North Bay Trout Unlimited First Cast Day 2011
This year’s First Cast Day, NBTU’s 10th annual , took place in a new venue; the Marin County Civic Center Lagoon Picnic Area. This turned out to be a far better location than previous years, with lots of grassy area, restrooms available, shade trees and many picnic benches. Cosponsored by Western Sportshop, this year’s First Cast event had 125 participants, including 64 youth between 3-16 years of age, and represents one of the most successful youth introductory fly fishing programs in the nation.
The day began, after registering with John Crawford and Chuck Schultz, with introductions and an overview. Then participants were divided into 6 groups and assigned to begin at one of the 6 stations. They then rotating every 30 minutes to the next station, country-fair style. The stations included Reading the Waters, where participants, taught by Trish Shirtz, were given small trout cutouts and following input, were asked to place their fish on a small feltboard picturing a creek, with riffles, tailouts, runs, holes, etc. in locations where they thought trout might be located. A discussion followed the placement of each fish, reinforcing the concepts which result in 5% of the water containing 95% of the fish. They also observed actual specimens of trout food; mayfly and stonefly nymphs and caddis larvae, and compared them to imitative artificial flies. From there, participants moved to the Gear and Rigging station where, under the guidance of Bill Walker and Alan Dunham, they learned the differences between rigs for dry fly fishing and nymphing, as well as how to wear waders and boots, attach tools to their vests, the importance and use of wading staffs, etc. The next station was Knot Tying, where Brian Stompe and Bob Dimond taught the intricacies of knots to attach tippet material to the leader, and the fly to the tippet, which two knots represent over 99% of the knots in use in fly fishing. From there, participants moved to the Fly Tying station, where they were guided by Rick Pimental, Zach Sovereign, Frank Minoia, John Anderson, and Al DeLuca in the tying of a black Wooly Bugger and if they finished that within the half hour, a San Juan Worm. Next, participants moved to the Fly Casting station where, led by Andy Basnight, Lee Leardini, Bill Wellover, Jim Brock, and Fred Bellero, they gained expertise in overhead and roll casts. The last station in the rotation was Spin Casting, where Dan Liberatore, Ralph Alexander, Mike Scimeca, and Al DeLuca helped participants master the use of spinning gear, with an emphasis on the fact that spinning rods use the weight of the lure, bait, etc. to load the rod, as opposed to fly fishing in which it’s the weight of the line that loads the rod.
Of some significance again is the fact that one of the key instructors, Zach Sovereign, a 13 year old tying and casting phenom, is a product of past First Cast Days. During the three plus hours of country fair style instruction, the younger siblings, 4-7 years of age, were hosted in a Fishing Art session run by Kathleen Lack, Izzy Starn, and 11 year old Alia Sovereign, creating willow rods with yarn line and painted foam fish, fish prints on canvas(a big hit) and fish headbands.
Beginning two years ago, in an effort to provide a built-in support system for the youth, all the parents, grandparents, Scout Leaders, etc. were encouraged to spend about 2 hours with NBTU President, George Starn, learning not only how to become expert fly casters, but more importantly, how to coach and monitor their youth while acting as casting instructors.
The day concluded with a fabulous BBQ hamburger/hot dog lunch prepared by Mike Cronin and Linda Perone. After a group photo, State Assemblyman Jared Huffman pulled the winning raffle tickets for a drawing for youth participants, with several rod/reel/line/leader combo packs and a FF chest pack as prizes.
Realizing that a single day “orientation” to fly fishing isn’t sufficient to garner much change, this year also for the third time, follow up opportunities were offered for all participants to reinforce their fly fishing skills. On Sunday, September 25, we’ll have 5 TU coaches at the Cheese Factory Pond about 10 miles west of Novato, working with First Cast participants allowing them not only to gain more practice in casting and knot tying, but also in hooking, playing, and landing fish (very willing Bluegill). On the weekend of Oct 15 and 16 we will offer the services of TU Coach/Guides who will meet with interested participants on the streams in the Burney area to reinforce and gain skill in reading the water, knot tying and casting, wading, hooking and landing trout. In this stream environment, they will also learn a great deal about the nymphing techniques of High Sticking, Long Line Indicator Nymphing, and Czech Nymphing. All publicity preceding and following this event was in the capable hands of TU’s own professional videographer, Ed Dudkowski.
Submitted by: Larry Lack, First Cast Coordinator, NBTU