renege. However, I’d be amiss by saying those days are gone forever – they most certainly are not. I stand by the water (probably more often than I should), feeling all too fortunate, but making the best attempts possible to remind myself that it wasn’t just luck. My soul was shaped by my youthful endeavors, a fervent appreciation for the outdoors taking center stage in my life as a result. Being charming, handsome, and a self-aggrandizing but undeniably superb a decent angler? That was luck.

fishy kidA fabulous endorsement of youth

Cameron Mortenson of The Fiberglass Manifesto and Kevin Powell of Red Dirt Studio have joined forces to create Fishy Kid:

Fishy Kid was inspired by two fathers who enjoy the sport of fly fishing and want to do our part in passing along the virtues of the outdoors to our children as well as to families within the online angling community.

Mr. Mortenson expounds:

The first project for Fishy Kid is a children’s coloring book and contest with over 30 pages from premier angling artists such as Derek DeYoung, Jeff Kennedy, A.D. Maddox, Kevin Powell, Paul Puckett, Kirk Werner, Bob White, and Mark Yuhina. This coloring book is quite impressive and so good that when we’re done with the children’s coloring contest we’re going to run an adult contest too. Sharpen up those crayon and colored pencils since I’ve already got a couple of cool prizes lined up.

At first blush, cute. On second pass, genuine, and brilliant. Start them young, and while full of wonder.

When I heard about these gentlemen’s efforts it instantly reminded me of a humid summer day by that first dark canal. My own father handed me a old bamboo rod and beat up reel. The first course wasn’t a fly but a bread ball. It was fruitful – I caught my first fish ever, a bluegill. Everyone has points in their life they would soon soon forget, particularly from childhood, myself included. But this introduction has remained etched in my mind, brilliantly technicolor, defying my age. Defining me now. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I can hardly wait to see what beautiful creations the children of Fishy Kids cook up, and with hopes they fulfill some of those dreams at the water’s edge. Brought there on a DG bike.


Products of Nature or Nurture? Personally, I think a little of both. While we both grew up in environments that could be considered polar opposites, the ideals and values that shape us today are similar. And the basis for that is rooted deeply in our childhood.

Unfortunately our world is a different place than what it was when we grew up, and situations like the ones you reference above are becoming harder to find – at least, the innocence and wonder that cements those events into our psyche is not what it once was.

So it’s great to read about programs like Fishy Kid and see that folks like yourself, Alex and a slew of others, can also appreciate the value of what a program like this holds for the little ones.

Great post, Mr. Gracie.

CA – Not sure if it is nature or nurture – depends on the individual, and I’ll bet it’s more varying in its balance than you imagine.

Regarding our world, oh so true. And despite not having children myself (although I am on several school emergency call lists – I guess that’s counts for something 🙂 ), it saddens me. The image I projected here was reality for those days (as you well know), and certainly idealistic and/or borderline utopian according to today’s standards. Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean we can’t dream on our future’s behalf, prompting them to understand there are still some folks out there that care. I think that is these guys intent, so kudos to them for making it happen.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming: “I can’t believe I lost that @#$%ing fish! @#$%!”.

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