The Susquehannock Fly Fishers, established in the late 1960s, isn’t just a group of avid fly fishermen – it’s a conservation group, too.

“What we like to do is provide education in different ways of fly fishing,” said club member Gary Robson.

For example, Robson taught fly tying to local students – adults and kids – for decades, at the Lebanon County Career & Technology Center and elsewhere. The group also goes to outdoor youth programs, such as the one coming up through the Lebanon County Sportsmen’s Federation in June. But some of its most rewarding volunteer efforts don’t actually involve fly fishing at all.

Each year, for the last 15 years or so, the Susquehannock Fly Fishers have sponsored and organized outings of IU13 students for a morning of fishing.

Robson said the idea was first proposed by the late Roger Carpenter of Palmyra, who was president of the club. The club found that school officials were receptive to the idea, and identified an equally willing partner in the Red Rose chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America, which has a pond in Schaefferstown.

The premise is simple. Take the kids fishing there for a morning – bobber fishing – and provide the necessary ingredients for a fun and rewarding day, such as patient and expert mentors drawn from the club’s ranks and a picnic lunch of hot dogs, snacks, and chips.

The annual effort has grown since it started, and today sees the Susquehannock Fly Fishers hosting three mornings each spring ranging from two to four dozen kids in a single outing.

“They enjoy it,” said Robson. “Some of the kids look forward to it from year to year.”

The club provides all the equipment – the rods, the reels, the bait.

Club members provide some light one-on-one instruction on casting, but are also able to cast for the kids or maybe even hook a fish for the student and then let them reel it in. It all depends on the skill level of the student and what they want to get from the experience.

When LebTown visited for the first outing of the year, the weather was not ideal. “It was a miserable day,” said Robson. “Foggy and damp.”

But that didn’t stop anyone from having a great time.

“Those kids were out there and they loved it,” said Robson, who lives in South Lebanon Township.

“They fished the whole morning.”

Amanda Albright, a life skills support teacher at Northern Lebanon High School, said she first learned about the program in 2015 when she started in her current position.

“I attended my first event nine months pregnant and had no idea what to expect,” said Albright. “Needless to say, it was amazing, and my class has been attending every year.”

Albright said the students look forward to the event every year, and that as long as the fishing club continues to host the event, they’ll continue to be there.

“It’s an excellent way for the students to practice different skills such as patience,” said Albright. “The members of the fishing club are so helpful, kind, and considerate of the students’ various needs.”

Albright said the students love to practice their fishing skills with the help of club members and other district support staff who attend. Students also get to bond with other life skills students from around the county.

“This year, I even had some students bring their own fishing rods and tackleboxes to the event,” said Albright. “They feel so proud when they catch a fish.”

It’s an enjoyable experience for the volunteers, too, said Robson, adding that the IU13 partnership has turned out to be a very good and successful program for the club.

With the outings held typically on the first few Mondays of May, about 12 to 15 volunteers came out, including some spouses, out of approximately 40 club members total.

“It’s not just that we are in it for ourselves, we do it for the community as well,” said Robson.

Robson said that sometimes they could use more volunteers, but work schedules of club members can be an obstacle. If you want to join the club yourself, you will need a sponsor, and the best way of finding one is bumping into a member while you’re out fishing one day.

“This program has grown and expanded since I first started my position as a life skills support teacher,” said Albright. “I love being able to collaborate with other life skills support teachers to organize the event each year.”

“Without a doubt, every student makes memories that they will cherish forever.”

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Davis Shaver is the publisher of LebTown. He grew up in Lebanon and currently lives outside of Hershey, PA.

William Trostel is a full-time freelance photographer/videographer based out of Lebanon City. Beginning his career as a hobbyist trying to film his friends skateboarding, his camera quickly turned into a passion. Within two years of being a hobbyist, William began to book portrait sessions and commercial...

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