I think the healing powers of fly fishing and the one-on-one attention from a mentor will build self-confidence and be fun for the kids. 

Mentor

Grand Rapids, Michigan Project

Grand Rapids, Michigan Project

Lead Mentor: Bob Lett

Project location: West Michigan – Grand Rapids, MI

Year project founded: 2020

Mentors on this team: 18

Children mentored to date: 15

Children to be mentored in 2024: 10

Local foster care partners: Wellspring Lutheran Services, Bethany Christian, Arbor Circle, Samaritas. 

Local companies that support this project: Orvis Grand Rapids, Outside Coffee Co, Nomad Anglers & WACS Adventure.

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Grand Rapids, Michigan Project

“West Michigan has a culture of fishing and a culture of giving; this project marries the two perfectly. We cannot wait to teach this hobby to our local youth”. 

Caitlin Nelson

Mentor, Grand Rapids, Michigan Project

Project Mentors

BOB LETT, LEAD MENTOR

Rockford, Michigan

“A PA Native I was fortunate enough to grow up among many Class A trout streams. Although I did not start out fly fishing, I grew up on the water as a spin fisherman. It wasn’t until I was in college that I met some new fishing buddies who showed me the world renowned streams throughout Pennsylvania and expanded my horizons to larger fish in the Salmon River in NY. I moved to Michigan in 2017 and have been exploring the beautiful landscape, lakes, streams and rivers that this state has to offer. Growing up, I was a Boy Scout which started my journey into coaching and leadership. I was also a ski instructor and race coach in PA and NH. Outside of fishing and my long list of hobbies, I am a Husband and Father of 3 children that I enjoy exploring the outdoors with. I look forward to sharing my passion of fishing and the outdoors with The Mayfly Project.”

CAITLIN NELSON, CO-LEAD MENTOR

Augusta, Michigan

I was eleven when I started fly fishing and I haven’t been able to stop since. I started by joining my dad and some family friends on the Pere Marquette fishing for Kings. I have yet to miss a year for our annual trip. My passion for fly fishing was burning bright and when I graduated college, I decided I wanted to branch into more than just Kings – so I joined Fly Girls – a group of women in Michigan who all like to Fly Fish. It’s in this group that I learned of TMP and when there wasn’t a local branch, I worked with the National project to bring it to West Michigan! I have never been more surrounded by incredible people as I have sitting next to my fellow mentors. I learn something new every time we get together and am incredibly grateful.

JUSTIN MCCARTHY, MENTOR

Grand Rapids, Michigan

Justin is a lifelong resident of the State of Michigan. He grew up on Lake Huron near Port Huron but moved to West Michigan in 1995 after graduating from law school and passing the bar. He has been a Grand Rapids resident since 2002.

Self-described as “the worst angler to hold a fly rod,” catching fish is only part of the equation for Justin. Getting out on the water, listening to the river lap against his boat, connecting with nature, re-centering his spirit, and enjoying this all with his trusty dog companion, Tillie Bird, is what he enjoys most. That said, he does enjoy connecting with steelhead and brook trout when they happen to take hold of the offerings he’s presenting on the river…

Because fly angling is so dependent upon grace, Justin’s has a favorite quote that he often thinks about while floating down the river: “Let the day come to you.” That optimism, that fulfillment, that oneness with nature as it unfolds before you is, for Justin, the true essence of fly fishing.

KIM SEARS, MENTOR

Rockford, Michigan

As a Michigan native, I grew up on the Thornapple River fishing for panfish and bass.  I was handed down my first fly rod at the age of 10 and fell in love.  I got away from fly fishing in my 20s when I tried the bass tournament scene for a few years.  When the tournament fishing became work, I lost a lot of the interest that got me into it, so I went back to fly fishing and tying my flies. My fly-casting experience ranges from trout on delicate 4-weight and micro-spey trout rods to bass and steelhead on heavy 9-weight two-handed and full Spey rods, yes, even Tenkara.  I enjoy tying simple flies that only take a couple of materials and can be tied in just a few minutes. Losing them doesn’t hurt so bad. Sometimes when I’m fly fishing I will just stop to listen to the river and the birds, and just take in nature while I look for rising fish. I am one of the few male members of Fly girls of Michigan and as the father of three daughters, I am excited to see more women on the water enjoying this beautiful sport. Outside of fly fishing – I am a designer in the tool and die trade, a volunteer guide for West Michigan Kayaking and Paddle Club, and a member of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary. I look forward to sharing my fly-casting and fly-tying knowledge with The Mayfly Project mentees.

TRENT JACKSON, MENTOR

Grand Rapids, Michigan

A Grand Rapids native, Trent has spent his life pursuing all things recreation. In his time spent earning a bachelor’s degree in Outdoor Recreation Leadership and Management, Trent developed his knowledge in wilderness first response, multi-week back-country trips, classroom management as well as resource management. Coupling this skill set with his knowledge of a variety of fisheries, Trent has developed the Fly-Fishing classes and trip offerings at Orvis Grand Rapids, where he works as the Fly Fishing Manager, creating a “funnel” of growth opportunities within the sport for his patrons. He is also involved with his local Trout Unlimited Chapter and the Rogue River Tree Army, encouraging others in the community to get involved with conserving and preserving our natural resources. Trent has a joy and passion for teaching that’s contagious, rarely will you see him without a smile on his face grinning from ear to ear. You can find him exploring new places with his wife, Morgan, and dog, Titus. When asked, Trent mentioned that “Faith, family, friends and fishing are his main pursuits.”

