Sunday, May 23, 2010

DownStream Fly Fishing 2010

"Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do."

I had the opportunity to contemplate this quote, by the legendary college-basketball coach John Wooden, all day yesterday. It was written on the backs of the t-shirts everyone was wearing at the 4th annual DownStream fly fishing event.

DownStream fly fishing's Program Director, Ryan Miller, describes the program like this: "DownStream fly fishing was created as part of a movement to inspire people with Down Syndrome to try fly fishing. It is my hope that through fly fishing, people with Down Syndrome can improve coordination, fine tune motor skills, boost social skills and attain a sense of accomplishment while having fun. Additionally, my goal is to include family members in order to promote family activities in an outdoor environment." All these goals and more were met yesterday.

You can read more about the history of the program at Downstream's blog, and how Ryan's brother, Mark, helped inspire the program. They'll be posting pics and will tell you all about yesterday's event at the blog, so I'll just say a few, quick words, about the highlights of my day.

What a joy it was to watch kids with Down Syndrome "do what they can," with gusto! I've never given more high-fives or enjoyed landing a fish more than I did with the kids at this event. Also inspiring were the young volunteers who netted fish and co-fished, for lack of a more artful word, for and with the participants. And I was especially tickled to hear the young angler I was co-fishing with repeat this fly fisher's mantra to his mother: "One more cast."

The kids went from station to station, making art, tying flies, learning to cast, and fishing. Actually, there was one more station, manned by my friend, Adrian Psuty, and me. The bugs station. But midges and mayflies in an aquarium were no competition with the fishing station and pretty soon, we were all fishing. Which was a good thing, as Adrian is an exceptional casting teacher and has a real knack with kids.

Which brings me to my favorite recurring experience of the day. Time after time, I watched the kids track Ryan down with something exciting and urgent to say to him. No matter how busy he was coordinating the event, he stopped what he was doing and completely engaged the young person. The extent to which the kids truly enjoyed him, and he them, was obvious. And it was obvious that the day was, as Ryan told the volunteers first thing in the morning, all about the kids.

This morning, I've been reflecting on yesterday's event. Coincidentally, "The Longest Silence: A Life in Fishing," a collection of essays written by Thomas McGuane, caught my eye on the bookshelf. I pulled it down a thumbed through it.

In his introduction, McGuane "suggests what fishing ought to be about: using the ceremony of our sport and passion to arouse greater reverberations within ourselves." I'm still reverberating from the 2010 DownStream fly fishing event.