Written by: Heather Sees, president of the GreenbacksPhotos by: Emma Brown
Colorado TU, with help from The Greenbacks of Trout Unlimited, strive to educate, connect with, and influence the next generation to become conservation stewards and active participants in the fly fishing community. We recently had the opportunity to partner with a new camp, Forward Rising to accomplish just this.
Forward Rising Inc, the creator of Forward Rising camp, is a new organization that focuses on engaging inner city girls through conservation, fishing, and the great outdoors. The organization hopes to use these activities to offer the girls outlets to the challenges they face.
The weekend kicked off when the Girls, Inc. of Metro Denver van arrived at Lynwood Park in Bailey, CO with six young ladies who were eager, yet a bit hesitant, for the jam packed weekend! As the young ladies got off the van there was a bit of a buzz about what the weekend had in store for them. We kicked off the weekend Friday evening by having a team building exercise where the girls worked together to set up their tents and sleeping bags. After “home” was established the girls were introduced to the amazing team of volunteers and we all participated in ice-breaker games to get to know each other a bit better.
Saturday morning started out pretty chilly so everyone was moving a bit slower, but you could sense the excitement in the air! We kicked off our day with a session on wilderness survival from Mary Margaret Sweeney, PhD – Director at Way of the Wild. Mary spoke about the basics of wilderness survival, emergency shelter construction (with participation and help from the girls) and instruction on how to build a one minute fire. Overall, the young ladies walked away with knowledge on what to do in an emergency if they find themselves in that situation. Following the wilderness survival presentation, we had the pleasure of having Luke Caudillo, UFC fighter, speak to the group about overcoming challenges and following your dreams.
After a short lunch break we kicked off the rest of the afternoon focused on entomology, fly tying and fly fishing. The girls suited up in waders and boots and headed to North Fork of the South Platte River to search for bugs. After turning over rocks and doing the “San Juan shuffle” in front of the bug seines we came away with a few bugs that would later be identified as mayflies, small craw-fish and a couple worms. After a lesson in entomology and discussions around the importance of healthy rivers we tied up some San Juan worms in hopes of tricking the fish!
The time had come – rods were rigged up, safety and catch and release practices were discussed and each young lady was paired up with a volunteer to try their hand at fly fishing. Shortly after we hit the pond there were screams of excitement – missed fish! After switching up bugs we heard the words that any angler wants to hear “FISH ON!” For the next couple hours we saw several fish to the net – some girls got it on their own, some with a little help, but the end result was the same. After a few hours of catching fish we had a quick dinner and ended the night with a campfire, s’mores, stargazing, a quick visit from Fraser the Fish and reflection on the past couple days!
Sunday morning came faster than we expected and the weekend was coming to an end. The weekend contained many firsts – 1st time being in the river, 1st time putting up a tent and sleeping outside, 1st time catching a fish, 1st time making s’mores, 1st time seeing the stars and for some, 1st time being out of Denver. As we cleaned up camp and packed up the van there was still a lot of excitement about the weekend!
The 1st annual Forward Rising camp was a huge success, a GREAT time was had by all and we had the opportunity to share our passion and knowledge with the next generation!
A special thanks goes to the sponsors of the camp: Bass Pro Shops, Colorado Parks & Wildlife, SaraBella Fishing, Urban Anglers, Pig Farm Ink. The camp couldn't have been done without their generous support and donations to CTU, The Greenbacks, Forward Rising, and Girls Inc of Metro Denver.