Saturday, December 8, 2012

In need of some help

As most of you know, I am a high school student in Fort Collins. Ever since my freshman year, I have been fortunate enough to be involved with the Fly Fishing Club at the school. Through the club I have formed valuable friendships with students and teachers alike.

So, as of yesterday, the school district informed me that it has cancelled the fly fishing club, and has prohibited any meetings from commencing due to the "Inherent danger associated with the sport". Now, I don't know about you guys, but that is a load of crap. We can have football but not a fly fishing club? 

That is where you guys come in. It would be amazing if at least one of you was able to find the time to write a short essay regarding the benefits of the sport of fly fishing, reasons behind keeping the club, etc. In short, just try to write a paper that would help build my case as to why the Fly Fishing Club should not be shut down.

I know how much he sport means to me, as well as how much it means to all of you. Having a school prohibit its students from having a club that many student's love is absolutely ludicrous. Please feel free to eMail me at for more information.

Thank you, your help is much appreciated!


  1. This is a load for sure Jake. My guess is they're attempting to sever themselves for liability only. Does that mean no ski club? No hiking or mountaineering club? No cycling or mountain biking club? As you point out football and almost every activity has inherent risk, so ask what can be done to minimize risk. Do waivers Need to be signed? Do you even take funding from the school? Is there any other part of the activity that the school district may take issue with?

    I'd be happy to write a letter/e-mail, but it may be pointless if the true cause of the district's action isn't revealed.

    One thing for certain is you shouldn't scrap the club. There are plenty of places in your community to meet for little to no money (public library, community centers, etc.). Heck this may be a great opportunity to make something bigger happen without the district being involved. You're a smart guy and will figure something out.

    Best of luck!


    1. Hi, Jake, have read your blog post and also saw it over on Windknots & Tangled Lines. I don't think I could write a better response than was given here by M.A. Hughes. Agree totally! There has to be a hidden agenda here for this to go down this way. If you can find some additional information that points more to a true cause, I would be willing to fire off a letter in no time at all.

  2. To whom it concerns:

    I heard that a decision has been made to prevent a high school fly-fishing club from continuing due to the inherent risks associated with the sport.

    Preventing this club could create even greater risks for these kids. For example, these kids could instead be using their time to track down and consume contraband (not that they would, but you know what they say about idle minds...). They could be doing any number of less productive activities, such as wasting away in front of a TV or computer. This club and sport provides good, clean fun, opportunities for life-long friendships, a valuable distraction from the stress growing up in today's world and more.

    Please reconsider your decision. On behalf of all of us who fly fish with basically every chance we get, thanks for your time.

    Sincerely, Joshua Bergan, Belgrade, Montana

  3. I'm terribly sorry to hear about such non-sense decision from your school district. I'd like to inquiry the school district to clarify "inherent danger of the sport" in what way. Also, how they determine it's dangerous enough that the club has to be shut down compare to other sports.
    As we all know, by having a cell phone, people can get injured by texting while walking, jogging, or operating a vehicle. Will they ban all cell phone use in campus?
    Ft. Collins school district is lucky to have you and the decision is unwise.

    Vincent Su

  4. Hi Jake,

    My son ran into a similar problem when some people tried to start up the high school wrestling program after it was abandoned for over 20 years. If fly fishing is more dangerous than wrestling, then I would like to see what you are doing during practice, etc. :)

    As for ways to help your cause, there are several that seemed to work for the wrestling team (yes they got started again and five years later they are still going strong): organization, dedication, communication, solutions to any objections and determination.

    From an organization stand point it is important to know what your objectives are and develop a plan to achieve those objectives. For example, when we were approached by a couple of parents who wanted to start the wrestling team we had meetings and discussed what were the objections to bringing back the team (e.g. money, safety, where and when practice would be held, equipment, etc.) and then we came up with plans to overcome those objections. Also, you need to know who are the "players" that you need to influence so you don't waste time with someone who can't influence the decision.

