Community | Women | Youth

STREAM Girls camp connects fly fishing and STEM

Trout Unlimited continues to get Michigan girls connected with their local streams through the lens of an angler, artist and scientist through STREAM Girls.

TU’s STREAM Girls Program is about breaking down barriers and providing support in two male-dominated arenas: STEM-related careers and the sport of fly fishing. This national program is impacting significant numbers of young women across the country and building the next generation of coldwater conservation stewards.

This is particularly true in West Michigan where Trout Unlimited staff have connected with local partners to bring STREAM Girls to as many girls as possible.

Trout Unlimited launched the STREAM Girls program in 2015 with a pilot project in Wisconsin and has since held seven camps for nearly 200 middle school girls.

Trout Unlimited began the program by partnering with Girl Scouts of Michigan Shore to Shore to offer STREAM Girls as an overnight Girl Scout camp for the last three summers with great success.

STREAM Girls explore Brandywine Creek during a stream walk.

A professional evaluation of the program that was completed through pre- and post-tests administered to the participants found: “Girls participating in STREAM Girls programs generally showed increases in self-efficacy for science, science literacy, and interest and commitment for environmental actions.

“As well, their knowledge of ecology after the program was shown to increase related to stream, watershed, and macroinvertebrate content.”

The Flygirls of Michigan, a group dedicated to providing women fly fishing and educational opportunities, has provided the bulk of the fly casting and tying education at the camps and have become the hallmark of the success of the Michigan camps.

“It’s incredibly important to us to for the girls to meet different women in the fly-fishing community,” said Trout Unlimited’s Jamie Vaughan, coordinator for the organization’s Rogue River Home Rivers Initiative. “The girls can get a glimpse of what they can be and achieve if they stay committed to the sport.

A STREAM Girl fly fishing for the first time and sporting her new STREAM bracelet that represents the 9 elements of a healthy stream.

“The Flygirls of Michigan is the perfect group of role models and teachers that we want the STREAM Girls to learn from. They are always infatuated watching the women as they cast or show off all of their cool gear.”

To date, 14 Flygirls have donated over 200 hours to the STREAM Girls program.

“It was great fun teaching fly casting to these bright young ladies at the TU Stream Girls event yesterday,” Flygirl Lindy Ihrman said after teaching fly casting to Girl Scouts this summer in Greenvillle. “I love encouraging young girls to get out on the water and have some fun.”

This past year, Trout Unlimited further expanded the program by partnering with Blandford Nature Center and the Lower Grand River Organization of Watersheds to offer a week-long STREAM Girls camp to 20 girls. 

“I’ve only realized I like doing this stuff because of this camp,” said STREAM Girl Grace Fitzgerald, who will be a seventh grader at East Rockford Middle School this fall. “When I got home, I ran around my house trying to find my fly rod.

“I went outside and started practicing fly fishing. If there were a bunch of boys, I bet the girls would be nervous to fail. They feel like they can do this and the more girls there are the more empowered they feel.”

The STREAM Girls especially love getting creative with fly tying.

Trout Unlimited is committed to continuing the STREAM Girls program to help even more young women learn new skills in a comfortable environment and gain more confidence when it comes to STEM fields and fly fishing.

Thanks to the continued support of local partners like the Girl Scouts, Flygirls, Blandford Nature Center, and LGROW, Trout Unlimited can continue to offer and expand the program while maintaining its integrity.