I got chatting with Waterville Valley resident, Ray Kucharski, at the Welcome to Summer Party at the Waterville Valley Golf Course last Saturday night. I call Ray “The Fish Whisperer” because of his fishing knowledge and wisdom. As you might expect, our conversation turned to fishing and the success of the Casting for Kirby Youth Fishing Derby and Fundamentals of Fly Fishing Workshop, both of which were held here in Waterville Valley. Ray is an enthusiastic member of our local Trout Unlimited chapter – the Pemigewasset Chapter of Trout Unlimited (TU) and he generously volunteers his time to help plan and implement both programs. Ray and his fellow TU volunteers especially enjoy helping young people get involved in fishing.
There’s nothing I like better than a good fishing story. Add a little good karma to it and my heart melts. Ray shared an email with me from Lyn Vignola, a member of Pemi TU and volunteer with the NH Fish and Game “Let’s Go Fishing” program. In the email, Lyn wrote, “I won the 50/50. Donated all proceeds back to the Lincoln/Woodstock Rec Center…..except for $20 I gave to ten year old returning derby assistant, Kris – quiet, kind, generous… he is an old soul in young body.
“Kris returned this year as a volunteer with the Lincoln Rec Center Adventure Club. These are the 10-14 yr old participants of the summer rec program. One of their requirements is to perform a community service. Assisting the Pemi TU members at the derby is Kris’s community service.
“As last year, he was paired to assist me with calling in lengths to the leader board.
“Before the derby even began, he beamed as he informed me that he had recently acquired the (almost too small, gently used and washed, consignment store) green fly fishing vest that he donned. When I asked what was in the pockets, the sole possession that he proudly pulled out was one small bobber. I suspect that the family finances don’t allow for extraneous things like fishing paraphernalia. He expressed that he loved to fish, but didn’t have as many opportunities to do so as he would like. I asked him if he would love to be fishing at the derby, and he wistfully expressed that he wished he could.
“Early in the derby a young boy was distraught because he had lost his bobber on a snagged line. Kris didn’t think twice, he reached into his tiny pocket and gave him the only possession of his fly vest. His face sunk a little later when that child apologized for losing Kris’s bobber – again on a snagged line. Kris never complained or whined – just quietly said “that’s OK.”
“Last year Kris was given $2 from his mother to buy lunch. The lunch was free, yet Kris put the $2 in the donation bucket.
“I am still kicking myself when I revived and released the couple of 10-11” brookies that some of the participants caught. I realized too late that Kris sure would have liked to keep one of those to take home. By the time I realized it, I told him if one more person caught one, then we would keep it for him to take home. He was sincere when he inquired how to divide the one fish to feed three – himself, mother and father. This kid is no “Eddie Haskell” (see “Leave it to Beaver”)…he is the real deal! You sense by now that my heart was melting all over the place! Unfortunately no one on my side of the pond caught anything further.
“He listened with interest when I explained some of the good things that Trout Unlimited does to preserve the integrity of the waters that trout reside in. I explained why it was important to revive a fish properly to assure it would live after catch and release. I expressed how I love the whole experience – not just the “catching” part of fishing – the peace and beauty of all things outdoors. I taught him and explained the ole phrase of “that’s why they call it fishing, not catching!” Regards, Lyn”
On June 14, Ray blogged about Lyn’s story in a post entitled, “Small World & Good Karma.”
Lyn’s story impressed the other LGF instructors, and it took off. Some say the story “had legs,” but Ray thinks it “grew fins” and swam upstream in a hurry. Before anyone could blink, someone raised the idea of inviting Kris to be a guest student at the final (casting and fishing) session of the Waterville Valley class on June 21. Soon instructors were suggesting items that Kris would need and offering to give them to him. Lyn and another instructor contacted his parents and they agreed with the plan. Here’s a follow-up email from Lyn after his big day:
“Thank you, thank you, to all the Pemi TU instructors! Somebody hit the fly fishing megabucks! 5 weight, 8 foot rod, reel & line (big thanks to Roy Coughlin!!), a wonderful assortment of flies from several of the instructors, fly boxes, a signed copy of “On The Waters: The Joys of Fly-Fishing” by Ray Kucharski, a one year membership to Trout Unlimited, Pemi TU T-shirt, Pemi TU sticker, Pemi TU patch, and lots of priceless patience and guidance…holy flyfishing jackpot!!!! Remember that trout he was pining for at the Lincoln/Woodstock Derby? Another student’s rainbow provided tonight’s dinner! A young man shell shocked in the best of ways!
“After the dust settles, I will follow up with mom and dad and Kris, and get back to you regarding his reaction. I hope to make myself available should he want to get out on the water this summer. Maybe stop by to give a mini session – i.e. teach and leave some materials to practice the improved clinch knot. Will check in next weekend to give him some nippers, zinger, and forceps and tiny fly box for his vest.”
Later, Lyn added:
“Dropped off zinger. Line cutters. Hemostats. Little teeny weenie box to fit in his miniature vest pocket. And safety whistle. Mom said they are going to get bigger vest soon for him.
“We also invited Kris and his dad to help us out on a NH Fish & Game stream survey in the Beebe River watershed during the week of July 14. They were both excited about this opportunity and his dad has Monday off.”
To bring this all back around to the Small World part of Ray’s original blog post, they were surprised to learn that two students in the Fundamentals of Fly Fishing class already knew Kris – the principal (now retired?) and a teacher from Kris’s school. Both of them said that Lyn’s initial assessment of Kris’s character was spot on.
It may take a village to raise a child, but it seems like a TU chapter may be helping to raise a fly fisherman.