Fly fishing summer course reels in students

Some colleges across the nation offer exotic and interesting courses in addition to core classes. Rutgers University offers a “Politicizing Beyoncé” course in its Women & Gender Studies department, and Santa Clara University offers “The Physics of Star Trek.”

While we cannot all study Beyoncé, Seton Hall will be offering a new course: a fly fishing course which will be offered for the first time this
summer. Two Seton Hall professors collaborated to bring this idea to life in the environmental studies program.

Photo via Pixabay

Professor Robert Pallitto, associate professor and chair of Political Science and Public Affairs, said he and Professor Michael Taylor, associate professor of Political Science, public affairs, and environmental studies, wondered how they could share the experience of fly fishing with students.

He said Taylor had the idea to “use fly fishing as a means to encountering and appreciating the natural world.”

Fly fishing is a way of fishing that uses hooks dressed with feathers, fur and other materials. Most kinds of fish can be caught on a fly, but Pallitto says it is usually associated with trout and salmon. The biggest benefit to fly fishing is that the flies are gentler on the fish than bait and fishers can release fish if they choose.

While the course consists of reading, writing and fishing, the first third of the course is focused on how fly fishing is incorporated into art and literature. Some examples include Ernest Hemingway’s “Big Two-Hearted River,” Aldo Leopold, Tom McGuane, and Nelson Bryant’s “Outdoors” column for The New York Times.

Andrew Cates, a sophomore art design, theatre and music major, said fly fishing caught his eye when looking at online summer courses.
Cates said that not only did he like that he would be getting credit for learning something new, but he also said he is “most looking forward to the time on the water and the time spent actually fishing.”

Taylor and Pallitto offered the pilot of this course in spring 2016 and they hope to offer it every spring semester.

They hope students will gain “a deeper understanding of stream ecology, read some classic works of nature and conservation writing and learn a really fun way to fish!”

Jack Pitts, a senior environmental studies major, said he’d definitely take the course if he wasn’t graduating this May.
“I believe it’s important to interact with nature in a variety of ways,” Pitts said. “To be professionally instructed in such a unique sport as fly fishing would be invaluable.”

Pitts added that the environmental studies program needs to be taken more seriously and hopes it improves for the future students of Seton Hall.

Erika Szumel can be reached at

Author: Erika Szumel

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