Dullstroom Fly Fishers Association and Xplorer Fly Fishing proudly announce a whole new social development program designed to bring fly fishing within reach of black students from the local high school – and, in so doing, bridge the gap between Dullstroom and Sakhelwe communities. Dullstroom is widely regarded as the fly fishing capital of Mpumalanga and, according to DFFA’s Chairman, Peter St Clair “There is no better place to demonstrate that the wonderful world of fly fishing can be opened to all who are prepared to learn – regardless of background, colour, gender or age. And so we are working with the Siyifunile Secondary School to start a students’ club, first to train some students in fly fishing skills – and then find ways to give them access, not only to places where they can fish, but maybe even potentially to careers in the extensive fly fishing industry.”
The initiative was born out of the relationship that has developed between the DFFA and the school over the past few years during which Siyifunile students have been engaged in a supporting role as student marshalls in the annual DFFA BONANZA fund-raising event. And when the program was announced at last year’s BONANZA prize giving, John Geils (Owner and MD of Xplorer Fly Fishing) was quick to offer up 12 Xplorer starter kits to get the club up and running. The program coordinator Alan Hatton was equally quick to respond “In next to no time, we had the names of 16 grade 11/12 students (male and female) who were keen to learn why we are all so passionate about this wonderful pastime. We were even more delighted that Xplorer responded accordingly and shipped through, not 12, but 16 5WT Backcountry rods, reels, and matching lines.”
Alan went on to tell us about the early sessions. “We thought that it was important that the students not only learn how to cast and maybe catch a few fish, so we developed a full program of learning sessions so that they come to appreciate the full scope of fly fishing and what it has to offer. The first few sessions were spent in the Siyifunile classrooms, covering introductory content such as the history of fly fishing, why fly fishing is important, in particular why fly fishing is important to Dullstroom, and what makes fly fishing different. From there, still in the classroom, we took the students through the fly fishing equipment in some detail, including the importance of the right knots for the right jobs …….. it was interesting that one or two attending DFFA Club members learnt something along the way at this point!”
While all this was happening, support came pouring in ………. not only in the form of cash and used tackle donations, which was truly appreciated, but from club members and Dullstroom fly fishing retailers who have committed to support the program. Both John Hunter (The Village Angler) and John Thoabala (Mavungana Flyfishing) have committed their teams to assist in coaching skills development, which will be an essential ingredient of the program going forward.
From the classroom to the training field - the initial casting training took place on a regular basis on the Dullstroom sports field ……….. much to the initial amusement of visitors and passers by. Until they saw what was being achieved! And the early results were certainly encouraging. “All but one of the students had never even held a fly rod in their hands but they have been so fast to learn and a few were putting 15 to 20 metres of very neat line out by the end of the second session – impressive progress.” according to Alan Hatton. “And we recently started some actual fishing sessions on our Club water and one or two nearby waters that have allowed us access for supervised coaching (Go Country and Santa Estates). A few students have already had the excitement of their first fish on …… and off! But the high point came only a few days ago, when one of the students (Piet Makua) landed his first fish – and what a fish it was …… a 60 cm beauty from Janson Dam”
His first fish
What will follow now is an equal mix of classroom sessions dealing with flies, fish behaviour, and the finer points of finding, catching and releasing fish, plus practical experience and outings to nearby waters. The Club’s objective is to get at least half a dozen students trained and qualified to the point that they can stand and fish confidently next to any experienced fly fishers on any trout water. One of the challenges that is yet to be overcome is getting access to local waters on an affordable basis, so that the students can get fishing experience and put their learnings to good use.
In conclusion, Peter St Clair told us “It remains to be seen whether the students club will become an ongoing annual program – we certainly hope that is the case. Yes, we have lost a few of the early hand-raisers (students), but the 10 or 12 that will probably stay the 2015 project are committed and if only these relative few emerge as enthusiastic fly fishers, then we will have achieved something worthwhile. And it can only grow from that point. Thank you to Xplorer, the Village Angler and Mavungana for their support.”
If you are interested in supporting this initiative in any way, be it sponsoring, coaching, allowing or accompanying students to water, whatever ………. then please contact Alan Hatton on 073 478 3317 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Alan has also indicated that he will be happy to share the training decks that have been prepared up to this point with any other club or organisation that wishes to embark on similar programs.
Please address all media enquiries to Alan Hatton - 073 478 3317 or email@example.com
Some of the students
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