A Great Way to Get Teens Interested in the Outdoors
Our youth looks at fly fishing as an old man’s sport. Outfits such as Lillard Fly Fishing has found a winning formula that engages teens in the art of fly fishing. They really identify themselves as an adventure education company that specializes in wilderness fly fishing trips. These trips range from 10 to 20 days. The motivation? Fishing in the US is losing 1 million participants every 3 years. They hope to reverse this trend by inspiring future generations of fly fishing conservationists.
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Before I led Lillard Fly Fishing Expedition’s first teen fly fishing adventure, I sat down for a beer with TU’s Director of Youth Education, Franklin Tate. We talked about the success TU has had engaging young kids with their Stream Explorers program, and the growing number of college students participating in TU college chapters. Then we talked about the challenges of engaging teens. Despite their efforts, TU has not experienced the same success with teenagers that they have enjoyed with pre-teens and college students. In the last few years, I have worked almost entirely with teens. During that time I have come to the conclusion that there is no shortage of teens who are willing to give fly fishing a try; the key is presenting and teaching fly fishing in a way that caters to them. The three stage process I use was designed specifically to get teens hooked on fly fishing. It may not work for all teens, but if you would like to share your love for fly fishing with your teenager it is a good start.
Stage One: “Presenting the Fly” or sparking an interest
Movies, Magazines and Blogs—We have all heard it: “Isn’t fly fishing a sport for old men wearing tweeds and smoking cigars?” A quick look at the increasing number of cutting-edge fly-fishing magazines, movies, and blogs shatters that stereotype. In magazines such as the “Drake,” movies like “Geo Fish,” and blogs like Moldy Chum, “young” anglers are chasing fish all over the world.
Start with some video trailers on sites like vimeo and youtube. (You can find some of the best in the weekly Friday Fly-Fishing Film Festival here on the Orvis Fly Fishing blog.) If your teens show an interest, graduate to a full-length movies, magazines, and blogs. Some teens will fall in love immediately, while others won’t show any interest in fishing. If anglers catching monster trout on mouse patterns in New Zealand or “trout bums” embarking on an epic adventure in search of fish in Mexico does not spark even a little interest, it might be time to start looking for something else to bond over, but don’t give up yet.
Oftentimes, teens will learn better from someone other than a parent.
Get Some Help—Fly fishing can be a great bonding experience for you and your teen, but when it comes to learning a complicated sport like fly fishing, sometimes teens learn best from someone other than their parents. Find an aunt, uncle, grandparent, guide, or local TU member who connects well with teens to help teach the basics. Plan a day together, but get some help with the bulk of instruction. It will save you both a lot of frustration.
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