Sierra Trout Camp 2018


By Tom Kloehn

It was the first day of Sierra Trout Camp 2018, and even though the kids weren’t fishing yet, it was hard to miss their enthusiasm for any chance to get near a river.

The kids were bouncing around the creek, splashing in and out of the water, completely oblivious to rocks and soaked sneakers. They were hunting aquatic bugs with a fervor that most older anglers reserve for bigger prey.

The fact that many aquatic insects in their nymph stage look like miniature prehistoric monsters certainly contributed to the campers' keen interest in this activity. But their eagerness was about more than just bugs -- it was about exploring the fascinating, often strange, but always entertaining world of fly fishing.

The Sierra Trout Camp weekend began with a casting lesson beside the trout ponds at the Resort at Squaw Creek, in the middle of Squaw Valley, one of the Lake Tahoe area’s most famous settings. For the participants (10-12 year-old kids from California and western Nevada), this was the beginning of a crash course in the skills required to become a proficient fly angler -- including the roll cast and false cast, and tying the improved clinch knot and surgeon’s knot.

Trout Unlimited || Sierra Trout Camp 2018

Sierra Trout Camp 2018

On Day One the campers also took their initial steps into the fly fisherman’s never-ending education about the natural world. Some of the most well-known guides and fly fishing community leaders in northern California helped the kids learn everything from the lifecycle of a mayfly to the feeding habits of a trout to the story of trout -- native and non-native, wild and stocked, sea-run and resident -- in California. In the afternoon, the kids and volunteer guides moved to the shores of the ponds, where they got educated in other aspects of the fishing experience, like tangled monofilament, missed strikes, and lost fish.

But, of course, that wasn’t the full story. I’ve never forgotten the feeling of the first fish I caught on a fly, and these kids won’t either.

After dreams of big trout caught and missed, the next day began with an even deeper dive into the process of fooling a fish: fly tying. With a stiff wind blowing across Sawmill Lake, the site of the second day's activities, it would have been a challenge for anyone to tie a fly. These kids, though, were undeterred. Woolly buggers, zebra midges, and foam ants flew off the vises.

For the rest of the day, those flies got put to the test, along with the other skills and knowledge acquired over the weekend. Kids roll-cast ants and beetles to rising fish, tossed weighted nymphs over a drop-off, and coaxed cruising rainbows with carefully stripped streamers. All that learning paid off, and the campers caught fish.

The pay-off.

Thanks to the curriculum for the 2018 Sierra Trout Camp, and the exceptional volunteers who taught it, the kids who attended this year's camp came away understanding that fly fishing isn’t just a sport -- it’s an opportunity to engage with and protect the natural world. That means paying attention to big conservation issues, like keeping the water in our rivers clean and cold, and practicing smaller actions, like handling fish properly.

Who better to safeguard our trout and salmon streams than the next generation of anglers? With kids like the 2018 Trout Camp graduates out on the rivers, the future of fly fishing and coldwater conservation looks bright.

Inspiring the next generation of anglers and conservationists doesn't happen without significant support from the fly fishing community. Many people, businesses and organizations contributed time and resources to the 2018 Sierra Trout Camp, including the volunteer instructors and guides, the folks who provided access to the fishing spots (Matt Heron Fly Fishing, the Resort at Squaw Creek, and Tahoe Fly Fishing Outfitters), and other generous sponsors including Far Bank Enterprises, Loon Outdoors, Lamson Waterworks, Mountain Hardware and Sports, the Montana Fly Company, Tahoe Sports Hub, and the Granite Bay Flycasters, Truckee River Fly Fishers, Tahoe Truckee Fly Fishers, and TU’s Truckee River chapter.



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