Over the week of June 11 to June 16, campers from all over the state joined at the Bar N I Ranch in Stonewall, CO for the 2017 Colorado TU River Conservation and Fly Fishing Youth Camp. For the entire week, 15 campers between the ages of 14-18, joined Colorado TU staff, volunteers and camp counselors for a week of camping, learning, and fishing- for some of the kids, it was their first time ever fishing. The kids took part in various activities teaching them all about river conservation, native trout species, Western water issues, and of course, all things fly fishing.
The students arrived on Sunday, June 11 and right away the fun started. After the campers got their tents set up, the camp staff and counselors went over basic information about the camp, rules, and an overview of what to expect. After the orientation, the kids then got a chance to know one another. Finally, they learned about some basic fly fishing techniques including how to tie knots and when to use them and the basics to casting. The first day also covered some of the current river and water issues in Colorado.
Monday was the first full day of camp and after waking up, the kids went to the stream and pond at the ranch to learn about the entomology of the watershed. The kids took bug samples to learn about what the fish would be eating in the area and took water samples to determine the health of the stream and pond. After the sampling, students ate lunch and headed to nearby North Lake to fish for the afternoon. It wasn't long before kids started hooking into fish and in the first day over half of the kids had landed their first fish of the camp and for some, their first fish ever.
On Tuesday, June 13, the campers and camp staff headed to Alamosa to visit the Sand Dunes National Park. While at the Sand Dunes, the campers visited with National Park staff and Trout Unlimited's Kevin Terry to learn about the Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout and how climate change is affecting the habitat of this species. During the trip to Alamosa, students also visited the Native Aquatic Species Hatchery, a facility based around the restoration of Colorado’s native species. Here, campers were exposed to the science behind genetics, and were able to see what it takes to bring back a species from endangerment. Tuesday wrapped up with a lesson on western water law and the issues affecting the region's most valuable resource.
Over the first few days the kids had free time to tie flies and practice their fly fishing skills and on Wednesday they had a chance to hone in those skills and use the flies they have tied. The day started off by traveling to North Lake for the morning. While at North Lake kids were catching fish left and right and by halfway through the morning, everyone had caught a fish. After returning to the camp, the kids ate lunch and broke up into teams of three for some additional fishing. One group headed to some beaver ponds, another group fished the stream, and the third group fished a lake on the ranch property.
Thursday, the last full day of the camp, consisted of a lesson from Colorado Parks and Wildlife on aquatic nuisance species and how anglers can do their part to protect our watersheds from these invasive species. Colorado Parks and Wildlife also lead a trout dissection for campers to learn about the biology of trout. Later in the afternoon, the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) brought a soil trailer to demonstrate watershed issues on a smaller scale. The students were able to see how issues of erosion, wildfires, and flooding can affect an entire watershed. After dinner on Thursday the campers watched the 2017 Fly Fishing Film Tour at the local Pinion Valley Lodge.
On the last morning of the camp, the campers helped pick up the fly tying and fishing material and break down their camps. Soon, parents were arriving for the closing ceremony. Campers, staff, and parents had a chance to comment on their experiences with the camp.
When the 15 campers arrived on June 11, there were nervous faces and uneasy feelings about what to expect for the upcoming week. But just a few days later on June 16 the campers had a hard time leaving one another. The friendships formed, the lessons learned, and the memories made will carry on forever and many students mentioned coming back in 2018.
Colorado TU wants to thank the campers, parents, volunteers, chapters, and all of the guests who helped make this camp a great success. The camp could not have been done without your support and we look forward to working with you all next year! CTU also wants to thank the Bar N I Ranch for their hospitality during the course of the week!
We hope to see many new and old faces at the camp in 2018!