Fern Hollow offers opportunity to learn how to fish on the fly

| Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Gordon Chesney and the other “fishing guys,” as they are called by Fern Hollow Nature Center staff, want to do all they can to get more youngsters away from the computer for awhile and into nature.

To do their part, Chesney of Moon, Ed Karlik of Sewickley Heights and Warren DelRaso of Bethel Park will be teaching a five-week course on fly-fishing fundamentals for participants ages 11 and older beginning Saturday at Fern Hollow in Sewickley Heights.

“It's so unfortunate that kids today don't have an appreciation for what's around them aside from computer games or a computer screen,” said Chesney, 61.

“I want to do my best to get young people to understand nature and see how wonderful it is and treat it with respect. It you don't, it won't be there. Being in the beautiful surroundings with no cell phones and no work — that's what it's all about.”

Students in the Fern Hollow class will learn about the special equipment needed, which, Chesney said, is different than the bobber and worm most people envision. Fly-fishing is a method of fishing that uses an artificial fly cast out by a special rod.

Susie Moffett, program coordinator for Fern Hollow, said the nature center was able to borrow a dozen fly-fishing rods from the state Fish and Boat Commission. Children ages 11 to 14 can use the same rod as the adult accompanying them and pay one fee.

“We'll see how things go and, hopefully, this time next year, we can get a grant to buy rods of our own,” Moffett said.

Participants also will learn about different types of bugs that various fish eat and receive a booklet featuring pictures of the different flies resembling the bugs that can be used for each kind of fish. Students also will be given different fly-fishing websites to explore.

The class also will feature information about ecology and conservation, respecting natural resources, casting, how to tie a fly and where to find nearby fishing locations.

Chesney said he is hoping to offer a fly-fishing trip to Oil Creek near Oil City after the opening day of trout fishing in April.

Out of respect for nature and his fellow fishing enthusiasts, Chesney said, he has never kept any of the fish he has caught.

“It's catch and release, so that someone else can catch the same fish later and also enjoy it,” he said.

Chesney fished frequently as a child growing up in Robinson Township near Beaver Grade Road but got away from the sport for awhile. When he met his neighbor, Ed Shriver, that all changed. Shriver took him fly-fishing for the first time, and Chesney got “hooked.”

On his first day using a fly rod, he said, he had to buy the fly lures and lost about 16 of them that day. He decided he had better learn how to make them himself.

Now, 13 years later, Chesney is well-known in the fishing community for this fly-tying abilities, Moffett said. He creates the flies by hand-tying materials such as feathers and fur to a hook with thread.

Over the years, Chesney has taught fly tying for children at International Angler, a shop in Robinson Township.

The idea for the class at the nature center originally was created by Chesney's friend, Vince Schwietzer, but when he became ill, Chesney took over and recruited Karlik, 70, who is retired from the television broadcast industry, and DelRaso, 57, a union contractor, to assist.

Moffett said the nature center also offers a family fishing program twice a month in the summer taught by her, naturalist April Claus and Stacey Widenhoser, all certified fishing instructors. They also have several fishing programs for area students each year.

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or jbarron@tribweb.com.

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