The Hook of the Streams


Matt Parr

Latin senior Luke Parr fights a king salmon on fly in Baldwin, Michigan, accompanied by seniors, Kaden Stone, Devlin Jozwiak, and Ben Flerlage.

A sense of calmness, combined with the gray sound of rushing water, flows through the damp air as the muted green line begins to tighten and snap onto the reel. Suddenly, a rush of adrenaline hits, more vigorous than the stream itself.

Diverging from other forms of fishing and hunting, fly fishing is not only a source of exhilaration but also an outlet for many to connect with nature and remove themselves from the burdens of modern life.

For Upper School English teacher Ann McGlinn, the water is where she feels most at peace. “It is not just about catching fish, [but] it is the beauty of not speaking and just hearing the river.”

Senior Luke Parr said, “When I’m fly fishing, I just really feel a strong connection to nature as the river runs through my legs, and I am surrounded by greenery.”

For young people who live in urban environments, access to nature is crucial for brain development. Scientific author Kirsten Weir concluded that “being exposed to natural environments improves working memory, cognitive flexibility, and attentional control, while exposure to urban environments is linked to attention deficits.”

Despite Ms. McGlinn’s love for the water, the constraints of urban living have gotten in the way of her passion for nature. “Living in cities, it’s the one thing I miss,” she said. “For me, I need to get out in nature much more than I’m doing now, and fly fishing is the way I can do that.”

Ms. McGlinn is not alone. The lack of fishing opportunities in Chicago has left Luke hoping to “end up at an establishment where I can spend a lot of time fishing.”

However, contrary to popular belief, the Midwest has some of the strongest fly fishing in the world, containing an abundance of beautiful species such as coho salmon, Chinook salmon, steelhead, brown trout, rainbow trout, brook trout, muskie, bass, and even Atlantic salmon in northern Michigan.

The owner of Chicago Fly Fishing Outfitters Andy Kurkulis said, “The Midwest does offer some of the most diverse, and we would say finest fly-fishing opportunities found anywhere on earth—very close to our own backyard.”

While fly fishing acts as a gateway to nature for many, for Ms. McGlinn it holds a special place in her heart. At age 10, Ms. McGlinn fell in love with the sport and community that flowed through the current of the river. Nearly every family member on her father’s side is a fly fisherman and they found the Au Sable River to be their sanctuary. “One of my uncles owned an A-frame cabin right on the river … where we could all go up and fish together,” she said.

Fly fishing is almost always a family affair for the McGlinn family. Techniques and experiences are passed down, harnessing family bonds. “My Uncle Ed gave me his fly box when he could no longer fly fish,” Ms. McGlinn said.

Ms. McGlinn plans to reconnect with her love of nature and family history this upcoming spring break. She said, “I am going to the Au Sable to fly fish together with my son, nephew, and 92-year-old dad, [as] that was where I learned to fly fish.”

Hoping to share this passion with the rest of the Latin community, in years past Ms. McGlinn ran a fly fishing Project Week that received strong positive feedback. “Even with the kids who were not very naturey, and whose parents made them go, you could just see their faces light up,” she said.

Despite the success of the trip and the positive impact it made on students, she unfortunately decided to pause the trip due to seasonal weather. But if given the opportunity, she would be thrilled to get students fly fishing once again.

While there might not currently be an official Project Week, students still have plenty of resources to learn about and participate in the sport. Even Latin’s Makerspace can complete fly-tying setups. Students have easy access to learn how to tie their own flies to catch a variety of fish around the Midwest and the world.

Additionally, Chicago Fly Fishing Outfitters on Clybourn is a great resource for anyone interested in learning about the sport, as it offers a vast selection of fly gear for beginners and advanced fishermen alike. Their knowledgeable staff is also eager to help new enthusiasts learn about different fly fishing techniques and locations.

Fostering a connection with nature is essential not only for happiness but also for health, and for many, fly fishing has become the doorway to this bond. Fly fishing acts as the great equalizer for humans and their ego by providing a sense of tranquility. While not the only source of nature, it surely is among the most transformative.