Inspired by the birth of his son, a Benton, Arkansas man and his wife have developed a unique course based on the life cycle of a mayfly that introduces the sport of fly fishing to foster children.
Jess Westbrook and his wife, Laura, recently explained the details of their mentoring program, aptly titled The Mayfly Project, to a reporter from Arkansas Online.
“Our program is based on the mayfly life cycle,” Jess said. “The kids go through different stages. Each stage is different and has its own rewards. These sessions, or stages, include fly-tying lessons, fly-casting instructions and fishing outings. The fifth and final session, the kids and mentor go out for a daylong fishing trip. We want to make the last session a big deal.”
“With my dad as my teacher and mentor, I spent weeks every summer chasing stocker rainbow trout in Roaring River, Missouri. I knew that I wanted to give back using fly-fishing. There were a lot of sleepless nights thinking how I could give back. In 2014, our son, Kase, was born, and I soon realized that I had a heart for foster children. That’s when the idea of The Mayfly Project was born.”
“We are receiving emails almost daily from possible supporters and volunteers. Right now, we have four mentors in Arkansas and two in Idaho. Currently, we are in the process of getting 11 more volunteers ready to go from all over the U.S.—Pennsylvania, Wyoming, South Dakota and Maryland. Believe it or not, I have had to tell people from South Africa and the United Kingdom that I just didn’t think we were ready to venture overseas.”
“I had one child ask if he could call me Dad,” Westbrook said. “Try not tearing up after that. One kid was screaming at the top of his lungs to Laura, who was standing on the bank, ‘Look at this fish, Mrs. Laura!’ And he kept saying, ‘Man, I am good at this.’ We recently had a cookout with some kids, which was supposed to last from 4 to 6. At this cookout, we were teaching kids how to tie flies, and at 7:30, we finally had to tell them we couldn’t tie anymore because we needed to go home to get Kase to bed. They just couldn’t get enough of it.”