Q & A With Pikes Peak Mentor Kaleb Lukert

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Meet and learn about Pike Peaks Mentor, Kaleb Lukert.

TMP: How many years have you been mentoring with The Mayfly Project?

Kaleb Lukert: I have been with TMP for two years.

TMP: What did you help with as a co-lead mentor this year?

KL: My role as co-lead mentor involves selecting fly patterns for the river, hauling gear, picking up lunch, and enjoying every second I have with the kids. I like to move around when the kids are learning to cast or playing games. This gives me an opportunity to get to know and spend time with each of our kids.

TMP: What do you think the kids got out of the program this year or what do you think was their favorite part?

KL: I feel that the kids learned patience, confidence, team work, and self-worth. I watched as every one of our kids grew in their fly fishing skills. It is always amazing to watch one of them really nail a cast or tie up a bug perfectly. You can just see their confidence building when this happens. It always puts a smile on my face.

TMP: Do any stories stick out in your mind of kiddos overcoming adversity or some way that this program helped them?

KL: We have had several kids that have had struggles they had to overcome during the different projects. One story that comes to mind is when one young man was so frustrated with getting knots in his line he was ready to quit. I sat down with him and we started untangling his leader and tippet. It took us a solid five minutes to get the knots out. During that time we talked about patience and how it affects everyday life. We also talked about the importance of self- control and how losing your temper affects those around you. I emphasized learning to control your temper and what part patience plays in having a positive attitude. It makes everything much easier. By the time we finished our talk the young man had settled down and managed to catch a fish on the very next cast. He was smiling from ear to ear . . . and so was I.

TMP: Do you think there is any long lasting impact to what TMP is providing the children you work with?

KL: I believe that every child that goes through a project takes away a skill or social tool that will have a lasting impact on their life. TMP provides a way to look at life a little differently. The experience allows us to use nature and water to help heal or mend some of the tough times that we all go through in life. I feel that every child deserves to be lifted up and celebrated. I prefer to use fly fishing as the vehicle to get us there. Something magical happens when a child gets his or her first fish on the fly. That exact experience causes many of us to get fly fishing in our blood. I see it in the face of every single child when it happens. I get goose bumps every time.

Meet Nick Grisham

Lead Mentor, Central Arkansas

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Nick was born and raised in the central Arkansas town of Benton. He grew up loving the outdoors and spent countless hours roaming local creeks and rivers catching bream and bass, which started his love for the sport of fishing. Nick wasn’t introduced to fly fishing until 2014, but became immediately obsessed with it as soon as he felt the first tug of a rainbow trout on the end of the line. The thrill of creating a fly and catching a trout with that fly is something that Nick will never forget.

In 2016, Nick joined up with The Mayfly Project to assist with the local Central Arkansas Project and it gave him a different perspective about foster care and fly fishing both. Due to a great upbringing in a stable family, Nick was naïve to the growing number of children in foster care across the country and the effects that it has on the children. It was quickly apparent that the introduction of the kids to the key aspects of fly fishing (casting, fly tying, catching fish, etc) was therapeutic for most of the kids that went through the program. Even if the kids did not enjoy the fishing, they just appreciated having mentors around to hang out with them and show an interest in them. After just a few outings, Nick was all-in for The Mayfly Project and was committed to helping it grow locally and nationally. In 2018, Nick was given the opportunity to be the Central Arkansas Project Lead Mentor and was appointed to the Board of Directors in 2019. Due to the rapid influx of mentors over the past year, there are now 2 projects in the Central Arkansas area. This means that even more local kids can experience the outdoors and fly fishing and use it as an outlet when dealing with the stresses of everyday life.

Outside of TMP, Nick is a Regional Operations Director for a regional reference laboratory. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his wife, Charity, and 2 young children, Finley and Witt. Nick is looking forward to introducing his children to both fly fishing and The Mayfly Project. He foresees that the mentoring of the foster children will be something that the entire family will be able to enjoy together for years to come.

Project Update - South West Arkansas

It’s less about whatever skill level we have as fly fishermen or our ability to teach another person to throw a perfect loop and more about the positive impact we can have on their life. That lasting impact comes from time invested talking, listening, laughing and just hanging out. Being a friend, a good human... it really is that simple. The hard exteriors start softening up and the mentees start to be able to just be a kid again.

