Casting youth into outdoors

The founder of Cast Hope thought at-risk children could benefit not only from flyfishing but from also getting away from the city environment.

Providing as-risk kids the opportunity to see the great outdoors through the art and science of flyfishing, Cast Hope has made its imprint in San Diego County, with its East County and South Bay chapters growing by the day. Cast Hope’s Regional Director Conway Bowman, a La Mesa native, waded into this world of youth mentorship, sharing his love for fly fishing, something he was taught by his father, into the world of youth mentorship.

Cast Hope’s vision in teaching a child to flyfish is creating a life-changing experience by introducing children to the wonder of nature, mentors them in the craft of catching fish on a hand-tied fly, opening their minds to a life-long passion for environmental steward ship.

On Aug. 4, Cast Hope is holding it annual San Diego’s Casino Date Night, presented by South Bay Fence, at the Baja House at the Marina Village Conference Center from 6-10 p.m., with a VIP reception for its North Star Award recipient Richard Louv from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Louv is an American author and San Diego resident whose landmark book, “Last Child in the Woods,” inspired an international movement to connect children and nature.

The gala will feature the colors and flavors of Baja, Mexico. Between sips of handcrafted margaritas and bites of a delicious Mexican dinner, guests will have the opportunity to gid on live and silent auctions, try their luck at poker, craps, and blackjack, Mexican sweets and coffee, and dancing to the California sounds of Par Avion.

Cast Hope’s San Diego Regional Director Conway Bowman, a La Mesa Native, said Cast Hope began 13 years ago in Northern California’s Chico by Ryan Johnston and became a huge success.

“What started as a flyfishing venturing program for at-risk youth, kids that did not have a lot of opportunity,” he said. “Johnston thought San Diego would be a great region to open. He is a native San Diegan, born here. He felt we had a community of young kids here that could benefit not only from flyfishing, but also getting out and exploring nature, getting away from the city pavement.”

Bowman said Johnston came to him because he is a native San Diegan and a life-long fisherman. His father started teaching him fishing when he was 3. Although Bowman never had the experience of working with a nonprofit, both saw the potential possibilities of another successful chapter.

“I delved into it and realized that I really needed to connect with the inner-city community, so I brought in a friend of mine, Manuel Aceves, because he was a teacher in the La Mesa/Spring Valley School District and he had a connection to the kids that we really wanted to get involved with Cast Hope.”

Bowman said Aceves worked to help start building up this group of kids and it worked out great,” he said. “We are in our fourth year, and it is working out great. The kids have a mentor meeting. Kids must have a mother, father, aunt, uncle, grandparent, or sibling that can take them out with us. We provide a guide, and we teach the kids how to flyfish. We teach them how to cast, tie knots, and make a fly. Flyfishing is a door that opens these kids up to greater opportunities. Some kids gravitate towards the scientific side of it, so Manuel and I will have seminars and meetings, we will bring out microscopes, and look at water ecology and biology. We will talk about water quality and how it affects not only our fish, but our drinking water.”

Bowman said bringing all these components to the youth creates a unique fishing youth-mentored program, unlike any other.

“We teach the child and mentor how to fish, giving them the skill of fishing so they can use it down the road without assistance. We are trying to get them out in nature and engaged,” he said. “My hope is that when these kids get out in nature, getting them out of their concrete world, is that it opens their minds and inspires them to other things. The hope is that if these kids get inspired, and these kids decide to get into water quality, water management, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, biology, things they would never have been exposed to in their type of environment. These kids are our next ambassadors of nature. With climate change and all the things going on in the world, we really need these kids to understand how nature works. How water quality is important. How climate change is affecting everything that we do.”
Bowman said that the gala funds the program, its paid guides, and all the tools youth need to participate in flyfishing and conventional fishing.

“Also, if they want to get into something science-wise, we will buy them a microscope, the books that they need to learn about water quality and water biology, fisheries, science,” he said. “We will do all that, if they earn it. If they stick with the program for one year, get engaged with nature, engaged in our activities, and are committed to the program, we will provide them these tools for their futures.”

Bowman said the reason they are bringing Louv to the gala is that not only is he a world-renowned author, but he is dedicated to getting kids in nature.

“He understands that children suffer from nature deficit disorder, and the way you address that is not through medication, but by getting kids back into nature,” he said. “He is the perfect person to receive this inaugural award.”

During the VIP session, Louv will be doing book signing and talking with people who want to connect with him. Bowman said he is not only a wonderful person, but a wonderful advocate for getting children back into nature.

Bowman said the nonprofit started in East County and is now expanding its reach in South Bay.

“We want to build communities throughout San Diego County,” he said.
Bowman said they have started a relationship with Santee Lakes, a wonderful facility that provides everything for a family.

“Not only can we provide our flyfishing and fishing lessons, but we can also provide an experience for the family,” he said. “It is a perfect relationship and hopefully we can start it sooner than later. We are talking to them now and Santee Lakes is totally onboard.”

Bowman said Cast Hope is working on getting into more communities in South Bay as it has many at-risk communities. He said the program is also reaching out to military children, as their parents are often gone on deployment for long periods of time, and many have too much time on their hands that can be filled through Cast Hope’s programs.

Bowman said the program fishes throughout the county, Lake Murray, Mission Bay, Lake Henshaw, Lake Jennings, and many other lakes in the county that are close and expects to expand fishing spots as the program grows. He said the program also wants to expand to overnight fishing and nature camps.

“Many of these kids come into our program and have never set a goal in their life,” he said. “In flyfishing you achieve incremental goals. You are casting a line 10 feet, 20 feet, 30 feet, working up achieving each of those goals in footage increments. They learn the fundamentals of casting skills. The focus of flyfishing is not necessarily catching fish. It is building a foundation, setting a goal, and achieving that goal. It is a wonderful metaphor for life. When we teach kids how to tie a fly, it brings out the artistic part in these kids. They do not necessarily want to fish, so they start creating these beautiful flies. Many spend their time creating flies and giving them to other kids to fish with. So, flyfishing opens many more elements in a kid’s life. Flyfishing really does open doors to opportunity and creativity for these kids.”

For information about Cast Hope, Casino Date Night and to purchase tickets to Cast Hope, visit:

Correction: The original print version said the event time was 4-10 p.m. It should be 6-10 p.m. The Star-News regrets the error.