Trout Unlimited all about nurturing

Kids attending the Trout Unlimited banquet hold their new fishing rods. From left: Victoria Milkiewicz, Ellie Johnson, Preston Sobeux, Drake Gardner, Logan Finstrom, Mackenna Johnson, Airiana Nixon and Dillon Lizotte. (Kyle Kotecki/For the News Advocate)

Kids attending the Trout Unlimited banquet hold their new fishing rods. From left: Victoria Milkiewicz, Ellie Johnson, Preston Sobeux, Drake Gardner, Logan Finstrom, Mackenna Johnson, Airiana Nixon and Dillon Lizotte. (Kyle Kotecki/For the News Advocate)

By KYLE KOTECKI

For the News Advocate

CADILLAC — Trout Unlimited’s Pine River Area Chapter held its 32nd-annual Conservation Banquet at Caberfae Peaks Ski and Golf Resort Saturday night. The event consisted of dinner, drinks, prizes, auctions and a guest speaker, all in the name of the conservation of cold-water streams and educating children about the sport of fly fishing.

The Pine River is a tributary of the Manistee River that empties into the Tippy Dam Pond.

“We’re all about cold-water conservation and youth education,” said chapter president Timothy Birtles. “So we are trying to get the youth involved and educated about not only fishing, but the conservation aspect of it. Insect life, river restoration, preservation, that kind of stuff.”

Manistee resident Chuck Dumanois chairs the chapter’s education committee and is passionate about exposing children to the sport of fly fishing.

“It is very difficult for us to get kids away from their cell phones,” Dumanois said. “Most of them would rather sit there and look at a cell phone than take up a sport. But this is a sport that might well stay with them the rest of their life.”

Individuals and businesses from all over, including Manistee, Cadillac, Traverse City and even Arkansas generously donated goods and services to be raffled and auctioned off to raise money to bolster the chapter’s efforts.

Dumanois is all too aware of how easy it is for a young person to miss out on the sport of fly fishing, due to the various distractions they face. Of course he is; he has firsthand experience.

“When I was a young teenager I found a couple of fly rods my father had so I taught myself to fly fish, kind of,” he said. “And then, unfortunately, as I got into my middle teens, I discovered girls and cars, so the fly fishing became secondary, or tertiary, in importance.”

With retirement drawing nearer in the mid-90s, Dumanois knew he would need something to occupy his time. His mind drifted back to those mornings on the river as a boy, so he picked up a fly rod and never looked back.

For Dumanois, fly fishing is more than a hobby. It’s a respite from the worries and stress of day-to-day life, and a great way to unwind upon which he feels too many people are missing out.

“It’s a sport that’s very rewarding,” he said. “You simply cannot worry about the events of the day and stand in the middle of a river and fly fish. It’s very useful in alleviating the stresses of your day.

“When I was in the practice of medicine I used to take Thursday afternoons off and go fly fish,” Dumanois continued. “I was in always in better shape on Friday. It’s just a good thing for me.”

Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Teach a child to fish, however, and they have a sport that can bring them decades of satisfaction.

Trout Unlimited’s Pine River Area Chapter goes to great lengths to expose children to the wonders of fly fishing. They go into schools and teach students about the sport, as well as host fly fishing camps, knot-tying classes and they volunteer with a group that teaches kids how to cast flies.

Dumanois believes once a child gives fly fishing a shot, there’s a strong chance they will stick with it.

“Interestingly enough once you get a kid fly fishing they get the bite,” he said. “They become enamored by it. Especially if they’ve got the right instructors.”

With another successful fundraising banquet in the books, the Pine River Area Chapter is already looking ahead to their all-day fly fishing session for children ages ten to 16. It will take place the morning of August 4 at D-Loop Outfitters in Wellston.

At the event, children will get an overview of the equipment, a lesson in knot tying, learn how to read a stream and cast. Then they will put their newfound knowledge to the test and try to catch some fish.

Dumanois likes to say the only thing rarer than a 25-inch brown trout in a Northwest Michigan stream is a 15-year-old trying to catch it.

That’s a situation Trout Unlimited is trying to rectify, and the success of the Pine River Area Chapter’s 32nd-annual banquet should go a long way in seeing that they can.

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