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Anglers Arts Classes help teach fly fishing

January 15, 2012 at 09:45 PM

The Associated Press

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Twice each year, a dedicated group of volunteers come together to help Charleston-area residents overcome their fear of “flying.”

Fly fishing, to be specific.

Since 1977, members of the Kanawha Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited have worked through the Kanawha County Schools’ Community Education program to conduct a series of “Angling Arts Classes” that teach fly fishing, fly tying and rod building to adults and young people alike.

“For some reason, people seem to be hesitant to take up fly fishing and the things associated with it,” said Charlie Krepps, who teaches a course in basic fly fishing. “Maybe it’s the thought of that string waving around overhead, or something like that.

“These courses have helped a lot of people to get started. In 35 years, we conservatively estimate that we’ve taught 1,500 people how to fly fish, to tie flies and to build rods.”

Jerry Gladwell of Charleston is one of the program’s biggest fans. A few years ago, he and his son took the course in basic fly fishing. He’s since taken all the other available courses.

“I took the fly tying course, and now I tie most of the flies I use,” he said. “It’s great to be able see a fly you like and to sit down at the vise and imitate it.

“The best course for me, though, was rod building. It was a total thrill to build a rod and then go out and catch a fish with it. One of the most satisfying feelings in the world is to catch a fish on a rod you’ve built and a fly you’ve tied.”

Some people have taken the skills they’ve practiced in the courses and have turned them into moneymaking hobbies.

Ken Eigenbrod, also of Charleston, wanted to build a West Virginia University-themed fly rod for his partner, Laverne.

To learn the basics, he took a rod-building course taught by the late Nelson Sorah.

“One thing I remember Nelson saying was that when someone builds a rod, it becomes unique,” Eigenbrod said. “There isn’t another like it in the entire world. No one else will ever have one exactly like it. I liked that.”

Many people who take the rod class once end up taking it again, both to sharpen their skills and to take advantage of the price break class members get on the rod components they purchase. Eigenbrod took the class a second time, and afterward received quite a surprise.

“Nelson asked me if I’d like to come on as an assistant instructor,” he said. “I’ve been doing that ever since.”

He’s also started selling custom-made rods fashioned in his home workshop.

“It’s a hobby that helps pay for my other hobbies,” he said.

The next group of classes begins Jan. 19 at Elk Elementary Center, located off Interstate 79’s Mink Shoals exit north of Charleston.

A second series will begin in March.

The January schedule includes Krepps’ Beginning Fly Fishing course; a Beginning Fly Tying course taught by Jason Butcher; a Basic Rod Building course by Marge and Dave McCutcheon, with Eigenbrod assisting; and an Intermediate Fly Fishing Techniques course taught by Ed Crum.

Classes meet once a week for four to six weeks, all on Thursday nights. Instructional costs range from $25 to $35, with additional charges for individual students’ fly tying and rod building supplies.

Class sizes are limited and pre-registration is required. Students can pre-register by calling Krepps at 304-562-9050.

Krepps has been in charge of the Angling Arts program for eight years now. He said Trout Unlimited officials originally set up the classes to generate interest in fly-fishing, and also to recruit potential members into the organization.

The strategy appears to be working. The Kanawha Valley Chapter now has more than 500 members. Krepps said 184 of them joined after taking one or more of the Angling Arts classes.

“And that’s just since I started coordinating the classes in 2004,” he added.

Gladwell followed that path, too, but he said the friendships he made during the classes supersede even the Trout Unlimited connection.

“The greatest thing about these classes is that you meet a great bunch of people. Invariably as you go through, you make friends. I have several fishing buddies now that I didn’t have before, and it’s all because of the classes.”


Information from: The Charleston Gazette,

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