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Trout Unlimited offers free fly-tying class

The relentless cold weather has caused the winter-time blues for many people, and if anyone is looking for a cure, Dale Drake of Birmingham just might have the answer.
Drake is the instructor of a fly-tying class that meets every other Saturday morning at the Blair Senior Service Center in Altoona. Men, women, and children of all ages are making this class a success because of the growing interest in fly-tying.
“I wanted to learn to fly-fish when I was a kid, probably 15 or 16 years old,” explained Drake of his beginning interest in the outdoors. “I got a fly rod and bought some really cheap flies that fell apart quickly, so I thought I’ll learn to tie my own flies.”
He went to the library, signed out a book on fly-tying, and taught himself the skill.
As he grew older, Drake’s fly-tying skills increased, and he has traveled all over the U.S. and Canada to fly-fish. Add this to 29 years as a math teacher at Grier School, and that makes Drake an expert instructor for the course.
The class is sponsored by Trout Unlimited, an organization to preserve cold-water fisheries. The class is free, and Trout Unlimited provides all of the necessary tools, materials, and hooks.
“We have kids in there nine to ten years old right next to senior citizens in their seventies and eighties. There’s a whole range of ages and abilities,” said Drake.
Two classes are available: fly-tying for beginners and advanced fly-tying.
Drake has taught the class for more than 10 years, and interest in it has grown enormously. It started with no more than 15 participants, and on Saturday there were 45 people in the beginner class and 10 in the advanced.
During the year, Drake is also an active member of Trout Unlimited.
“It is an organization to preserve the cold-water fisheries. Our goal is to keep the cold-water fisheries healthy. We’re always environmentally concerned,” he said.
The main concern of the organization is to provide a safe and healthy environment for fish, and the way TU does that is by protecting the local streams.
“We do acid rain monitoring, stock trout, have our own hatchery in cooperation with some other people, raise 500 trout a year that we stock in different streams, stream improvements, and clean-ups,” added Drake.
TU works in conjunction with the Department of Environmental Conservation to improve stream conditions. Currently, the organization is working to improve Piney Creek near Williamsburg.
In February, TU has scheduled a booth at the Jaffa Mosque Outdoor Show to tie flies and hand out information to the public. The organization also has some fundraisers throughout the year. For example, TU had its first ever banquet this year which raised $3,500.
“All our money goes to improve streams,” added Drake.
The Blair County Chapter of Trout Unlimited has approximately 120 members. Meetings are the first Tuesday of every month at the Allegheny Township Municipal Building in Crosskeys. Membership to the organization is not required for the fly-tying course offered at the Blair Senior Service Center in Altoona. If anyone is interested in either the fly-tying course or for more information on becoming a member of TU, contact president Chuck Winters at 695-4989 or vice president Fred Sherlock at 766-3176.