Every summer, TU Camp and Academy graduates are invited to enter the TU Teen essay contest, in which they share their camp experiences. This year we have four winners, and we'll be sharing the winning essays and a litte bit about the writers throughout the month of October.
Rachel is a runner-up in this year's contest. Her fantastic essay paints the TU Camp experience in great detail. Thanks, Rachel, for sharing your story!
Camp: Tennessee Trout Adventure Camp
TU Chapter: Clinch River Chapter
Favorite Fishing River: Clinch River below Norris Dam.
Thoughts on Being Outside: I like being outside to enjoy all the wildlife and especially practice my casting techniques while catching quality trout on flies I tied. I also like listening to nature and seeing all the wild flowers while floating the river. But the best experience is fishing with my Dad, Mom and Sister.
Trout Adventure Camp 2013
Trout Adventure Camp at Tremont in the Great Smoky Mountains was the highlight of my summer and has opened my eyes to the world of trout and stream ecology. I had such a great time interacting with my instructors and fellow trout adventurers even though I was so homesick and was quietly crying inside at night. My instructors made me feel welcome and like family. They taught me different techniques and fly patterns which made me want to learn more. All I can think of when I got back home was to gather materials, tie different fly patterns and practice fly casting.
The best part of trout camp was tying flies in the morning and evenings. Each night I couldn’t wait until we could tie different patterns. We tied the classics to catch trout in the Smokies, the Elk Hair Caddis, the Greenie Weenie, the Bead Head Pheasant Tail, the Foam Bodied Cicada and the Olive Wooly Bugger. Capturing insects at night with a black light gave me a better understanding of size and types of flies I can make with my own vise and materials. It was captivating seeing insect anatomy up close and wondering what materials I could use to mimic the fly.
Electro shocking fish by the Great Smoky Mountain Fisheries Biologist was fascinating and gave us all a better understanding of how many types of fish actually live in the stream. They separated the many species of fish they shocked into a small tank and described their role in life and what they eat. The Great Smoky Mountain Biologists said they had the best job in the Park.
Snorkeling was one of the best ways to see fish that live in the streams. We also learned to identify the many fish species and how they live in the stream. We had so much fun and seeing darters, minnows and trout while snorkeling even when other people were swimming in the same stretch of river. When we were snorkeling, biologists from the Cherokee National Forest, University of Tennessee and Tennessee Valley Authority explained how the temperature and speed of the water affected the fish. I enjoyed seeing where the fish stayed in the bone chilling water and how difficult it was for me to swim in it. I also enjoyed seeing my fellow camper’s faces when they caught their first fish on a fly rod. And it was especially cool catching fish on flies we tied the night before. Our Trout Unlimited guides took us to several places in the mountains to fish. They taught us basic casting techniques like roll casting while fishing heavy cover. They say it’s a privilege to back cast in most of the mountain streams in the Smokies.
Our guides and teachers made camp fun and a delightful experience I will never forget. They showed us different ways to cast in difficult areas and where the best places to cast a fly to catch fish in the stream. It was an adventure going to different areas to fish for trout and many other species like War Paint Shiners, which I had caught as my first fish in the mountains. I practiced on my roll casting in the waters getting it at the right location. We shared many stories about our fishing experiences and what we fished with. I learned so much in the short time and learned what type of water fish spend their time in most. When I was fishing in rough white waters with my guide, I felt a tug on the line and had hooked a fish. It gave a fight but it got of the line and I was left with only excitement and not the fish. I went on my quest to catch a fish and further upriver in calmer waters, I caught a beautiful Warpaint Shiner. For its size it put up a fight not to be caught. I was so proud to have caught the Warpaint the first time I ever got the chance to fish in the mountains. Though I didn’t get a trout, I was just happy to have gotten the chance to see what fly attracted the fish and able to practice casting with trees and shrubs. Fishing is not about always catching trout; it’s about the excitement and the art of casting.
This experience gave me a better appreciation for stream ecology and made me want to fly fish more often. I was amazed at how many steps there were to fly fish but our teachers made it easy to learn. I am grateful of the methods that I learned from my wonderful guides and teachers who taught us valuable life lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.