KETCHIKAN — Fifth-grader Nathaniel Johnson frowned in concentration as he bent over his glowbug fly clamped in a vice in a Fawn Mountain Elementary classroom recently.
As the fly-fishing workshop teacher and Fawn Mountain counselor, Norm Noggle, helped to wrap the small blob of pink foam to the hook with kevlar thread, Nathaniel explained his outlook on fishing.
“I don’t care what fish we go after, I just want to go fishing.”
Fish and wildlife technician Mike Wood was assisting students in the class as well. Noggle said that the Alaska Department of Fish and Game donated the materials for the class, including rods and reels the students could use to practice casting in the gymnasium.
Fourth-grader Zeke Roberts said he signed up for the class because “it seemed fun,” and has found the tying and use of different tools like the small pliers most interesting.
As Noggle tied a pink foam “egg” for visiting Schoenbar student Jordan Anderson, he explained that the pink color and small, round shape of the foam is important to simulate a salmon egg dragging downstream.
“This is going to be the blood part of the egg,” he explained to the students, “like the yolk.” He added that the glowbug fly would be effective at attracting trout, salmon and steelhead.
Noggle said one girl in a class told him her grandfather had been “so impressed that she could tie an egg-sucking leech.”
Anderson’s fourth-grade sister, Amanda Anderson, said she also thought a fishing class sounded like it would be fun.
“I like fishing for trout, mostly,” she said.
Jordan and Amanda’s father, Dan Anderson, was helping students in the class as well, and said he has taken his children fishing quite a few times. He said he plans to help them continue honing their fly-fishing and fly-tying skills.
“We’re already getting a couple kits,” he said, that include learning rods and fly-tying equipment.
Fifth-grader Zoie Kelly had experience with Noggle’s fishing classes as a participant in his fishing 101 class last spring. Each spring, Noggle teaches a basic fishing series which culminates in a saltwater fishing trip on the Ketchikan School District’s F/V Jack Cotant.
When asked what she likes most about fishing, Kelly answered, “Free food.” Her favorite fish is anything smoked, and she enjoys halibut fishing with her grandfather the most.
She said she looks forward to practicing fly-fishing at Ward Lake.
Fourth-grader Alyssa Ray said she hasn’t fished for a long time, but her mother enjoys fishing and has promised to take her out to use the flies.
She added that her mother already has a special case in which to display the flies Ray is making.
“I thought I was going to be not all that good at it, but it was fun and after I did it for a while, it got easy,” she said.
Fifth-grader Mark Jasper said he also expected fly-tying to be more difficult, but found that it was mostly learning the initial hook wrapping that was challenging. He said he fishes often off the dock at his grandfather’s business, George Inlet Lodge.
Noggle said he is looking forward to the school’s annual camping trip at Naha Bay in May, where he will be able to fly-fish with the fifth-graders who were in the class series. He said Wood already has offered the loan of supplies for that adventure.
Noggle said he has been tying flies for about 40 years, and has been all over the U.S. and Canada fishing from his drift boat. He said he would love to go to Ireland or Tierra del Fuego to flyfish for bonefish or tarpon.
“I’m pretty much into it,” he said.