GARY LINDQUIST, MENTOR

Caledonia, Michigan

Retired Critical Care Paramedic and EMS Instructor/ Coordinator living in Caledonia MI just south of Grand Rapids. Started fishing brook trout as a kid in Michigan’s UP. Started tying my own flies in the 1990s and building fly rods around 2000. Member Schrems Trout Unlimited, Board of Directors for Great Lakes Council Fly Fishers International, President of the Grand Valley Fly Fishers charter club FFI, Member Custom Rod Builder’s Guild, Member Michigan Rod Builder’s.
Favorite fish – cold water Brook, Brown, and Rainbow Steelhead
Warm water Smallmouth Bass. Bluegill

SUSAN SEARS, MENTOR

Rockford, Michigan

Susan has fished most of her life; her earliest memories are worm fishing with her sisters in a canoe. Her introduction to Flyfishing was about ten years ago when she met her husband, Kim Sears. She is an active member of Fly girls of Michigan, an organization that teaches women to fly fish, and organizes an annual Steelhead fishing trip. She is also a Registered Nurse working in a Pediatric setting and has acquired her Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) certification. Additionally, she works part-time as a Freelance writer, writing on various topics. She has volunteered with Stream Girls as a casting and fly-tying instructor and now spends her time mentoring with the Mayfly Project.

NIC BITTING, MENTOR

Grand Rapids, Michigan

My love of fishing started when my grandpa took me to the local pond and taught me to catch sunfish with a bamboo rod and a bobber. These days my gear is a little bit better and (most days) the fish are a little bit bigger. I learned to fly fish during college when I worked as a white-water rafting guide on the Yellowstone River. After college I moved to Seattle and had a blast fishing the rivers, streams, and alpine lakes of the Northwest. I moved to Grand Rapids in 2018 and have enjoyed learning the rivers and lakes of West Michigan. I like to target brown trout and steelhead when fly fishing; I also kayak fish for bass and pike on the Grand River. For me, being on the water and observing nature is the best part of this passion we share.

STAN LEVERETT, MENTOR

Grand Rapids, Michigan

Stan, a Detroit Native, grew up a city kid fishing the rivers and canals around the Detroit area. Fly fishing sparked his interest in his late twenties after a casting lesson on vacation. The Hook was set. The last six years have been a whirlwind of learning, trial, and error, capstone in a 6-month residency in Bend, Oregon fishing.
This is the first year of engagement with the program, and is looking forward to sharing his passion with local youth and exploring the expansive West Michigan fishing opportunities.
Stan Resides in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with his wife and two Labradors.

ELI CAIN, MENTOR

Grand Rapids, Michigan

I grew up in West Michigan where I was introduced to fishing by my grandmother when I was very young. Learning the basics from her, digging up worms, loading a bucket with a rod and tackle, and adventuring around my grandparent’s neighborhood on a bike looking for bluegills are some of my favorite childhood memories. I was aware of fly fishing early on, but never saw it in person until shortly after I moved to Grand Rapids in 2013 while drifting spawn for coho in the Rogue river. Targeting trout and exploring the state of Michigan quickly became one of my favorite hobbies – I still feel like that kid on the bike.

MATTHEW WITKOWSKI, MENTOR

Sparta, Michigan

Matthew Witkowski has been chasing fish with a fly rod for about 15 years. He loves fishing for the apex predators in the lakes and river systems in Northern and West Michigan. Streamer fishing is his preferred style but hopper fishing on the Ausable River is a close second. He’s always a student of the pursuit and on a journey to learn new techniques and explore new water every year.
He is also passionate about getting people into the sport of fly fishing and started a fly fishing program at a local church in GR helping those wanting to learn & get started, from the community.

His favorite part of TMP is the great students, the volunteers he’s met along the way and sharing those special moments of children finding success in fishing.

COLE VICKERS, MENTOR

Grand Rapids, Michigan

I am Colorado born, Michigan raised. I grew up hiking through the Rockies and kayaking on Michigan lakes and rivers. I have only been fly fishing since the summer of 2023 but I am excited to have this as a passion for the rest of my life. I have a background in caring for children and I am looking forward to being a mentor for the Mayfly Project.

ERIC HASLINGER, MENTOR

Grand Rapids, Michigan

As a young kid, many of Eric’s favorite memories are out on the lake for hours at a time with his grandparents, a 4hp and collection of Rapalas. Fast forward 25 years, he hasn’t left the water but now it’s a river with a fly rod and new cast of family and friends. Eric loves all things outdoors and is constantly seeking new adventures with his wife and two young kids. He is incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work with local youth and the passionate team at the Grand Rapids Mayfly Project.

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