Take 16 campers, age 13-16; add fishing every day, bugs, cookies, canoeing, and conservation,and it's easy to see why the Michigan Trout Unlimited Youth and Conservation Camp is a blast.
Campers are taught not only how to fly fish, but also how to protect the rivers and lakes, ettiquette, the history of fishing and conservation in Michigan, how to tie their own flies, and what bugs are in the water we need to imitate. All in four days.
The camp is held at the Ralph A. McMellen Center in Roscommon, giving us access to all the branches of the Au Sable as well as some nice pan fish lakes. It's not all fishing; visits to Hartwick Pines and the Lovells Museum of Fly Fishing as well as a canoe trip gave the campers a break from wading.
The DNR came to speak and highlighted the rules, life cycle of fish, and how we can protect our resources. Using a stream table, the kids learned how streams are affected by water flow and obstructions, and then went to work with the crew of Northpoint Fisheries Management to build trout habitat on the north branch of the Au Sable.
Kristen Thomas, TU's biologist, came with her team to show the campers how electroshocking is used to assess fish populations, then helped us gather bugs for identification.
Most of the campers had never touched a fly rod at the beginning of camp; by Thursday they were chosing flies, tying them on, and wading fearlessly to target fish with their casts. The Mershon-Neumann Heritage Chapter sent two campers, Oliver Harwood and Harrison Salowitz, and along with Reese Adventure Club sponsored camper, Brody Rice our area was well represented. We can look forward to seeing them at future events.
This camp could not be done without the support and help from the community. Special thank yous to the TU chapters and members who donated funds, Scientific Anglers for the help in outfitting the campers, Bell's Brewery for their generous contribution, the river boat captains who donated their time to take the campers on a float trip, and the councelors who gave of their time to instruct these kids.
A special note- in a time when there is a lot of attention given to concerns of today's youth spending too much time on their phones and not enough time interacting and gettting outside, it is important we celebrate these 16 young teens. We were frequently complimented by community members on their behaviour, enthusiam, respect, and wonderful attitude .
Please contact us if you would like a youth in your life to have this experience next year, or if you would like to make a donation- email@example.com