By Aidan McLaughlin
Two summers ago, I was fortunate enough to attend two TU teen trout camps in Colorado and Montana. As a native Mainer, flying out west is an incredible experience on its own even without the week of fishing. At the camps, I not only learned all about fishing and the world of trout and Trout Unlimited, but I also met countless amazing people and learned valuable life lessons that can only be learned through experience. As a result of going to these camps, I was recommended for the first TU National Teen Summit in August of this year. The summit was described to me as a four-day meeting of some of the nation’s most involved TU teens in which we would discuss how TU could reach out to teenagers more efficiently and fish on Spring Creek in Pennsylvania.
I was apprehensive about the Summit, because naturally, I assumed that the summit would be comprised of very skilled and intense anglers. I am neither. I love fly fishing, but I only get to fish for trout a few times a year due to my hectic high school schedule; four days dedicated only to fishing and talking about fishing sounded like a dream come true. When I arrived at the summit near State College, Pa., I was pleasantly surprised. Not only were there were very talented fishermen and women there who were able to fish at least weekly, but there were also those like me who were less skilled but still passionate.
It was this shared passion for trout that allowed each of us to mesh together to form a productive, creative group before the end of the first day. This unity helped us to think up various problems and each problem’s respective solution. Each morning from nine to noon, we formulated ideas on TU’s future. By the end of the summit, we had amassed a total of 12 hours of discussion time. We addressed everything from the structure of TU to how we should run next year’s summit, and we even created the TU National Teen Council: the teenage equivalent of the TU National Advisory Council.
Our work at the summit was beneficial to Trout Unlimited in providing a fresh new insight on young TU members, but it was more beneficial to the teens who attended. We were thrown into a new setting with a set of complete strangers, and each one of us stepped up to be productive leaders in some way or another.