A young fly tying enthusiast sports the appropriate colours at the 2009 Pink Salmon Festival.

Westcoast Flyfishing Association bobs for kids

Sooke has a long reputation of being a fisher’s paradise. And people like Garry Bettridge, president of the Westcoast Flyfishers Association, try to get them hooked early.

Sooke has a long reputation of being a fisher’s paradise. And people like Garry Bettridge, president of the Westcoast Flyfishers Association, try to get them hooked early.

Nearing its 10th year of operation, WFA teaches mostly kids but also adults (members range from 7 years old to 70) the finer points of fly fishing from tying their first “fly” (both artificial and real insects) on a hook to casting their first line in the water.

“Right from the very first year we were committed to youth,” said Bettridge, whose own son Justin got involved with the sport at a young age.

The club meets a few times a month: the first Tuesday is usually spent tying flies upstairs in the meeting room at Village Foods, followed by a fishing expedition for trout or salmon a week or two later.

“(We go to) Kemp Lake, (and other) different types of lakes. We go to Young Lake once a year.”

The group also participates in the Pink Salmon Festival that involves over 100 kids from Greater Victoria out in the waters off Sooke angling for the fish during their biennial run.

Bettridge started the club because he wanted to spread his love for fly fishing to a wider demographic.

“If you go to any fly club meeting, I guarantee you the average age would be 55 to 60.”

He said he has helped young kids his whole life, and has “been a coach for just about every sport there is.” Taking that expertise and applying it to his passion for flyfishing was the next logical step.

Belonging to the Haig-Brown Fly Fishing Association based out of Victoria in the late 1990s, Bettridge wanted to enroll Justin.

“Lots of members of that club recognized my son as a very very good fly tyer. They wanted him to join the club, (but) when they looked at the constitution there was no youth allowance.”

That’s when it dawned on Bettridge to start a club in Sooke. In 2002, he placed a one-inch ad in the Sooke News Mirror and posted some fliers in a few stores. Expecting about six people to show up to the inaugural meeting, 27 attended. Since then the club has consistently drawn membership from as high as 42 in some years to as low as nine in others.

WFA is active in the educational system as well. It puts on an annual fly tying event at Journey Middle School, and is part of their exploratory program that exposes kids to unique  extracurricular activities.

“We teach 30 kids on two different days how to tie their first woolly bugger fly (imitation leech),” he said.

On the community front, Bettridge and his crew have set up demos at the fall fair, Canada Day celebrations at the flats and Camp Barnard in the past.

Applications are accepted year round, and you can find more information on their website at www.westcoastflyfishers.com, or drop in to a regular meeting  at 7 p.m. on the first Tuesday or third Thursday of every month upstairs in Village Foods.

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