2015 Sierra Trout Camp near Truckee grooms new ‘trout bums’
Special to the Sun
TRUCKEE, Calif. — A child will never forget the first time he or she goes fly fishing. This truism was evident as Trout Unlimited hosted its third annual Sierra Trout Camp at the University of California Berkeley’s Sagehen Creek Field Station in the Tahoe National Forest on July 11.
Twenty boys and girls ages 9 to 11 participated in the two-day event, without a doubt the most advanced and kid-friendly camp of its kind in California.
Sierra Trout Camp covers everything fly fishing aquatic entomology, stream ecology, tackle, casting, fly tying, native trout protection and restoration, and river etiquette. It’s kind of like a two-day boot camp, only fun.
Sagehen Creek, a state designated Wild Trout Water, is one of the focus streams in TU’s Lahontan cutthroat trout (LCT) restoration project, which seeks to bring back the LCT throughout the greater Truckee River watershed.
The Lahontan cutthroat is the only native trout native to this region. TU’s partnership with the university has made LCT recovery a cornerstone project for the field station.The station is a perfect venue for the Trout Camp, as it highlights TU’s protection, restoration, and youth outreach work all at the same time, with the bonus of fly fishing.
We know, thanks to Norman MacLean’s “A River Runs Through It,” that “Nobody who (does) not know how to fish (should) be allowed to disgrace a fish by catching him.”
On Day One, even though the campers were itching to get out on the water, we first covered how to set up a rod, and the difference between a fly cast and conventional methods.
The Trout Campers then got their feet wet and started turning over rocks to find aquatic insects. They were eager to locate, observe, and feel the insects they had learned about in the classroom setting. For a small creek, Sagehen boasts an amazing density of aquatic insects and fish. Each student helped to identify stoneflies, mayflies, caddis, even a sculpin or two.
Toward the end of the day, the campers energetically took to the water with fly rods, quickly putting what they had learned about reading water, casting, and selecting the right fly into effect. Fish were landed!
Sierra Trout Camp draws a number of the Tahoe region’s many well known guides and anglers to help teach casting and fly tying.
The next morning these volunteers packed the field station, each bringing their own vise and tools for fly tying instruction and helping the campers make the connection between “bugs” in the creek the day before and tying a pattern to replicate them. Each student finished that session with new flies to put in their Cabela’s fly boxes.
Then, it took exactly zero motivational speeches to get the students and their guides to scatter across the meadow to do some actual fishing. Thanks to newly-honed skills and talented guides, we had nearly a 1:1 student to guide ratio, and almost all of the Trout Campers brought fish to the net.
Kate Blubaugh, an internationally known fly caster out of Reno, Nevada, served as primary casting instructor. Local guides Dan LeCount, Dave Stanley, Doug Oulette and Leslie Ajari took a day off from working to support the camp.
Many other anglers and TU members also turned out, including Nikki Streetgan, Laura Murph, Mel Odenmar, Jack Childress, Stefan McLeod, Tom Smith, Betsy Clark, Kevin Mather, Mark Warren, Balie Thys, Katie Stanley and Wyatt Ogilvy.
TU staffers David Lass, Sam Sedillo, and Jessica Strickland directed the 2015 Sierra Trout Camp, while Brian Johnson, TU’s state director for California, committed his kids and his energy to the event.
Special thanks go to the TU Truckee River chapter and the Granite Bay Flycasters, who helped underwrite the 2015 event. In addition, Sierra Trout Camp would not be possible without the strong support of outdoor businesses such as Ace Mountain Hardware, Cabela’s, Patagonia, and Dr. Slick, who all generously donated gear.
The protracted California drought underscores the importance of developing new stewards for our trout, salmon and steelhead streams.
Programs like the Sierra Trout Camp help youth experience and understand rivers, fish, the joy of angling with a fly rod — and the need to protect the places you love.
Sam Sedillo is Trout Unlimited Sierra Cascades Field Coordinator. visit tu.org to learn more.