Hooking kids on fishing, the outdoors

Photo of Emily Petsko
by Emily Petsko
Staff writer
Jim McNutt / Observer-Reporter
Dave Thorn, right, Avella Sportsmen Club school director for the Family Tyes program, works with Kiara Kightlinger, 15, on the technique of fly casting on the club’s grounds Tuesday. Sixty eighth-grade students from Fort Cherry High School participated in Family Tyes, sponsored by Avella Sportsmen Club Tuesday, May 6. The club had partnered with Fort Cherry for the past three years with goals of engaging students in lifelong conservation and an active lifestyle, using fly fishing as a medium. Order a Print

Eighth-grade students at Fort Cherry were “flying” high during a field trip to the Avella Sportsman Club near Cross Creek this week, especially the lucky few who hooked 18-inch trout.

As part of the school’s involvement with the regional nonprofit organization Family Tyes, students had the chance to apply their class lessons to the sport of fly-fishing in a private stream stocked by the sportsman club. For most of the 57 students, it was their first time casting a fly rod.

David Thorn, school programs director of Family Tyes, said the environmental conservation group works with four schools in Washington County – Fort Cherry, Peters Township, Trinity and Chartiers-Houston. According to the organization, the goal of the fly-fishing program is to “engage youth in meaningful educational, recreational and fun connections to the outdoors that promote the role youth must play as the next generation of stewards.”

Family Tyes has been working with teachers and students at Fort Cherry for several years. Students learned about the relationship between water quality and macro-invertebrates like stoneflies and mayflies in their science classes. In physical education class, they learned how to perform overhead and roll casts using fly rods.

Science teacher Jeremy Dawson said students flipped over rocks and deduced that the water quality at the stream was good because of the types of flies they found underneath.

Thorn said students involved with Family Tyes usually fish in ponds, so fishing in a flowing stream was a bit trickier. But that was all part of the learning experience.

“Fly-fishing, even the casting, takes a little bit of skill development,” Thorn said, adding that some students have gone on to work as fly fishing guides in Alaska and New Zealand.

All fly-fishing equipment is donated by corporations, and Thorn said Family Tyes is always looking for more business sponsors.

During their field trip, students also competed in an outdoor challenge that required them to answer questions and perform skills.

“I think there were just a handful of kids that actually caught trout, but they really enjoyed it, just the idea of being outside,” Dawson said.