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On Saturday, Joey’s Fly Fishing Foundation sponsored a fly-rod-building class for 19 people. Batson, an educational group from Cathalamet, Wash., taught the class. The class took place at the Sheridan College downtown Main Street campus.

The students ranged in age from early teens to near senior citizen. All were able to learn the techniques for making their own fly rods from shaping the corks, locating the spline, marking the guides and wrapping the guides.

Shortly after that, the students were able to apply the appropriate coating to the wrappings on the rod and dry them on a rotating rack. B y the end of the day the students had constructed their rod.

The rod-building instructors, John and Dan Doumit and Doug Martin, came to Sheridan to teach the course at Joey Puettman’s request. Puettman had taken the course in Washington and was so impressed with the program that he thought it imperative that folks in Sheridan learn the skill.

Puettman learned that John Doumit had taught vocational agriculture at Cathlamet for 30 years and had learned rod building from a master, Bud Mickelsen. Mickelsen has built rods for more than 60 years and was amenable to sharing his skills with John.

John started teaching rod building to his vo-ag students and soon discovered that there were some changes occurring with his more troublesome students. He noticed that they were attending class, paying attention and not acting up.

The students started to learn that they could create something with their hands, but the effort took time and patience. The life skills they learned would later serve them well.

John contended that the students learned to value their work and their time. They developed pride in their creations and a sense of personal value. He said that some of the students who had truancy problems ended up coming to school for his course and sometimes skipped out after it.

He also noted that it is hard to teach a student if he isn’t in class — something the rod-building course accomplished for at least one hour.

News of the high school rod-building class spread around the state and soon John was bombarded with requests from other teachers to instruct them on rod-building skills. To date, John has taught 120 teachers in Washington and Idaho.

Puettman’s emphasis on mentoring fits well with Batson’s program. While the people taking the course paid $225 for the rod materials and instruction, they were also asked to give of their time to mentor others.

It was interesting to note that one of the assistants was a young fellow, Christopher Aldrete, who had built his own fly rod earlier this winter and now was helping a fellow construct his fly rod.

Earlier in the day, Christopher’s sister, Marissa, was assisting the students.

Joey’s Fly Fishing Foundation is having such a positive influence on the young folks in Sheridan. Throughout the winter Joey’s has offered rod-building classes and fly-tying clinics.

The youngsters are discovering that they can create things of value through their handiwork. They are also discovering that there are some fun things to do after school and during vacations. They will also be able to help other youngsters to become fly tyers, rod builders and fly fishers.

Starting in early June, Joey’s Fly Fishing Foundation will offer four and two-day fly fishing camps. The camps will run through August, and then rod-building classes will start next fall and winter.

Sheridan is a better place for our youths thanks to Joey’s Fly Fishing Foundation and the Batson instructors. In the future, the students in the rod-building class will mentor others and enable them to build and grow.

For more information about Joey’s Fly Fishing Foundation, go to www.joeysflyfishing.com or call 306-763-0897.

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