For those at the 36th Annual Conservation Event and Fundraiser for the Sebago Chapter of Trout Unlimited, it was all about introducing women and kids to the sport of fly fishing.

“Our five-year goal is to introduce 1,000 young people and women to fly fishing with an on-the-water experience,” said David Miller, board president of the Sebago Chapter of Trout Unlimited, surveying a room full of fly fishing and conservation enthusiasts at the Woodfords Club in Portland.

An afternoon of book signings, fly tying demonstrations and guest speakers slid smoothly into a sit-down dinner put on by Salvage BBQ and a live auction for well over 100 attendees.

“When people fall in love with fly fishing, they will go to great lengths to conserve, protect and restore our waterways and fish,” Miller continued. “The future of the environment is in young peoples’ hands. Kids need to be immersed in nature, and when they are, they love it. They’ll vote for it. They’ll protect it.”

Case in point, 14-year-old Jason Miller of Falmouth has been fly fishing for 10 years. He enjoyed the afternoon event with his father, Jeff, who is the senior product developer for hunting and fishing at L.L. Bean.

“We do conservation projects, youth education and habitat improvement,” explained Steve Heinz, conservation chair of the Sebago Chapter, which has 600 members and is one of five chapters in Maine.

Board Vice President Evelyn King started the Maine Women Flyfishers with fellow fly fishers Jessica Sullivan of Cape Elizabeth, Lindsey Rustad, a research ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service, and Olga Booth, an Alaska resident.

“We’re really excited,” said Rustad of Cumberland. “This is meant to make a safe environment for women to learn fly fishing.”

“It’s a ladies’ sport because it takes forethought, patience and finesse,” explained fly tier and author Sharon E. Wright, who is well known for her presentation flies. “It doesn’t take a lot of physical strength and it’s easy to learn. It’s also very Zen. You’re on the water, very connected with the whole natural experience. The line, the water, the movement … the whole spiritual and emotional experience of fly fishing is familiar to women.”

Indeed. It’s a sport and a pastime that is carried on through the ages.

“We’re fishing buddies,” said Cliff Rugg, of Portland, who attended the event with his pal Bill Claus, of Kennebunkport. “We fish everywhere, from Maine to Montana.”

Margaret Logan is a freelance writer who lives in Scarborough. She can be reached at:

[email protected]

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