Children, teens and young adults with Down syndrome can be introduced to the joys of fly fishing at any point in their lives to discover what could be a lifelong interest in fishing and outdoor recreation. Sometimes children with developmental disabilities grow up with few opportunities to participate in activities that aficionados could not imagine living without.
In 2007, at Chico State University, two colleagues - one, Ryan Miller, the brother of a young man with Down syndrome, Mark - decided to create a project providing local individuals with Down syndrome the opportunity to learn about and practice fly fishing.
Volunteers and sponsors have been inspired to step up to help put together everything it takes to make a wonderful day for local children and teens with Down syndrome and their families. Because families are included, the shared experiences can be recalled and enjoyed throughout the year.
The DownStream project has been quite successful and has continued as an annual event. In 2009 the event was relocated to the Marysville, California area. Volunteers and sponsors who have been drawn to the DownStream Flyfishing program are investing in people with Down syndrome and their families to create a more inclusive community.
Along with the general health benefits of the sport, Ryan Miller reminds us that people with Down Syndrome can "improve coordination, fine tune motor skills, boost social skills and attain a sense of accomplishment while having fun." Spending quality time and enjoying the outdoors together is an experience that families of individuals with Down syndrome deserve more of in their lives. My son and I occasional watch a fishing show on television, remembering great days by the water. Nothing really compares to casting a line into a river or watching someone else make that connection. Reading about the DownStream event makes me wonder why more people have not thought about starting their own.
The motto of DownStream Fly Fishing is: Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.
This is as inspiring for volunteers and family members as for individuals with Down syndrome. Nothing is as comforting to me as when individuals and businesses step up in friendship and support for our sons and daughters with Down syndrome. I know they take away as much from the experience as people with Down syndrome who are fortunate enough to attend the event
Browse at your public library, local bookstore, specialty shop or online retailer for books like: A Kid's Guide to Flyfishing: It's More than Catching Fish, or River Girls: Fly Fishing for Young Women
California: DownStream Fly Fishing
DownStream Fly Fishing - my favorite paragraphs are here:
Washington: Camp Prime Time
Inclusive Education and the Culture of Down Syndrome