SCHENECTADY -- Fly Fishing is facing an aging issue, but a few students at Union College are trying to fix that.
With the Fly Fishing Club, two experienced fly fishermen and Union students, James Molloy and Jake Murray, are working to get the rest of campus to try out the sport.
For those who aren’t familiar, fly fishing is an angling method of fishing which uses a specially weighted line with a lightweight lure, or “fly.”
However, less than 25 percent of fly fishers in the United States are under 24 years of age, according to a study conducted by the Outdoor Foundation and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation.
The majority of fly fishers are over 45 years of age. But Murray and Molloy are working to balance out those numbers.
Most students coming to the Union campus haven’t tried fly fishing or have only done it once.
“It’s a cross between a sport, a hobby and an art,” Murray said.
While Molloy doesn’t count it as a sport, he said it’s the perfect way to get the next generation outdoors and interested in the environment.
“It’s a way to turn the heads of kids who wouldn’t normally ….” said Molloy.
He founded the club in 2014 with a former classmate. Although attendance was low at first, they drummed up interest, and on fishing trips the college van is always full.
The club takes anywhere from 10 to 20 students to various fishing spots across the Adirondacks several times a year.
“The learning curve is pretty steep,” Murray said. And when there are only a few teachers in the group, the learning curve only gets steeper.
Depending on the size of the group, the club will hire an outfitter (or a fly fishing expert) to come along and help teach students.
According to Molloy, that’s one of the only costs to students.
“We spent most of our money at first on buying gear to equip those who aren’t equipped. . . we try to supply everything anyone would need,” Molloy said.
Everyone in the club has to get their fishing license before they can go on the trips.
According to Murray, these are relatively easy to get. Students can go online to apply or even get them from Wal-Mart or from the Schenectady’s City offices.
“ . . . fly fishing, in a lot of ways, takes an elitist outlook on fishing,” Murray said. Mostly because of the cost of equipment and the time it takes to learn the techniques.
But return on investment is high, according to Murray and Molloy.
“The campus is like a two-hour radius of awesome things to do outside. Clubs like fly fishing . . . work to get people outside and realize the value of what we have in front of us. Just to get more people to turn their heads and make efforts to help keep what we’ve got,” Molloy said.
The club also works with Trout Unlimited Costa Five Rivers program, which seeks to help increase the number of college-aged students who are interested and involved in fly fishing.
The program works to connect various college clubs and to provide students with deals on high-cost equipment.
As the season starts to warm up, fishing conditions become ideal and it’s one of the best times of the year to get students on the water. The fish are more active and easier to catch.
“With the warmer water, the fish will also be looking up to the surface for bugs. You can just line people up and catch fish,” Molloy said.
That can be encouraging for anyone trying it out for the first time. It also becomes an opportunity for students to learn more about how to read the water’s ecosystem and study the environment in a way they may not have done before.
“It’s hard for me to sort out what I’ve learned in the classroom from what I’ve learned from fishing,” said Molloy, who is a geology major.
The next step for the club is to get into conservation work on top of their fishing trips.
“People are willing to go out and fish but we want to target conservation too,” Murray said.
When he takes over next year, that’s one aspect of the club he hopes to bolster.
Interested in fly fishing?
Here are a few places in the Capital Region that offer lessons and guidance:
Capital District Fly Fishers (An Affiliate Club of the International Federation of Fly Fishers)
Website: Click here
L.L. Bean at Colonie Center about their fly fishing courses:
Call: (888) 552-5519
Website: Click here