Kevin Davis spent June 9-13 wrangling whippersnappers in waders, hackles and bodkins. He coordinates an annual Fly Fishing Camp that uses Rocky Mountain College lawns and classrooms for casting and fly-tying practice.
Davis is volunteer coordinator for Magic City Fly Fishers, a local chapter of Trout Unlimited, which promotes preservation of trout habitat by inspiring participation in the sport. Camp instructors are members of MCFF or the International Federation of Fly Fishers.
Twenty-four 10-to-13-year-olds attended, 14 of them sponsored by the camp itself with free tuition. They were nominated by their public and private schoolteachers. Most campers have already attended a afterschool program.
Don Ellis of Billings founded the camp, which retired pastor Hugh Huntley of First Baptist Church coordinated the last eight years. RMC provides the setting and transportation, while MCFF volunteers operate the camp. Beyond fly tying and casting, topics include aquatic nuisance species, fishing knots, fishing etiquette, and an entomology unit called “Bugs of the Underworld.”
Teachers included Kevin Croff, principal of Poly Drive Elementary School, and Shepherd teacher Todd Rose, who instructs a unit called “Are you smarter than a brown trout?” Davis said, “They are natural teachers, so passionate about first kids, and second the sport.”
Montana FWP biologists Mike Ruggles and Jen Ard help kids examine samples of area insects. Even two past students returned as peer mentors for campers.
The last day of camp, youngsters fished a lake in the Beartooth Ranger District above Red Lodge.
“Last year one young man caught 60 fish, using flies they’ve tied all week,” Davis said.
Davis, formerly with the U.S. Marshals Service, spends much of his retirement coordinating opportunities for youngsters to learn the joys of casting for trout.
As part of a team assisting community partners such as Montana FWP’s “Hooked on Fishing” program, in May he helped to introduce 756 kids to fly rod use at Lake Elmo State Park in Billings. MCFF taught afterschool fly tying in 15 area grade schools this winter and spring.