    From a dedication perspective, there were two families (and mine was not one of them) that really drove the campaign and it is essential to have people who are committed because it may not be easy to convince someone that they were wrong in making this decision. The people have to be thoughtful, articulate, persuasive and determined.

    Communication is also very important to your cause. You need to let people know what is happening and you are off to a good start. Use other social media (Twitter, YouTube and Facebook) and old media (letters to the newspaper, flyers at local fly shops or sporting good stores, private and public meetings, attend school committee or city council meetings because they are televised. Reach out to you local politicians because you may find one or two who share your passion and will help you navigate through the process. Also, contact a local media outlet to do a story. You may be surprised who will see it and take up the cause.

    Lastly, offering solutions to the objections that have been presented. Ask what are the inherent dangers and then offer solutions. For example, if there is a concern that people may have accidents to their eyes, then find a sponsor who will provide eye protection. Also, have a written policy (if you don't already) about safety, conduct, etc. If it is money, then have fund raisers, auctions, seek out benefactors, etc. to reduce the cost of the program or totally fund the program. You have to know what the objections are so you can have a chance to address them. Determination is also key because you may not change their minds at the first meeting but you have to let them know that you are committed to the cause (in a polite way of course).

    I am sure that others will have good advice too.

    Best wishes.

  5. Jake...I had another thought about this: have you contacted the local or national Trout Unlimited folks?

  6. You might consider contacting your state representatives as well. This definitely has more too it than simply "its dangerous." If you can get to the bottom of the exact issues at hand it will be much easier to confront those issues in a constructive manner. Good luck and hope you are able to resolve the problem...

  7. Hello Jake,
    I would suggest that you also contact the local favorite fly shop and enlist their support. Perhaps with professionals willing to endorse or sponsor the club the district would change their minds. Since there are obvious questions as to the whys of this situation, I have asked to find out the whole story. Continued success in your quest to find truth, justice and the American way.

  8. Jake... We live in an age where some decisions seem pretty silly and I believe that your having put together a flyfishing club at your school is admirable. The real questions here begin with approaching the school and getting some hard answers regarding their actual issues with the supposed dangers of the sport, establish if there really are liability issues involved for the school if the club is associated with the school or school district and nail them down on what really is the reasoning behind their decision. Once you have that information you can proceed with trying to negociate the issue, but going up against a blanket statement of the sport being inherently dangerous without specifics is difficult.
    Last but not least if all is lost at the High School and they won't consider a change in their position, you still have the group of anglers in the club, the fish and the water. Contact the local TU chapter for information regarding possible meeting places, even it you have to meet in someones basement, talk to the local shops and anglers about having some folks come in for an occasional class on related subjects and just enjoy the group you've put together, regardless of the High school's position on the subject. I'd even bet that there's one or two old guys up that way that would be willing to sponser some on stream instruction, but if the school has been told they can't support the club for whatever silly reason, accept that you may have to just find a cubby hole to meet in and get on with enjoying the sport.
    All I know is that had we had a fly fishing club in High School our Principle would have probably chipped in for flies just on the off hand chance that we would quite lifting his old Volkswagon Bug up onto his front porch. Kiddo... Sometimes life is just silly!

  9. To whom it may concern:

    I am a teacher of students with special needs. Several years ago, a colleague of mine and I co-taught a course on fly fishing. The students in the class included those with disabilities and those at-risk of not graduating high school. During the four weeks of the class, the students learned to tie flies, learned about stream entomology and learned how to cast a fly rod. Whereas many of the students found themselves in daily trouble in other classes, we did not have one discipline issue in four weeks. The students were engaged and the guest speakers we brought in praised the students’ politeness and attentiveness. Those involved in the class walked away with a lifelong skill and a newfound appreciation for the environment. One student even started his own business tying and selling flies. Fly fishing is a sport that changes lives and it should be not only taught to students, but encouraged by those in charge.

