Youth and Family Education

Headwaters Chapter Youth Fly Fishing – by Bob Wagner, Headwaters Chapter President

This spring represents the 12th year our members will provide coordination and instructional man power for a 6 week fly fishing course for 5th graders in the Bemidji Area. This long term educational project fits the conservation and youth involvement components of Trout Unlimited mission statement.


Jeff Wade is the 5th grade teacher who started an Outdoor Adventure Club that offers archery in the fall, snow shoe building in the winter and fly fishing in the spring. The fly fishing course has been extremely popular growing from 23 students 12 years ago to over 40 students the last two years. The course covers four weeks of fly tying, one night a week for 2 hours from 3-5 pm. This is followed with one week of fly casting lessons and then two sessions of trout fishing on the Clearwater River. It’s really exciting and lots of kids catch trout because we strategically plan the fishing dates after our local DNR fisheries staff stock the river. While that might sound a bit artificial to some purists, trust me; when an eleven or twelve year old youth catches a 8-12” trout on a fly they tied it’s always, in their words “Awesome!” You can literally see awesome all over their faces, screams and smiles.

Two important concepts are employed through this course. We begin with youth involvement with the setting up and organizing of materials, demonstrating different skills and fostering an ongoing dialogue about the ethics, ecology, sportsmanship. This plus the great fun that leads all of us to a deeper respect and appreciation of the fish and its environment. Secondly we utilize Headwaters Youth Flyfishing Building Appreciation and Respect Through Flyfishing Education By Bob Wagner membership involvement. TU members have the interest, commitment and resources necessary to make this work. Every year as coordinator of this project I can depend on 12 to 15 of our members as volunteers that provide instruction, materials, equipment, transportation and whatever is needed. This involvement of TU members is what makes this project successful.

We have learned that we are all (youth included) learners and teachers in this grand adventure of fly fishing. For specifics on our club’s involvement in purchasing fly tying kits, writing grants that have secured rods and reels, organization and methods in teaching fly tying to 5th graders, casting, safety and actually fly fishing with large groups of youth you can come and experience it first hand, or just give me a call.

Bob Wagner, Headwaters Chapter President, 218-586-2798