Fly fishing gear

CMC’s fly fishing course has been hooking students for decades

Fly fishing, which has been in CMC since the 1980s, is more of an aesthetic sport. (Courtesy of Paul Nute)

Claremont McKenna College’s fly fishing physical education class may be a tradition passed down through the ages, but it’s also the perfect opportunity for students to experience something completely new.

The course, which has been a constant in CMC’s physical education curriculum for more than three decades, teaches the intricacies of fly fishing techniques to seasoned anglers, enthusiasts and fascinated beginners.

“It’s a really nice break in the middle of my day,” said Lara Cunningham SC ’22. “And even though I already knew how to fly fish, I think I’m still learning a lot.”

Fly fishing is organized on Parents Field once a week. Instructor Damian Ross provides special experiences for his students each session, taking advantage of the uniqueness of the activity.

“At the end of the semester, we [might be] go to Bonelli [Regional Park] and Puddingstone [Reservoir] throw nets,” Cunningham said.

Having previously fly-fished in Michigan, Cunningham explained how she approaches the sport.

“The more you do it, the more you get a sense of the line. And I feel like the more I fly fish, the more I realize that it’s not so much how you move the rod, but more how the line moves when you cast,” a- she declared.

Cunningham also said the sport is more aesthetically pleasing than normal fishing.

“It’s more of an art, like how you cast for regular fishing doesn’t really have an effect,” she said. “Fly fishing gets its name from the use of bait that mimics flies landing on water.”

Ross echoed the sentiment.

“I think it’s more of an art form…. It almost feels like fly fishing is a step out of conventional fishing,” he said. “It’s a graceful sport. It really is.”

In addition to participating in the activity, Ross teaches important lessons about the biological aspects of sport.

“In the classroom we study insects and the process of turning aquatic insects into adults…and so that’s what we represent with our artificial flies that we tie or buy from a fly shop,” he said. .

Ross’ passion for learning the intricacies of the sport began nearly forty years ago.

“I was an avid fisherman and had started fly fishing in the 1980s,” he said. “Some 5C sports trainers started a fly fishing club called Inland Fly Fishers. I joined the club and got more involved through that.

The idea of ​​hosting this unique class came a decade later.

“The class actually started about 30 years ago, I mean, and it started with [former CMC president] Jack Starck, John Bianco and John Zinda, who was the sporting director at the time,” Ross said.

Bianco and Zinda – a former professional fly fisherman and casting teacher – later influenced Ross in practicing casting and learning new techniques. Zinda died in 1994, a significant loss for the friends and colleagues of CMS.

Five years later, in 1999, the class was left without an instructor after Bianco’s retirement, nearly ending its long legacy. But fresh out of college, Ross had other plans.

“I enjoyed the course so much that I thought, well, it’s a shame to let it go,” he said. “And so, after graduating from Pitzer, as a college employee, Mike Sutton – the swimming and water polo coach at the time – wrote the letter for me and we launched.”

Since then, Ross has been teaching the class for 23 years.

“[Fly fishing] is one of my favorite activities in my life,” he said. “It’s a wonderful thing to be able to share with young people [since they’re] able to learn quickly and possess these skills and knowledge for the rest of their lives. It’s exciting for me to be with the students to teach something that I love so much.