CASPER, Wyo – Young men from the Sheridan-based nonprofit Joey’s Fly Fishing Foundation Youth Program were at the Ugly Bug Fly Shop in Casper this weekend to teach anglers how to assemble their own fly rods.
Student Tyler Morton, who “eats, breathes and sleeps while fishing,” said he had already gathered valuable information in the first hour, including how to find the backbone of a rod.
“This is something that I never really thought about doing…. If you are not aligned with your right spine, the rod will not launch true,” Morton said.
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Morton said he hoped to end up building more rods and was grateful to the young mentors for helping him overcome the “growing pains” of the process. “Now that I kind of have an idea of what’s going on, I know what to look for to buy.”
At the same desk as Morton was Randy Ford, who said, “I think this is a great opportunity for these young men to share their talents with anyone, young or old.”
On the second day of the workshop, Oil City News checked how the process of winding the guides onto the shaft was going.
“Terrible!” said Ford. “Ian does. “
“They are doing well,” said instructor Ian Gale. “Marvellous.” He said that winding the very last guide onto the thinnest part of the rod is probably the trickiest part of this particular process.
Joey Puettman, founder of the Joey’s Fly Fishing Foundation, said this was the 14th year of the courses. He is a former Youth Program Director at Northern Wyoming Mental Health, kindergarten teacher and fly fishing guide.
The idea of combining fly fishing and youth mentoring came to him at the time when he took a young man to show him the ropes and noticed that the process immediately calmed him down. “I wish his parents had seen him. I wish his therapist had seen him, I wish his manager had seen him, ”Puettman said.
He said the intricacies and attention to detail required by the sport – sticking the grip, wrapping the guides – “harness” ADHD-type energies, including his own. He has since incorporated it into therapies and offers it to school districts, families and churches – “anyone who wants to learn,” he said.
At-risk youth are Puettman’s number one demographic – kids who “almost slipped through the cracks.” They are generally not engaged in other extracurricular activities like sports or music, Puettman said.
The children he taught are now mentors themselves, teaching people of all ages what they know. The youth program, led by Stephen Richards, is self-governing and has its own rules. They even helped Puettman expand his repertoire. Young Anthony “Fish” Kindle introduced Puettman to lathe work through his school store teacher.
Everyone has their specialty. Fish’s manufactures and shapes handles. Orrin Cottman “one of the best fly tyers I’ve seen,” Puettman said.
Puettman said the program’s core values are “patience, trust, respect and mentorship.”
“The biggest part of Joey isn’t the fishing, it’s the mentoring inside the fishing,” Fish said.
“I had a rather difficult past with my father: moreover I joined Joey’s because things were going very badly.
He described his entry into the fold as “almost the missing piece” of male mentoring in his life.
“He’s taught me so many life lessons, especially that ‘what you put in it is what you take out of it.'”
Fish recruited his friend Ian Gale from Joey. “They got me through a lot,” Gale said, including the death of his older brother Reese.
One of the things he learned was to “Walk with a goal: to always know what you are going to do and when you are going to do it…. Don’t hang around, because you don’t have that much time.
Ian added that before coming to Joey’s, he got up late and missed the bus to school. Now he goes to bed earlier and wakes up on time. “I actually have a good night’s sleep. Life is much more relaxed, less stressed.
“There are so many life lessons to be learned,” Puettman said. “There is a reaction for every action when you fly fishing…. If I’m trying to put pressure on a pitch… if I don’t take my time and let the rod do the work, I’m going to ruin everything.
“There were probably five pivotal moments in my adult life where I said to myself, ‘What am I going to do? I can take a six pack, or I can take my fly rod.
There are times he did both, “but I’ve always been to the river, thank goodness.”