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Learning to fly
Hatchery hosts youth fishing clinic

CUMMING - A youth fly fishing clinic sponsored by Trout Unlimited and Georgia Women Flyfishers played host to more than 30 students at the Buford Trout Hatchery on Saturday, marking the event's sixth-annual class.

The Sam Rizzo Fly Fishing Clinic, intended for kids ages 10 to 15, is part of a freshwater perseveration initiative created by the Upper Chattahoochee and Tailwater chapters of Trout Unlimited and is intended to raise awareness about Georgia's fisheries and their watersheds.

The clinic, first founded in 2002, was named in honor of former Trout Unlimited member Sam Rizzo of Rex, whose love of fishing and children often pushed him to be "the first man ready to fish every morning," according to Trout Unlimited's Tailwater Chapter President Bill Egeland.

In addition to offering students a general overview of fly-fishing and the techniques used on the water, the program also provided instruction on knot tying and insect identification.

"The main objective of the clinic was to offer high-quality professional fly-fishing lessons for a minimal cost," said Sid Elliot, the program's educational coordinator.

Having about one instructor for every two students allowed the kids "to receive meaningful instruction by knowledgeable people," Elliot said.

Not all students came without prior experience, however.

Eleven-year-old Connor Hicks of Cumming had experience fishing in lakes all across Georgia and once caught a 15-pound striper fish in Lake Nottely, his personal record, before attending the clinic.

Although the clinic offered students a hands-on fly-fishing experience, Bill Hicks of Cumming, Connor's father, understands that the program is more than just teaching children how to cast a rod.

"The program allows the kids an opportunity to learn respect for the outdoors and for nature in general," Hicks said.

Students attending the clinic were awarded several prizes, including a Bass Pro Shop gift card and one-year student membership for Trout Unlimited, in addition to a certificate of completion.

The Tailwater chapter of Trout Unlimited hosts a monthly meeting at 6:30 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of every month at the Buford Trout Hatchery in Cumming.