It started 15 years ago with a conversation in a car. Terry Wittorp and Tim Scott were on their way to a chapter meeting of the Kalamazoo Chapter of Trout Unlimited.
“Man, I am worried that we aren’t going to have enough flies for our youth camp in Michigan this year,” Terry said.
Tim, who is also a member of the Saint Joe River Valley Flyfishers (an affiliate of FlyFishers International), chimed in with a solution.
“Well, we can’t let that happen,” he said. “I know 13 guys from my FFI affiliate who would tie 100 flies each.”
Terry is a better chef than tier. So, he made a delicious spread of food. Tim gathered a bunch of local tiers, and everyone came together for good food, good conversation and a fair amount of tying. They ended up with over 2,500 flies for the Kalamazoo youth camp.
Tim thought maybe they would do the “tie-a-thon” every few years, but at the end of the first day, one of the tiers remarked on how much fun the evening was.
“What are we doing next year,” the tier asked.
The Tie-a-thon was born. Nearly 15 years later, Terry and Tim have motivated tiers to donate over 165,000 hand-tied flies. Price these flies at $3 a piece, and the overall contribution is close to $500,000.
The Tie-a-thon has donated flies to non-profits who use fishing as a form of therapy to help people heal. In addition to the Kalamazoo camp, beneficiaries have included TU partners such as Project Healing Waters, Casting for Recovery, Reel Recovery and many others. This year, the Tie-a-thon is supporting Trout Unlimited’s 25 youth camps around the nation.
Terry and Tim’s secret goal, and it is now a little less-than-secret, is for the Tie-a-thon send 1,000 flies to each of the 25 TU youth camps in the country. This year, they have approximately 15,000 flies already in hand that they will distribute them to the youth camps.
“The best part of this is calling people out of the blue, and asking, ‘hey, would you like ten thousand flies?’” Tim said. Jess Westbrook, one of the founders of the Mayfly Project, which uses fly-fishing as a form of therapy for foster kids, was a recent Tie-a-thon recipient. It took Tim 10 minutes to convince Jess he wasn’t a prank caller.
Tim and Terry both talk about how the Tie-a-thon has enabled them to meet great people around the country.
“There is a lot of junk on social media, but our tie-a-thon Facebook page has been a great way to communicate to a lot of people about a really worthwhile cause,” Tim said. He and Terry are accepting flies for TU’s youth camps until May 22.
I asked Terry why he has helped to keep the Tie-a-thon going for 15 years.
“I am blessed,” he said, “and it’s nice to give back to these organizations that use fishing to help others.”
I plan to tie up a few dozen flies in the next few weeks, and I hope you will, too. If you do, please mail them to Tim Scott, 711 Forest Avenue, South Bend, Indiana, 46616.