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Learning on the fly

Learning on the fly

By Minal Abhange

For fishers tired of telling stories about the one that got away, there is a little secret seasoned enthusiasts want you to know – it’s all about the fly.

And if you get the basics right, it’s not that hard to tie flies that will actually catch fish.

Where can you learn it all you ask? CNA, Happy Valley-Goose Bay (HVGB) campus has been offering fly tying workshop to teach students a few proven, easy-to-tie, patterns using some moderately priced equipment.

Paul White, a CNA Guidance Counsellor at the campus, teaches the workshop and believes this activity helps students in many ways, not just how to tie a professional fly.

“I believe fly tying, in particular, helps students connect with nature in a very different way. Every one (of them) has gone fishing with family and friends and for a lot of them this brings back all those memories when we get together,” he says. “We started this as an activity for the students in the residence at the campus. The response has been amazing and we are looking forward to opening it to others interested, including students, staff members, and other campuses.

“Currently we have a core group of six students and a lot of others drop by. The students are from various parts of the north coast, as well as Happy Valley-Goose Bay, and bring a great cultural mix to the group which makes it a fun activity for everyone.”

Another common myth among novice fly tiers is that the equipment has to be expensive or it won’t work.

However, Paul refutes this myth and says, “Keeping it simple is the key when learning how to fly tie. You do not need expensive equipment; in fact, you can make flies inexpensively and in our class sessions we focus on using a combination of inexpensive materials – some are synthetic elements (cloth, tinsel, thread) paired with natural elements (hairs and furs of animals like caribou, moose, squirrel, turkey, deer).

Fly fishing is a skills-based activity and students learn a variety of fishing skills, such as creating fly ties, casting techniques, knot tying and fish identification.

“To become a professional there are no shortcuts. Practice is key. Solely for teaching purposes, small groups of three to six students work better, as I can look at what each student is making and help them improve on the flies and knots.”

He explained that some of the techniques students learn include, how to make lures and hooks that resemble natural bait; spinning hair to keep the thread tight; tying the hair so it stays on the hook; and, making different kind of knots.

“The half hitch knot is my favourite – it’s simple, strong, yet keeps everything together.”

Fly tying also channels creativity in students, which makes it an amazing team building activity aimed at boosting confidence, and it becomes a therapeutic experience for many.

 “This experience allows students to meet peers, develop relationships, and most importantly make fly ties like professionals.”

Paul also notes that for many of his students, it is a part of their cultural heritage, and helps promote “old school” techniques among the younger generation.

“There is no greater satisfaction than catching a fish with a fly you tied yourself.”

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