The 9th Annual Colorado Trout Unlimited Youth Fly Fishing and River Conservation camp was held near Stonewall, Colorado the week of June 9th. During the duration teenagers age 14 through 17 participated in activities and talks on conservation topics such as water quality, entomology, fish pathology, water law, and riparian restoration. Between learning about the work TU does, the students were instructed on casting, proper fish handling, and fly tying. Trips to local waterways happened at least once a day, and in their free time students were able to fish near camp. 2014 was the first year holding the camp in the southern part of the state. The Purgatoire River Anglers Chapter was a great help in organizing accommodations and suggesting fishing trips. A day was spent touring the recent restoration project on the Purgatoire River the chapter has been so involved in over the past few years. Students were even able to take part in the restoration by helping to seed in some of the floodplain disturbed during construction.
Kids came from far and wide to attend camp this year, from as far away as Steamboat Springs and New Mexico, and some from down the road in Trinidad. The camp’s ongoing success was apparent in the recruitment of this year’s class, and the participation of the five alumni counselors.
Phil Long Toyota of Trinidad provided financial support for the 2014 camp. With their generous contribution the campers were all able to attend on scholarships. It also afforded the opportunity for the students to document their experience with the use of video equipment. The shots from the week are to be edited and produced into a highlight reel for campers to remember their trip, and for recruiting next year’s class of attendees.
Of course none of this would be possible without volunteer support. Camp director Mike Nicholson has been with the youth camp almost as long as Larry Quilling and Sharon Lance who founded the project nine years ago. In that time the camp has grown its reputation as well as a contingent of passionate alumni. This year five camp alumni volunteered their time to return as youth counselors. With the additional help of returning and first time adult counselors, the campers had plenty of one on one attention and guidance throughout the week.
The best part of camp is seeing the students’ progress over the course of the camp, and being witness to their hard work paying off. We can all share in the enthusiasm of a kid catching their first fish on a fly rod, or in fooling a fish on a fly they tied. But even better than that is hearing how passionate they are about clean water, and rivers, and healthy wild fish. Knowing that they will be the ones to take the reins in the stewardship of these resources in the not too distant future, that is the reason why all the hard work we do today is worth it.