  10. Hi Jake,
    You have some great comments here, for sure. I am going to echo the ideas of talking to your local TU, clubs, State Rep, and your school can't have too many people helping you for sure. I would be MORE THAN GLAD to write a letter to whomever for your cause as well. As a former high school athlete in Basketball and Baseball (and an athlete that completely blew out his knee playing said sports) I would say that, yes, there are risks involved in any sport.....but fly fishing is a life-long pursuit for the vast majority of people who become involved in the sport and I know very few people that play basketball, baseball, football, etc that kept playing once they got out of high school.

    Let me know if I can send a letter to anyone.

    Brian Wise

  11. All good comments above. I am sure that, unless your club took large sums of school funding making it a budget target, the real issue at the heart of this is some sort of percieved liability. It is tough to swallow that the 'inherent risks' of fly fishing are any less than those of many other school sponsored activities. I will help out any way that I can Jake. -mike schmidt

  12. Hello Jake,

    Saw your blog post thru a link on the MidCurrent News, this morning.
    Thank you, Marshall, for bringing attention to this issue.

    First of all, I'm thrilled to know that there is a fly fishing club at your school, which is awesome. There are so many positive effects from such a club. An outdoor sport (fishing) that is wonderfully complemented by an indoor art form (fly tying), and welcomes all who seek to learn and participate (no team cuts, varsity, junior varsity, etc.), what could be more enjoyable and beneficial to students and sponsoring teachers? Sure, there can be “inherent dangers” with any sport or hobby, life is full of them.

    You might be interested to know that a few years ago the Athletic Director of the school district where I live (a city almost identical in size to yours) researched and compiled the grade point averages of students who participated in extracurricular sports and activities and compared them to the balance of the district students who didn’t participate. The eye-opening fact was those who participated in extra activities had one full point higher grade averages than those who didn’t. Why? Perhaps debatable, but there is no doubt in my mind that the biggest contributing factors were discipline and time management.

    Like others stated very well, you do need to get to the root of why the school district made the decision.
    If there is a simple way to convince them to reverse their decision, then go for it. Once the reason is known, I’m sure you could count on many of us to write letters/emails to your school district. But, I would suggest not getting too caught up in fighting it, if it appears a fight is what it will take, and just move on and build from the positive your group already enjoys.

    There should be no problem rallying support from your teachers, local fly fishing club(s) and local fly fishing shops. Perhaps you have received some support from other clubs and shops in the past. ??
    Most people involved in the business side of our sport understand that it is very important to continue to attract and encourage youth to fly fishing, and are supportive as they are capable. I’m sure that you have touched the hearts of many avid fly fishers, with the obvious passion you possess for our sport.

    If you haven’t already connected with other school-based clubs around the state or country, I would suggest that you Google “high school fly fishing clubs” and check out and connect with some of the many clubs similar to yours. You might find lots of great ideas for your club, and share some of your ideas with others, too.

    Good luck in your process of determining whether you will be able to continue as a school sponsored club, many will be waiting to see how this turns out, and support you with letters/emails (we’ll need an email address) to your school district as more information is learned.
    Regardless, your group has a bright future of growth and enjoyment in the sport of fly fishing.

    Bill Butts
    Springfield MO

  13. In debate and sales training there is an old saying:

    If the objection doesn't make sense, it isn't the REAL objection. You have to uncover the true objection and ignore the one that has been offered as a diversion. Frankness is usually the best way to handle this, but with respectful sincerity. Several respondents here have already expressed the model I would suggest. It goes something like this:

    Okay. I hear what you've said and respect your right to make this decision, but we all know that many of the programs the school sponsors such as (give them a short list of the most obvious such as football, hockey, and baseball) are far more inherently dangerous and costly both to insure and to equip than a fly fishing club. So I respectfully request to know your real reason for deciding to cancel your support for the fly fishing club so that we may have the opportunity to try and find a remedy that is acceptable to you on our own. Your cooperation would be most appreciated, not just by the team, but by a nationwide fly fishing community that is both glad to learn that we had a fly fishing club at our school and very concerned that we have lost it.

    I'm so proud of you for bringing this to our attention and seeking our help and advice! Thank you. That demonstrates great character.


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