It’s back. Hot damn it’s back. Two steps out the door at lunch and it hit me like a ton of bricks. We’ve turned the corner. The nose knows and there’s no arguing with the nose. It’s Spring, kids. Smell that dirt-n-worms on the breeze? Two or three full lungs of the stuff and I tell my seasonal affective disorder to piss-off. Bring on the mud and melanin and wandering overblown streams in soggy, grinning elation for fish like swimming middle-fingers. I could care less if we hit zero-degree-fahrenheit next week. I could care less if we catch another save-the-women-and-children-this-one-will-be-a-doozie storm. Right now the snow is hollerin’ uncle to low-50’s, retreating from the sidewalks and the haggard-and-hopeful grass is starting to find its backbone. We’ve turned the corner and that fat Phil in Punxsutawney said it’s coming early. Shake hands. This won’t be a clean fight. Let’s get it on.
I’m proud of my kids. They do well in school. They enjoy the sports they play. They’re respectful and generally keep their noses clean. But what makes me the most proud is their love of the outdoors…curiosity and wonder and freedom at it’s purest. And it’s important to me that I do everything I can to keep them excited and active and involved…because I know someday the outdoors will need them and their passion to respect and fight for the wild places that are left when I’m no longer on the planet.
Cameron Mortenson and Kevin Powell feel the same way. Which is why they started Fishy Kid, a web-based initiative to get kids and families excited about fly fishing and spending time together on the water. And also why I’m excited to be supporting their efforts with proceeds from fishingpoet t-shirt sales.
I had the opportunity to ask Cameron a few questions about Fishy Kid and its place in the “take a kid fishing” world.
OK, let’s start with an easy one…what is Fishy Kid about? Why does it exist?
Fishy Kid is another way to reach the next generation of anglers, stewards, and outdoor enthusiasts and their families. Fishy Kid exists to inspire creativity and interest in all things fly fishing through education, contests, and giveaways.
You say on the site that it’s brought to us by two dads who love to play outside with their kids…any particular experience stand out as the catalyst for starting Fishy Kid?
Kevin Powell and I approached a few of our sporting artist friends early in 2009 with an idea about creating a coloring book that we intended to link off our personal blogs and spread it around the internet through other friends. As the coloring book came together Kevin and I were so impressed with the quality of the pages and could immediately see the potential of where Fishy Kid could go that Kevin began work on the Fishy Kid website and I worked on gear sponsorships in order for us to give away some great gear away to those that joined and participated.
How is Fishy Kid different than other orgs that focus on getting kids outdoors?
Well…”organization” might be a little far off from what we are (laughing) but we do try to keep up with everything that is going on, promote the website, coloring book, and whatever contest we might be in the middle of. The toughest part about working on Fishy Kid is finding the time to keep up with it. Kevin and I both have careers and families and sadly Fishy Kid becomes secondary for periods here and there.
I’d say the biggest difference so far is that, by design, we’re sticking pretty close to the fly fishing side of things, since there really aren’t as many youth initiatives within fly fishing. That way even if a child starts with a cricket and cork, the exposure is there for them pick up a fly rod and reel later on if they chose. It is also a great opportunity for our fly fishing sponsors to get their products into the hands of the youth in the sport, since many are designing gear that is specific to young fly fishing anglers, which is really neat.
How much of an effect do you think social media is having on getting people to care about getting outdoors, or to care about the outdoors, period?
The initial launch, promotion, and familiarity industry-wide about Fishy Kid would not have been possible without having social media as part of the equation. It really has been astounding to see how far-reaching ideas can be through the use of Facebook and Twitter and we really appreciate everyone that has spread the word about the website to their friends and family.
I think that social media, blogs, forums, and other areas of the internet provide an incredible amount of information and support for parents who then see other families outside camping, hiking, and fly fishing and realize that it really can be done. It just takes a little more thought process and preparation sometimes.
How important is it that the outdoors, or fishing specifically, be a part of our kids’ lives?
A neat realization for me as a father has been seeing how interested my own children are about being outside and as they get older want to fish as well. Fly fishing isn’t something that I’ll do alone ever again. My daughter or son will almost always be along for trips as well and it is really exciting to expose them to the different elements of this sport and help them understand how valuable the resources that we have are.
What’s been the biggest success you’ve had so far?
I’d have to say our biggest success so far has been the participation and continual growth of membership of the Fishy Kid website since it’s launch in July of 2009. And secondly, the support that the industry as a whole has given the Fishy Kid website from the start. We launched with a couple dozen gear sponsors and that has grown to almost one hundred sponsors in the past year and a half. We hope to see both grow this year.
Any big plans in the near (or relatively near) Fishy Kid future?
Admittedly we’ve started off kind of slow in 2011, but we do have a few plans for this year with a new saltwater-themed coloring book being released this summer, another fishing photo contest that will run through summer break. There’s a few other ideas bouncing around as well.
Fishy Kids in all 50 states yet? Any other countries?
I’m excited to say that Fishy Kid is worldwide! We have membership all over the place and we really try to keep that in mind when we plan a contest so that everyone can participate and be a part of the Fishy Kid website.
Is your kid a Fishy Kid? I know mine are…and it’s a very cool thing. Make sure you register when you visit their site – fishykid.org. It’s free and not only will you be able to get in on the fun, kid-centric contests and unbelievable prizes (they’ve given away a canoe, fly rods, waders and other great gear), you can also download the Fishy Kid coloring book…which is full of reknown artists drawings for your young’un to dress up with their crayons and markers. And remember, proceeds from the sale of fishingpoet t-shirts are going to Cam, Kevin and their Fishy Kid efforts.
Cold is no excuse. There’s not an hour in the woods or on the water worth rolling over after the alarm and slinking up behind 4 a.m.’s ugly sister, maybe tomorrow. No, no, no, we get up and get into our wool-and-Lycra-blend socks and long underwear – eyes swole, head still soupy – shuffle to the kitchen for coffee and lean on the counter, waiting for some toast to put peanut butter on.
It’s winter boss. Good and deep and cold, cold, cold. And in the end, the worth of the day, the measure of life, hard-fought and earned, is slowly revealed as blood returns to your fingers and toes and face on the drive home. Fish or no fish. Deer or no deer. Geese or no geese. We walk into the house, giant as Paul Bunyan, smelling like fresh air and refusing to admit just how crazy we might actually be.