I am seeing this unfold in front of me in this year’s project. This year we have our first TMP Alumni come back for a second year. Last year the mentee was a great kid, but very quiet and reserved. He didn’t so much as crack a smile through the first three outings, but then we went to the river. He picked the fly to fish with, the spot in the water, and where the casts would be made. Within the first few casts the he landed his first rainbow trout and the mentor landed his first real smile. On the final outing at Dry Run Creek, this mentee never stopped smiling and had this self confidence that we hadn’t seen.

This year I was stoked to find out that this mentee would join us again. What I saw in him the first session this year was totally different from the kid I met in the first session last year. This kid, he showed up with that same bright Dry Run Creek smile and the self confidence was just over the top, in a good way. He talked to us, he laughed with us, he had fun, and he encouraged me and reinforced to me that this matters. I wish I could “rewind the tape” and let you see the difference in this kid. I’m not saying it was all because of The Mayfly Project that this happened, but it did happen... and we were there to be part of it.

Matthew Bearden - TMP Lead Mentor, SW Arkansas

SW Arkansas project is mentoring 6 children this year at a group home for boys who are in foster care. This is their 3rd year mentoring at this group home and the boys are having a blast this summer, learning how to catch fish right at the group home, as well as on adventures in the community.

Meet Annette Hurley

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Annette Hurley grew up in El Dorado, Arkansas playing in the woods daily and going to the Ouachita River every weekend in the summer, water skiing and "cane pole" fishing with her family. Her dad taught her many life lessons, among them how to operate boats and back up trailers. During summers away from college at the Uof A, she was head of water skiing at Camp Sequoya in Bristol, Virginia, also teaching canoeing, sailing and making friends for life from all over the country. Her love of the outdoors led to developing an organic fertilizing business in Little Rock in the early 90's where she called herself "an entre-manure", due to the products used. She sold that business in 2001 and is now a Realtor with Remax Elite.

Fly fishing became a passion in her life during the early '90s after seeing A River Runs Through It. As one of few women who fly fished in the area, her men-friends from the local fly fishing club helped develop her skills and she has an eagerness to always be learning more about the sport. Annette mostly fishes the White River in N. Arkansas and the Little Red River closer to home. In 2016 another fly fisheman introduced her to TMP and from that moment she felt the need to give back to a sport that has given her so much pleasure and peace and an even greater love of nature. After meeting Jess and Laura, Annette became a mentor in 2017. Now she also checks references for TMP which has amazed her that so many other thoughtful, caring and awesome people all across the country have the same need to give back and help these foster kids learn a lifelong sport and learn the lessons of fly fishing that they can apply to everyday life.

Meet Mollie Simpkins

National Media and Outreach Coordinator - Bozeman, Montana

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Growing up outside Chicago, Mollie's family fishing roots run deep. However, it didn't become her mad passion until 2006 while living in Baltimore. It was during her first trip west, in 2007 to fish the Yellowstone area, in which she drove the the Beartooth Pass and knew she had to make the mountains her home. It was also at this time she discovered her love of philanthropy and fundraising.

Because of the loss of her mother to breast cancer in 1991, was drawn to the work and mission of Casting for Recovery. She served in many capacities with the Mid-Atlantic Program eventually becoming the Program Manager. In addition to her work with CfR, has served on the boards of Maryland Trout Unlimited, the WestSlope Chapter of Trout Unlimited in Missoula, and a Maryland-based non-profit, For 3 Sisters.

Early in 2018, Mollie discovered The Mayfly Project, and being aware of how transformative fly fishing and being on the water can be, was excited to become a mentor in Bozeman and work with kids in the foster system. Shortly thereafter, utilizing her years in the broadcast industry and work in nonprofit sector, became the National Media and Outreach Coordinator. Additionally, she is the lead on the TMP newsletter Holding Spaces and the Annual Foster the Rise 2-Fly Tournament.

For 'work' Mollie is the Director of Conservation and Education for the Sweetwater Fly Shop in Livingston, Montana. It’s no surprise that in her off time you’ll find her off on a fishing adventure locally or regionally.

