It’s all in the wrist

MARQUETTE – With a little help from expert fly fishers, students in Marquette Senior High School found an alternative use for the school’s pool last week, perfecting their fly-fishing cast.

“I’ve been fly fishing a little before this, but this is the first time I’ve been taught how to do it the right way,” said senior Anthony Fox, 18.

It was all in a day’s work for the students in Marquette Senior High School’s Wildlife and Natural Resources Management class, taught by Rebecca Simmons.

The course is an elective offered to students after their freshman year. Only around once a year, the class is popular with Simmons saying it typically is full and sometimes even has a waiting list.

The course focuses on wildlife and natural resources management across the country, but has a particular emphasis on top Michigan industries like timber and mining. The class also focuses on outdoor activities regulated by state government, like hunting and fishing.

The Fred Waara Chapter of Trout Unlimited has been working with Simmons’ class this month, teaching students about all things fly fishing.

“(Trout Unlimited) considers the future of preservation of our cold water resources to be in the hands of the young,” wrote chapter President Jerry Maynard in an email. “A key part of our mission is education and promotion of appreciation and enjoyment of cold water fisheries. Getting young people involved in fly fishing is a way of planting the seeds for future advocates for the rivers and streams that we love.”

Feb. 18, Herb Grenke, assisted by other chapter members, explained and demonstrated the dynamics of using a fly rod. Feb. 20, local fishing guide Nick Simon and others worked with students pool-side inside the school to practice additional casting techniques.

In the following weeks, Ken Snyder and Tim Robenalt will teach the class how to tie their own flies.

The entire project will culminate in a field trip sponsored by the chapter, taking the students to a local lakeshore where they will test out everything they learned as they attempt to catch fish after the opening of trout season.

Maynard said the chapter hosts and promotes “youth activities every change we get,” currently supporting seven Salmon in the Classroom programs, works with the Moosewood Nature Center, gives presentations in science classrooms throughout the area abut ecology of cold water fisheries and pays for several Upper Peninsula students to attend a week-long fly fishing summer camp in the Lower Peninsula.

Simmons said her students really enjoy having community groups stop by the class and add a practical angle to what they’re learning.

“I bring them interesting things too and we do have fun researching things, but there’s something about having someone that knows something (specific) and can tie it to Marquette that makes things realistic,” Simmons said. “That is powerful …”

Simmons said the students could hardly stop talking about the fly-casting lesson the following day, and were eager to have chapter members return this week to teach them how to tie a fly.

“They definitely enjoy those times and want more and more of them,” Simmons said.

Simmons said getting the students into the great outdoors is one of the goals of the class, even if the students aren’t necessarily interested in typical outdoors activities, such as hunting or fishing.

“I have students that will probably never fly fish, may not like fishing, but they love getting outside to a stream and taking pictures or something like that,” Simmons said.

She said she hopes to teach her students the positive nature of getting out into the community and figuring out ways to help protect wildlife and sustain the natural beauty of the Upper Peninsula.

“It helps them see potential careers – that’s kind of the last part of the course, careers that would be available to them,” Simmons said. “So many of these students want to be DNR officers or conservation officers, but they don’t see some of the other jobs. They don’t see how they would use art or English with natural resources.”

Any groups interested in working with Simmons’ students can contact her by emailing rsimmons@mapsnet.org.