Cast Hope is a nonprofit organization focused on providing kids in the Northern California community with the gift of the outdoors. Bringing youth and mentors together outside through the sport of fly fishing. On the latest Filson Life, Hogan Brown of Cast Hope shares with us his love of fly fishing and dedication to fostering an environment where kids can become stewards of the outdoors.
I can’t remember the first time I set foot in a river and I can’t remember the first fish I caught on a fly rod. What I can remember is always being drawn to water. Creek, pond, river, lake, or stream I found something in them and around them that life other places didn’t offer. Fly Fishing has always been the avenue not the reason for getting outdoors for me.
My good friend Scott got into fly-fishing while we were in high school. I had fly fished most of my life up until that point with my dad, but I had kind of left it behind for a few years as more important things like punk rock bands, sports, and what girls thought became way more interesting and important. Scott was way better at sports, and girls liked him more than just friends, so if the opposite sex still talked to him and he fly fished I figured it was safe for me to get back into it…so we started going fishing together.
We fished Deer Creek that ran through our hometown of Nevada City, it was a small free stone stream with rainbow and brown trout. We fished with cheap five weights we got as birthday presents from our parents who weren’t sure how long this “fly fishing phase” would last. Both our parents thought they better support the phase as it was better than fast cars, keg parties, and promiscuous encounters with girls at the old airport.
20 years later I don’t think much about fly-fishing being part of my life, kind of like most people don’t think about having two arms or breathing. I have always built my life around rivers and the land around them. I have been fortunate to be able to make a living taking people fly fishing, inventing flies, and writing about the outdoors for nearly all of my teenage and adult life. That said not everyone has the opportunities I have had.
When I started working in the fly fishing industry at 17 years old I was always the “young guy” in the proverbial room. Around the age of 27 I was still the “young guy” in the same room. I realized this was not a sustainable model for an industry, and that the lack of new blood in the sport of fly fishing had larger implications then just a lack of future clients, or growth with in a small niche sport.
Ryan Johnston told me one evening over tacos while we were both in graduate school at Chico State – “I think I am going to start taking kids and a mentor on free guided trips, and for my MBA project/thesis I am going to start a nonprofit.” For a guy with a degree from UC Davis working on a Master’s Degree who had the summer prior interned in Manhattan, it was a bit of a left turn. What do you do though when your calculating, complete opposite of impulsive, incredibly intelligent friend has an amazing idea…. but it is just a bit crazy at the same time? Well I threw all the cards on the table and said I am Ryan’s not so calculating, very impulsive, moderately intelligent, 10 years to get a 4-year state school college degree friend, so let’s do this.
People protect what is important to them, what is important is usually things that people derive pleasure from or enjoy. I came to the realization that if kids do not use the outdoors they will not value the outdoors, meaning they will not be willing to protect it in the future. If the wild places in our world are to be protected by the next generation they must be valued by them. More valued then video games, social media, strip malls, and really anything with a screen. For me Cast Hope came out of the simple desire to share the outdoors through the sport of fly fishing.
Nearly 9 years later from that night at Tres Hombres we have grown to serve kids across 2 states with plans to expand to a 3rd or 4th with in the year. We have grown the number of kids we serve by 862%, and taken a scraped together budget of a few hundred dollars and grown it by 722%. We have grown our service area, the number of kids we serve, and our budget every year we have been in existence.
In the end statistics means nothing if we have not achieved the mission, and that is sharing the outdoors through the sport of fly fishing with those that would not otherwise have the opportunity. I have shown kids the stars without the glare of street lights for the first time in their lives, watched kids feel a river for the first time against their legs, and hook a fish on a fly rod and see a smile and excitement like nothing in their lives prior could provide.
I would like to think we are creating the people that in the future will be the ones that are as passionate as we are about the outdoors. Weather they fall in love with fly fishing, sleeping under star filled summer skies, or the sound of rushing water against their legs as they wade out to swim, I believe we are doing our small part to help share the outdoors. In the end that is what our wild places need moving forward if they are going to continue to be there for future generations.