Beyond the Fly Rod, Mentorship

Thank you to our friends at Casting for Recovery for spotlighting TMP in a recent blog post. We are grateful for the shout out and urge you to read more about them and the amazing work they do with women who have or have had breast cancer.


This week we’re learning about The Mayfly Project, Co-founders Kaitlin Barnhart and Jess Westbrook, weigh in on the importance of mentorship.

Mayfly Project Co-founders, Kaitlin Barnhart and Jess Westbrook

Mayfly Project Co-founders, Kaitlin Barnhart and Jess Westbrook

The gift of a fly rod continues to hold its value for years to come, but the gift of mentorship is a priceless gift with the ability to impact a person for their lifetime. Humans need connection, they need to know people are willing to step in, hold space for them, and lead them to places where they will find rest and recovery.

As founders of The Mayfly Project, we have found mentorship to be the best tool for supporting youth in foster care. Among the 250 mentors on our teams, many of them serve in other fly fishing communities and nonprofits, such as Casting for Recovery, Trout Unlimited, and Project Healing Waters. We’ve found that our mentors volunteer because they care deeply about leading others to the sport of fly fishing, and they believe in the healing powers of river-time.

Here are some unique ways mentors provide value to mentees beyond a fish in the net.

Mentors teach freedom– Whether it’s a young teenager who is trying to find a way to recover from trauma, or a woman who has just realized she has more life to live and wants to live it bigger, it takes mentors to lead these people to the rivers. Mentors are the training wheels needed to build the confidence in the mentees we work with–so that they can learn what they are capable of, and can find their new self through these adventures.

Mentors teach mentees their value– When mentors give their time, their entire weekends, or even their favorite stretch of river to a mentee, they are non-verbally speaking love into that person’s life. With our population of foster children, the more love in action, with little words needed, the longer-lasting the impact for our youth. They see us step in, and give our time for them. Sometimes the kids we mentor are surprised that we are there just for them–which tells them they matter in a world where they are often left behind. Beyond The Mayfly Project, we know that any mentor that gives their mentee the best stretch of water, or forgoes a day of fishing to help others, is showing what their time is worth. And to some, it can be a message that is truly needed at that time.

Seattle Mayfly Project. Photograph by Meryl Schenker

Seattle Mayfly Project. Photograph by Meryl Schenker

Seattle Mayfly Project. Photograph by Meryl Schenker

Mentors teach a cycle of healing– Many participants, or mentees, in therapeutic fly fishing programs are at a place where they have nothing to give. They come to the program worn out, struggling to find their life-balance, and they put their trust in mentors to teach, provide hope and fun. Once the participant has found their bearings in life, because of their experiences with their fly fishing therapy-driven program, they always want to give back. Once you have been lead to the water, you want to lead others to the water–it’s an important cycle that isn’t often acknowledged. In the fly fishing community, we value leading others to the sport to teach conservation efforts and to ensure a love of rivers will continue on beyond our generations. Mentorship is the gasoline to the engine of a cycle of healing humans, and healing our rivers.

The list of reasons mentorship can change lives is long, and so is the list of all the reasons we need to celebrate all of our volunteers, who continue to give and to raise funds for our fly fishing therapeutic nonprofits, and lead others to our sport. We always say, “It takes a village,” because it truly does take a village of humans who care about others and about leading them to these sacred river places.

TMP Mentee Curriuculum

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We are very excited to unveil yet another new program for our kids, the TMP Mentee Curriculum.  This curriculum details all parts of our program, teaches our mentees all about fly fishing and conservation. It has a unique section that directs the children in our program to notice the mental health qualities that fly fishing and time in nature provides.

Within this curriculum, our mentees can learn how to tie flies, which correlates with our Art of Tying program. We have special Vimeo videos of these tying steps created by professional tier Tim Camnisa, of Trout and Feather, made specifically for The Mayfly Project.  Additionally, it details all parts of our program, teaches our mentees all about fly fishing and conservation. It has a unique section that directs the children in our program to notice the mental health qualities that fly fishing and time in nature provides.

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Artist, Karl Schwartz, of Bozeman Creative, took Tim's work and made the tying steps into pictures. We can't wait for our mentees to use this curriculum and videos to tie flies!

We know this curriculum will continue to impart truths into the lives of the kids we are honored to serve, beyond their time with The Mayfly Project.

