In July, 2010, all 46 Orvis-owned retail stores and many Orvis independently owned dealers offered free introductory fly-fishing classes in conjunction with local Trout Unlimited volunteers every Saturday morning in July. The results were beyond expectations. We had hoped to captivate 1,000 new people into the pleasures of fly fishing and at last tally our stores and dealers introduced over 2600 people to the sport. From anecdotal evidence, nearly all the participants had never tried fly fishing, and most of the locations felt the people attending the events were new customers that had never entered the store before.
The great news for the future of our natural resources was that each attendee received a free introductory membership to Trout Unlimited, so these potential new fly fishers should also become ardent guardians of coldwater fisheries throughout North America.
Equally gratifying were the number of children who attended with their parents, as well as husband-and-wife teams. Several of the schools actually had three generations from the same family attend, showing how fly fishing can bring together families in a healthy, gratifying pastime that crosses age and gender barriers while getting people outdoors.
Orvis will expand this program for 2011, with classes earlier in the season and with a standard syllabus that all locations can use, based on what we have learned in our 2010 classes. And although we’ve learned a lot, we still have a ways to go in figuring out how to make fly fishing more accessible to anyone interested in learning.
Here are just a few comments from stores who participated in Fly Fishing 101:
People REALLY WANT this type of service, and they are incredibly thankful for it. If you need any more proof of this, consider how we still had 14 of 16 students show up in spite of some pretty steady rain during the whole event. Even I was surprised at the attendance! Most students brought rain jackets, ALL got wet, and ALL HAD A GREAT TIME AND LEARNED A LOT ANYWAY! Of course, we would have cancelled the outdoor casting portion on the roof if there was thunder/lightning for obvious safety reasons, but a little rain never hurt anyone. Besides, we got to explain to our new fly fishers what good “fishing weather” really looks like! Most were relieved just to be out of our recent heat wave for a while.
I had a family of six representing three generations in one of my groups (2 grandparents, a father, 2 boys and a girl) so that was pretty cool.
We had a fabulous turn out for Fly Fishing 101. We were booked solid from 9 till 12.
We had a young couple from California who bought Clearwater outfits. A couple we were just staying at one of the local camp grounds who stayed over to take the class. As well as a couple who spend the summers here in Ennis that had been thinking of taking up fly fishing and now they have. We have people booked for every Saturday in July