Youth a Focus of GVA & Western Colorado Fly Fishing Expo

 Through the efforts of an enthusiastic team of GVA members which is headed by Jon Gartz, over the past three years our youth program has seen a 700 percent increase in participants.  Activities include fly tying and casting classes in this areas’ District 51, parochial, and private schools and encompasses lower, middle and high school students.  We are now receiving requests to also teach these classes to troubled area youth in their after school tutorial programs.

Youth are also a focus of the Western Colorado Fly Fishing Exposition, held at the Doubletree Hotel in Grand Junction on the last Friday and Saturday of March.  The Expo typically features fifty of the Western States top fly tyers. In addition, we have fly tying, guide presentations, and outdoor equipment manufacturer casting theaters in full swing all day.  Over the past three years, we have added many new Expo events that include all day youth participation.  We have found that multiple activities during the day keep the kids excited and engaged from 9:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M.  As every parent knows first hand, that is a rare occurrence!

In 2005, we had 30 kids participate in the Expo; this number has grown to over 200 youth participating this year.  We now give free t-shirts to all participating kids and it was quite a sight this year to see 200 sapphire blue, fish fronted t-shirts racing around the hotel grounds!  A feature youth activity at the Expo are a series of fly tying tables that are set up and staffed just for kids.  In the past two years, in addition to adult instructors, an enthusiastic group of youth tiers have become the lead tying instructors at these tables.  As the day progresses, it is great fun to see newly “expert” kids showing their parents, grandparents, and friends how to tie some very innovative patterns!  The success of these tables would never be possible without the tremendous donations of materials, vices and time by area wide residents and businesses.

Outdoors, equipment manufacturers and fishing guides from a four state region provide youth casting instruction using their newest equipment.  It’s often hard for an adult to get their hands on a rod with all the kids who are casting at one time!  The casting instruction culminates with a youth casting competition divided into multiple age groups.  Because of the generosity of many donors, we are able to award prizes such as complete fly rod sets, fly tying vices, fishing vests and boxes of flies to all the participants. This year we had an eleven year-old boy with his fly rod in hand, come up to me to proudly show the fly rod he won at last year’s Expo.  It turns out that the rod is never far from his dad’s car as they now fish together all the time!

Jon has dubbed our youth program “Kids Teaching Kids,” for which he and his team was awarded CTU’s “Exemplary Youth Education Award for 2007.”  Thanks to CTU for this honor and we look forward to sharing ideas regarding youth education with other CTU Chapters.