We are grateful to the companies and individuals who contributed to support the curriculum.  100% of the donations made went to fund the project paying for artwork, printing and shipping.

Presenting Sponsor: Smith Fly

Supporting Sponsors: Cortland - Women, Wine & Waders - Fin & Feather Flies - Damsel Fly Fishing - Next Step Innovation - Riggs Cat - Rods, Reels and Heels, Stickers That Stick, Sweetwater Fly Shop.

Donors: Arkansas Fly Fishers, Asmus Farm Supply, Billy Kay and Holden Asmus, Christine Atkins, Jaired Budd, The Dornsblaser Family, Robin Greenslade, The Hawk Family, Jay Langston Family, Tillman Pittman, River Valley Horticulture Inc., Caryn Rodman, Erin Schwartz, Mollie Simpkins, Carmen Weyland, The Woodward Family, Zachary Yauch.

Meet Heather Sees

National Fundraising Coordinator - Bellefonte, Pennsylvania

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Heather was born and raised in a very small town (Kushequa) in Northwest Pennsylvania. Growing up she spent the summers with her family spin fishing the small creeks in the Allegheny National Forest.

Heather’s passion/obsession for fly fishing developed shortly after moving to Colorado in 2011. While living there she became very active with Colorado Trout Unlimited serving as the President of The Greenbacks and sitting on the board of Colorado Trout Unlimited. As part of this role, she spent the majority of her time and focus on engaging, educating and empowering the younger generation to become our next conservation stewards.

In 2017 Heather discovered The Mayfly Project and thought it would be the perfect opportunity to tap into existing Trout Unlimited resources all while sharing her passion with a group of kids who may not have the opportunity to get out on the water. Heather joined TMP as the Denver Lead Mentor and shortly after kicking off the Denver project joined Jess and Kaitlin as the National Fundraising Coordinator. In Heather’s role, she works with our projects across the country to develop a local fundraising plans while engaging the local communities. Heather has since moved back to her home state of Pennsylvania and is helping to bring The Mayfly Project to her hometown!

Beyond The Mayfly Project, Heather holds an Accounting degree from Penn State and works on the Finance team of an International organization. In her free time, you can find her exploring her new home waters and those small creeks she grew up fishing in search of wild trout!

TMP Activity Reward Buttons

The Mayfly Project has developed a reward system where our kids can earn buttons by completing tasks throughout the project.  Kids can also proudly display these buttons on their drawstring backpacks to show their achievements and progression through the project.  This will the goal to build self-esteem through achieving goals, and to help youth stay focused on the TMP goals. Instructional and interactive - what a great way to keep kids engaged and excited.

Just check out the cool buttons they can earn!

Casting Button - Way to Earn – Casting a Yarn Fly in a hula Hoop.

Catch and Release - Way to Earn - Catching and Releasing a Fish Or Demonstrate how to properly hold and release with a plastic fish.

Keep our Rivers Clean - Way to Earn - Pick up 3 items of trash during a fishing outing.

Aquatic Invasive Species - Way to Earn - Complete AIS game.

Knot - Way to Earn - Demonstrate a proper Clinch, Surgeons, Uni or other knot used in fly fishing.

Fish On - Way to Earn – Kids get these on their last session with their gear. The kids will also leave with gear so they can continue to fish or “fish on”.

Fly Tying - Way to Earn - Tie a fly (simple or complex does not matter). Fly does not have to be pretty. 😉

Entomology - Way to earn – Turn over a rock in the stream and identify a bug on the rock.

Safety - Way to Earn - This button is given when a child is wearing their glasses without having to be told.

The Art of Tying

We are very excited to be launching a new program for 2019, The Art of Tying. With the support of the Windgate Foundation, art by Karl Schwartz of Bozeman Creative, Design by Niki Cousins, and TMP specific tying videos, created by professional tier, Tim Cammisa of Trout and Feather, we are ready to teach our mentees the meditative art of tying! Also we would like to thank Ballistic Bugs Custom Flies for providing the fly tying materials!

Mentees receive these pre-packaged supplies, with instructions on the card inside, and they learn to tie with their mentors. These skills help the children with learning patience, building self esteem, and create moments for them to find brain rest from anxiety and think about the big fish they will catch with their own fly.