SHERIDAN — Modern distractions, such as video games, cellphones and social media sites, can present a challenge in maintaining close personal bonds, such as those between a father and son.
Joey Puettman, founder and executive director of Joey’s Fly Fishing Foundation in Sheridan says he has a solution. Go fishing.
“I had a great dad,” Puettman said. “Married 45 years. That’s a minority now. Those dads are a dying breed.”
Puettman believes fathers and sons can rebuild and strengthen strained bonds through unplugging and participating in such activities as the Wyoming Cutt-Slam Challenge, catching the state’s four cutthroat species in their various watery habitats.
“Inspire it by one fish at a time,” Puettman said. “That’s why it’s called a challenge. … It’s all about the adventure.”
“We’re all at-risk,” he added. “We’re just trying to provide them with a mentor .”
Now, it’s an understatement to say Puettman is passionate about angling. It’s truly more of a religion to the now-40-year-old.
“It’s a culture,” Puettman said. “Focus, fishing, family.”
It’s one reason he wrote “Joey’s Wyoming Cutt-Slam Challenge,” a 169-page guide on how to enjoy pursuing the state’s four cutthroat species.
“It’s a pilgrimage,” he said of the challenge.
Stephen Richards, 16, said his dad introduced him to fly-fishing when he was 6 years old and, like with Puettman, it quickly became a passion of his. He’s now a volunteer at the foundation, helping teach other youngsters how to build and use fly rods, and a member of the foundation’s junior board of directors.
“I think it helps bring people together,” Richards said. “It helps change mindsets. … It helps them become better people.”
While he doesn’t have children of his own, Puettman said even he had developed bonds with many of the youngsters who attend workshops through the foundation or go on one of the organized fishing trips.
“I’m an uncle for some of these kids,” he said.
That includes Anthony Kindle, 14, of Sheridan. Prior to learning how to fish, Kindle said he had few hobbies.
“Not really,” he said. “I played a little Xbox.”
But ask the teenager about fly-fishing and his attitude quickly changes.
“It’s my life. I love it,” Kindle added. “I wouldn’t change it for nothing.”
Kindle’s account of his cutthroat challenge is one of several stories included in the book.
“I think it’s pretty crazy,” Kindle said of having his story in print. “It’s the coolest thing ever. I’m honored and feel grateful.”
Kindle said fly-fishing is even a way he connects with friends, sometimes sitting with someone and talking for hours about it.
“They don’t call it catching. They call it fishing,” he said. “The biggest thing is the mentoring aspect. What you put into it you get out of it.”
The bond between Puettman and Kindle has landed more than a couple of fish. Puettman is now helping Kindle launch his own line of fly-fishing rods.
Puettman said the stories of young anglers like Kindle have also inspired him to collaborate on a second book with his executive assistant Alex Phelps.