Being a True Fishing Mentor

A few days ago, I went and fished a section of the South Platte River in Colorado that’s now called the “Charlie Meyers State Wildlife Area.” I hadn’t been able to bring myself there to fish for several years. You see, I knew Charlie Meyers when he was the outdoors editor of the Denver Post. He was a mentor and friend. We wrote the Little Red Book of Fly Fishing together. We actually fished this water fairly often as we worked on that book. And when he passed away a few years ago, it was a huge deal; Colorado felt so highly of Charlie that it named the fabled “Dream Stream” section of the South Platte in his honor. But I couldn’t go back there and cast a line without a little prodding.

The impetus finally came from my friend Scott Willoughby, who has taken over Charlie’s spot as the outdoors voice of the Denver Post (I might add, with considerable aplomb). Scott was gracious and wrote a nice story on the Meyers connection that appears in the paper this week. But the “behind-the-scenes” tale is that the more I hung out with Scott, the more I realized some uncanny similarities.

We were both cub reporters with a lot of initiative, but little experience when Charlie found us. We were both legitimate outdoorsmen, but we were writers first and foremost. On two different tracks, Charlie found the time and made the effort to attach himself to each of us. He brought both of us along on our own schedules. And now, though Charlie is gone, those tracks often come together.

When we think of “mentoring” in a fishing context, we naturally think about a father or grandfather taking a young boy or girl to the lake or river. And that is, no doubt, a wonderful thing. But being a fishing mentor isn’t necessarily tied to bloodlines, nor is it confined to certain ages. In Charlie’s case, he mentored thousands of people, some he never knew, through his work. And in Scott’s case and mine, he took a couple eager reporters under his wing and showed us everything he knew, no holds barred.

There’s not a story, nor a blog post, I write today where I don’t at least think for a slight moment how Charlie might comment on that issue, or how he might turn the phrase. The star might be gone, but I feel the warmth on my back, and am proud to make a shadow.

Being a fishing mentor can yield results in ways and shapes you might never imagine, and it can happen with anyone. Do yourself and the fishing world a favor, and find out how that happens. Maybe you’ll be around to see the seeds of your effort bear fruit. Maybe not. In either case, the ultimate reach and result of fostering the fishing ideal in one or two eager learners will extend far beyond your wildest imagination.

I am living proof of that.

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Stephanie Vatalaro

Stephanie Vatalaro

Stephanie Vatalaro is vice president of communications for the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation and its Take Me Fishing and Vamos A Pescar campaigns where she works to recruit newcomers to recreational fishing and boating and increase awareness of aquatic conservation. Stephanie grew up in the Florida Keys as the daughter of a flats fishing guide. Outside of work, you can find her fishing and boating with her family on the Potomac River in the Northern Neck of Virginia.