New Canadians get hooked on fly fishing

In a St. John's high school's gym, students from countries around the world were taught to cast, and learned more about their new home.

Salmonid Association of Eastern Newfoundland introduces teenagers from around the world to the sport

Tyrone Buckle, in hat, teaches students to fly fish at Holy Heart. (Zach Goudie/CBC)

A group of new Canadians gathered in the gym of Holy Heart High School Thursday to learn how to fly fish — and they caught on to the sport quickly.

The initiative was a natural follow-up to an earlier project with the Atlantic Salmon Federation where the students participated in a fly tying class, said Jim Dinn of the Salmonid Association of Eastern Newfoundland.

"When they got back to the class the next day, the thing that they asked was 'when do we learn how to cast a rod?'" Dinn said.

Some of the students' parents had taken part in activities like cod jigging, and they were also eager to learn to fish, he said.

"We said well, why not. They're new here, it's a great activity, get outdoors and hopefully land a few fish too."

Getting hooked on fishing

Given that the current weather in St. John's is not conducive to outdoor fishing, a class was set up in the high school's gymnasium, where English as a second language students from countries around the world came together to learn to cast.

Walid Khalif, 16, had never caught a fish in Syria, where he previously lived, but tried fishing here in Newfoundland with his father the previous summer, he said.

Students like Marina Richard, seen here holding the rod, caught on quickly. (Zach Goudie/CBC)

This new fishing skill might pay off on the water next summer, Khalif said.

"I think so. I hope so."

Many of the students were quickly getting the hang of casting, including Marina Richard, 17, originally from Congo.

"I like it because it's so easy," Richard said.

Many people find fly fishing intimidating, said Tyrone Buckle, but it's fun and comes quickly.

"A little bit of timing. Timing and patience," said Buckle, area manager for Loop Tackle, which participated in the event.

Walid Khalif, middle, said he hopes his new fishing skills will pay off on the water next summer. (Zach Goudie/CBC)

Helping young people develop those skills is part of changing the stereotype of what a fly fisher looks like and keeping the sport going, Dinn said.

"I've often joked there's a certain demographic associated with fly fishing, mainly old white guys."

Dinn said he's trying to bring in more diverse representation into the Salmonid Association, and introducing activities like fly fishing to new Canadians is a great way to help them learn about their new home.

"Hopefully they're going to learn from us and we're going to learn from them," he said.

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With files from Zach Goudie