Maine Youngsters Check Out Fly Fishing, Literally

Written by: Kathy Scott

Orvis Rods

It all started with a box of fly rods, and ten years later, it’s a youth fly-fishing program.

photo by Kathy Scott

A library budget doesn’t usually include tippet materials or flies, but it might, if students were checking out fly rods. At Lawrence Junior High in Fairfield, Maine, fly fishing has been a part of the curriculum since a large package, almost as tall as a twelve-year-old, arrived from Vermont. Eight fly rods and eight reels, complete with lines, transformed a fledgling offering from makeshift to make way. Eager students have been casting in class ever since. . .a lot of students.

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Lawrence Junior High students cast fly rods in Physical Education class.

photo by Kathy Scott

Initially offered as an option during a 90-minute enrichment period, fly fishing was so popular that participants had to be chosen by lottery. Those students, all 7th and 8th graders, earned check-out privileges for the new equipment—overnight, on weekends, and for the summer. With twelve to fifteen students in the program per semester and multiple check-outs, no rods have ever broken and none have been returned late. As the school philosophy changed from exploratory to standards-based, the enrichment period vanished, but the demand by middle schoolers did not.So, fly-fishing was woven into the physical education philosophy, and a unit was born. Now, about 200 middle school students a year learn to cast in PE classes, with an optional walk to the town’s Kids’ Pond in May.

A commitment to life-long learning, community partnerships with both the town and ever-willing Trout Unlimited volunteers, and fly rods spread across a library table: in my opinion, that’s education at its best. More than ten years later, six TU members spent the day at the pond last week, and PE students raced to class to gear up and start fishing.

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Once they’ve practiced indoors, it’s time for the kids to head to the town pond.

photo by Kathy Scott

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A Lawrence student shows off her catch to a local TU volunteer.

photo by Kathy Scott

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That smile suggests this young man is hooked on fly fishing.

photo by Kathy Scott

Kathy Scott is a writer who lives in Mercer, Maine.

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