Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Youth Camp

Less than 36 hours after returning from Montana, I was slated to volunteer at the summer youth camp put on by our local chapter of Trout Unlimited.  It was an excuse to get my boots dirty, and an opportunity to help kids, who, by all accounts were interested in trout, coldwater fisheries, and conservation.  The camp itself is a perfect blend of Huck Finn and education. A far cry from the summer hockey camp I used to attend in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. A camp where the only thing Huck Finn, was when one of the campers would wander off during "dry land" practice in search of boy crazy teenage girls. 

This was the second annual Rocky Mountain Flycasters Youth Camp, a six day fly fishing education that any aspiring fly fisher would appreciate. And having only moved to the area the year before, this would be my first opportunity to volunteer. Something I have been looking forward to for a long time. The activities of the camp included; exploring underwater habitat by snorkeling down the river, fish sampling by electro-shocking, matching the hatch, flytying, more information about river formation and ecology, and fly fishing some private ponds as well as on the Poudre River. The campers received a healthy diet of fish, fishing, fish habitat, and well, more fishing. Not a bad way to spend six days in the summer, as a volunteer or camper.

Arriving early Friday morning, I was greeted by three excited campers, six additional volunteers, and the ring leader of this motley crew, Dennis. The activities for the day included electro-shocking, planting willows and cottonwoods, and an afternoon trip to a private Bass pond. The Colorado Division of Wildlife supervised both the electro-shocking and the tree plantings, only to wish us luck before the campers left to throw streamers and poppers to anxious largemouth. The bass ponds sounded fun, but ended up being an activity that I wouldn't attend. An unfortunate amount of work was piling up, and a happy boss I wanted to keep. But arriving Saturday morning, I was informed that, "I had missed the best day of fishing, that anyone has ever had".  After hearing news like that, I had to remind myself that this camp was not about me.


Saturday was the final day of camp. The morning was filled with fly tying and river ecology, followed by an afternoon of chasing fish on the Poudre. Each camper had fun tying flies, putting their own personal stamp on each fly. Stimulators, caddis, prince nymphs, and midges were tied. All standard fare, but flies that provoked the types of questions you would expect from anyone excited to catch a trout. Some questions I remember asking, and some I've never heard before. The perfect mix. After a lesson on river ecology and a quick bag lunch, we packed our gear and headed up the canyon. A trip I never get tired of making.


The water was still running high on the main stem of the Poudre, making wading all but impossible. Changing course, we decided to try our luck on the north fork, fishing the small tailwater below Seaman Reservoir. A healthy fishery, that I often overlook. A fishery that consistently produces both good numbers of fish, as well as the occasional "pig".

Bram and I headed out after stringing up our rods. Tying on a freshly tied stimulator dropped with a z-wing caddis, Bram was excited to fish some water he has never seen. And as his guide, his excitement only fed my concern that I wouldn't be able to put him on any fish. Like most things though, you go with the flow and do your best. Words I would make sure to use a few hours later at the graduation ceremony.

Bram in his element.

Working our way up a particular run, Bram looked at me and said, "I'm thirsty, let's head back." A sure sign that the sun and afternoon skunking had gotten to him. Disappointed, we tucked our tails between our legs and headed back to camp. And to Bram's credit, he didn't mention any disappointment in his guide's failing. A testament to the kind of kid he is.

The day may not have ended in the way Bram or I had envisioned, but that was okay. Sometimes the experience of taking the time to learn or teach is enough to bring happiness. The youth camp may be a perfect example of this. The camper learning new things that they are hoping to use over the course of their lifetime. While the volunteer happily hands down knowledge they have earned through years of study. Both gaining from a subject that never stops giving. So after a quick awards ceremony, the camp came to a close. Six days passed in the blink of an eye, leaving both camper and volunteer wanting more.

A Bull Snake escorting me to my car...after the skunking of course.







20 comments:

  1. A terrific endeavor, Sanders. Giving back and helping the next generation of fly fishermen get started right. Thanks from all of us!

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  2. thats awesome, sounds like a fun/educational time, I'm sure the kids learned a lot and appreciated it. its just a good thing you weren't trying to teach them hockey skills. there's no good hockey in Minnesnowta ;)

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  3. Great work, Sanders, for helping to insure the financial demise of the next generation and instilling in them a sense of stewardship! This is going up on the Take Kids Fly Fishing News Blog.

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  4. My son attended TU camp on the Kennebec, several years ago. Thanks to folks like yourself, it helped his develop his conservation ethic. Good work, Sanders.

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  5. Mike- Thanks! I had a lot of fun helping out.

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  6. Brk Trout- It was a great happening for sure. The kids had a fantastic time. Glad I got to be a part of it.

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  7. Travis- I don't think they would have appreciated any advice on the intricacies of playing hockey...ha! Especially from a former North Dakotan/Minnesotan...

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  8. Kirk- Thanks for putting it up over on Take Kids Fly Fishing, I appreciate it.

    I do what I can to support my chapter...hopefully no kids go broke in the process :-) but I guess, only time will tell. The stewardship is a good thing though...

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  9. Herringbone- Thanks. It was fun to watch a future generation have so much fun learning and doing something we all care deeply about.

    It was a great experience for me (and hopefully the campers...ha!).

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  10. Nice camp, is there an age limit? Is 32 too old hahaha.

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  11. JGR- ha! Volunteering gets you around the age limit thing :-)

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  12. Oh man that sounds like a great experience. I think those kids went away from there with some valuable information and memories. Way to go, and nice job encouraging them on the adventure. Better they learn the lesson of what a skunk is earlier than later :) It happens to the best of them. Tight Lines.

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  13. Trout- It was a ton of fun. I know that you get Ocean and Sephora out a ton, but some of these kids barely get out from behind the xbox...it was amazing to see them realize that being outside is actually pretty cool.

    ....i think I was more upset about the skunking than Bram was...ha!

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  14. Kudos on setting a great example for those kids , the future of our fishing tradition, and us "older" kids as well on what it means to give back to the sport.....Jeff

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  15. "you go with the flow and do your best" -- perhaps this is what the river teaches us, and our forgetfulness is what makes us return...for we need this philosophy to get through life. You did something wonderful for those kids, Sanders...something wonderful.

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  16. Erin- Thanks. The river teaches us a lot of different things, but going with the flow might be it's best lesson. I hope the kids had as much fun as I did :-)

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  17. Jeff- I don't know who had more fun, the kids...or the "older" kids. It was a fun camp to be a part of. Glad I was able to get out and volunteer.

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  18. Such a rewarding experience, well done

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  19. Blake- Thanks, it was a great experience for sure.

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