By: Dennis Cook, Rocky Mountain Flycasters Chapter of TU, and Dan Omasta, Colorado TU Many youngsters want - but often lack - opportunities for recreation and fun in the natural outdoors. In 2010, the Rocky Mountain Flycasters Chapter (RMFC-TU) launched a Youth Day Camp designed to provide this opportunity. The first camp encompassed six full days of fishing, conservation, and classroom sessions in the Fort Collins area, and has been a huge hit every year since. Fifteen high school boys & girls (ages 14 through 17) from the Northern Colorado region are selected based upon their application and a brief essay describing their interests, background, and expectations from attending camp. Most campers typically have zero to very elementary fly fishing knowledge.
Basic fly fishing skills are taught by experienced RMFC members and St. Peters Fly Shop guides, but the camp isn't just about bringing kids outside and helping them catch fish. It provides information and activities that inspire the campers to become more aware of the need to protect and conserve our natural outdoors. Specialized content (such as trout anatomy) is provided by professionals from Colorado Parks & Wildlife, the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Colorado State University.
A capstone activity encompasses a half-day restoration project on a local stream, designed and supervised by the Wildlands Restoration Volunteers organization. As campers better understand the relationship of trout as an indicator of water quality, they gain appreciation for the need to protect our coldwater streams - while also discovering that fly fishing can become an enjoyable, lifelong pastime.
"My son has gained confidence in his fishing abilities and has taken away a sense of responsibility for our precious river and water resources," said one parent of a recent camper. "I really feel like he has a better understanding that we need to keep our rivers clean and take care of them for generations to come. He’s not taking them as much for granted anymore."
Beyond a nominal $30.00 acceptance fee, funding for camp is provided by generous corporate and individual chapter member support. Additionally, all fishing attire and equipment is provided by RMFC-TU. Camp activities occur on the Poudre River, Big Thompson River headwaters in Rocky Mountain National Park, private ponds and Fort Collins Parks. Indoor classes are held in corporate and community conference rooms.
The RMF Youth Fly Fishing Day camp does a great job of teaching kids to fish and how to become successful anglers. But the six-day event is more than just a fishing clinic - it is a collaborative effort to prepare and inspire the next generation of stewards.
For more information, please visit the Rocky Mountain Flycasters' Youth Camp page.