A high school gymnasium is an unlikely place for a fishing trip, but that is where more than 100 students learned about fly fishing from a master April 30.

Joe Healy, associate publisher of Fly Rod & Reel magazine, visited Rockland District High School for several hours Friday to teach students about the equipment, history and technique of fly fishing. Healy and Chad Hughes, also of the magazine, met with students in several physical education classes.

Physical education teachers Rick Kelley and Joanna Hall said it was their goal to expose the students to outdoor activities that could potentially become lifelong hobbies passed on from generation to generation. Outdoor activities such as fly fishing encourage a healthier lifestyle.

The teachers said anything that takes the children away from the couch and the television or computer for a while is a healthy change. Next year the students may go on an actual fishing trip.

Healy brought a number of rods and reels with him and gave the students a chance to practice what he called the fundamentals of fly casting. For much of the class time the gym was alive with activity as the brightly colored fishing line flew from the students’ rods. They even practiced precision casts, trying to get the line into a Hoola Hoop from a distance.

Healy noted that his magazine has been printed for 30 years in Maine and is part of Down East Enterprise, Inc. in Rockport. He said fly fishing has a deep history in Maine going back 150 years.

In the past, the rods were made from bamboo and the Bangor area produced some of the best in the world. Today, the rods are made of graphite or fiberglass. They are flexible, but tough enough even when bent to pull a large fish out of the water.

Healy explained that a fly rod is actually an 8.5 or 9-foot lever. It is used to cast a fly, which looks to a fish like an enticing insect, further out into the water than could be accomplished by hand.

In one swing of the rod, the fly can be cast about 30 feet, but by whipping it back and forth, Healy said more energy can be built up allowing a fisherman to cast up to 80 feet or more. That comes in handy if the fisherman spots fish feeding near the surface some distance away.

“It’s like defying gravity,” he said.

However, he added that it is really simple physics. “Mass times force equals power,” he said.

The fly fishing enthusiast makes his own flies, using natural materials, including chicken feathers and buck tail or deer fur.

In addition to learning about fly fishing in gym, students in teacher Heidi Locke-Talbot’s Foundation of art class will be tying their own flies.

Healy said there are several benefits to fly fishing. For one, he said the experience creates connections between people and their environment. In addition, the smaller hooks used in fly fishing are not as harmful to the fish and make it an excellent way to enjoy catch-and-release fishing.

He also added that some areas only allow fly fishing and not other methods. He and the teachers encouraged the students to take up the hobby, noting that there are many fishing opportunities in the Midcoast environment.

Herald Gazette Associate Editor Daniel Dunkle can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail at ddunkle@villagesoup.com.