GALLIPOLIS — Local teacher Shannon Mayes does more than teach students language arts.
He has begun to share his favorite hobby of fly fishing with teenagers in the after school program. What started out as a small chapter of the Trout Unlimited Teens program has now grown to include over 50 youth from Gallia Academy and River Valley who learn the skills of fly fishing. But even more important than that, they now belong to a group.
“Many of these kids don’t belong to other organizations. But when we meet and we learn about fly techniques and how to tie flies, they are a part of our group,” Mayes explained.
Fly fishing is not a sport that is often taught in the area. Those who do fish typically use conventional means through which to do it: fly fishing is certainly unconventional. Where regular fishing employees live bait or copying bait fish through lures, fly fishing emulates flies landing on the surface of the water, creating a very exciting way of catching fish.
Trout Unlimited is a conservation society that focuses on cleaning rivers and creeks in order to preserve the natural environment. The TU Teens program is chartered with TU chapter 477 Madmen chapter out of Northern Ohio.
“It began as a way to teach a few kids the fundamentals of fly fishing, about conservation, about different kids of fish, and to share the joy that I get in the outdoors with them,” Mayes said.
With the help of donors, Mayes has been able to take students to West Virginia, Tennessee, Ohio, and Virginia to experience stream and river fishing for trout.
The program is entirely funded from donations. When Mayes began the program in 2013 he had zero funds to help teach the kids fly fishing. Mayes began reaching out to local businesses for financial support and the money has always been there. When a student joins the TU Teens, they receive a hat and shirt, a year-long membership to Trout Unlimited (which comes with a host of benefits), access to equipment like flies and rods, and of course trips beyond the local ponds to practice their newly developed skills. While funding has increased from generous members of the community, Mayes is always seeking more funds to grow the program.
In the regular meetings, students are taught how to tie various knots, how to properly assemble the rod and reel, about the basics of conservation and protecting wild fisheries, and of course how to cast the rod. Local fisherman Jamie Eggers has visited the group to teach students how to “tie flies” which is the art of using string and feathers to create a fly lure.
As students move on from junior high they often will come back and help mentor younger students through the TU Teens program. While there is not currently a high school or college program existing in Gallia County, Trout Unlimited does have programs designed for high school and college-aged students.
When talking about the importance of this program Mayes had this to say: “Not all of these kids will make a lifetime hobby of fly fishing. But how important is it for them to be able to say they belong to something much bigger than just high school.”
He went on to explain how fly fishing is really the means through which he can invest in the kids and help them grow through patience and necessity to learn, which are needed to be a successful fly fisherman.
“Some of these kids will continue this hobby and pass it on to their kids and that’ll be good,” stated Mayes.
Recently the Gallipolis TU Teens program was featured in the national publication “Trout Magazine,” a quarterly produced by Trout Unlimited. Mayes was highlighted as the Stream Champion in the Spring 2017 issue for his work with teenagers and promoting the conservation of nature and passing on the tradition of fly fishing to youth in Gallia County.
Always looking to educate youth and grow the program of TU Teens, Mayes is seeking further funds.
If you have questions or would like to support TU Teens, contact Shannon Mayes at 740-645-9105.
Reach Morgan McKinniss at 740-446-2342 ext 2108 or firstname.lastname@example.org