A Natural Inclination

Gavin, three-time Youth Leadership Council representative from Ohio, is pictured above, center, with the GlenOak TIC trout crew, a project that he initiated after attending a Trout Unlimited Fly Fishing and Conservation Camp.

by Gavin Nupp

Throughout high school, I tried my hand with many activities. I spent countless nights nearly sleepless studying for Science Olympiad, and afternoons competing for glory in the intellectual arena of Academic Challenge. Among the various activities to which I devoted my time, Trout Unlimited was the most dynamic for me.

My experience with Trout Unlimited (TU) began with an interest in fly-fishing my final year of middle school. I had read about the organization in their publication, and noticed a listing for a youth camp. I only had one inhibition: It was in Grayling, Michigan. My parents and I knew all too well the drive north through Ann Arbor was a treacherous path for Ohio folk, but for the sake of adventure decided to rough it. I spent the week at Michigan Youth Trout Camp learning the ins and outs of fly-fishing, fly-tying, and conservation on the Au Sable River.

I found the people at camp akin to me, having a certain inclination towards nature. We spend our free moments outside, taking excitement from classifying everything that lives and studying how it all interacts. At Trout Camp, I learned of a program available called Trout-in-the-Classroom, or TIC. Through this program, students carry out the process of rearing trout from egg to fingerling, subsequently releasing the fingerlings in streams. It is intended to immerse students in biology, ecology, and conservation. Upon hearing about TIC, I immediately fell in love with this notion and knew I needed to make it a reality for my high school. Following a proposal to my school and a few meetings with the local TU chapter, I secured the grand prize: a one-thousand dollar aquatic education grant to cover the supplies needed to start TIC at GlenOak. My science teacher and I had all of the cogs in motion just in time for eggs to arrive the following winter.

Gavin pictured in front of his Trout in the Classroom tank.

As a sophomore, I was selected for the fourth annual Trout Unlimited Teen Summit, a national conference for teen leaders in TU. The teens who attend the summit have a unique role as the Youth Leadership Council (YLC). The job of the YLC is to provide insight to the organization on teen outreach strategies, and to be on the front lines for increasing youth involvement in the demographically narrow sport of fly-fishing. Throughout the last three years, I applied myself constructively through the YLC; we are currently building a community through social media for teens nationwide to participate in TU.

The Summit is held in a different part of the country every year; most recently Grayling, Michigan. As I once again cast my fly on the placid Au Sable, I reflected on how far I had come from the kid at Trout Camp. Since then, I made every effort to learn as much as I could and to follow my passion for nature. I enrolled in introductory courses on Aquatic Biology, Watershed Studies, Local Plants, and Birds at local universities, as well as the FFA career tech program and AP Biology at GlenOak. Today, I apply what I learn through these classes by dedicating time with fellow students to curate a school natural history collection and to gather ecological data on campus. We have kickstarted a project called the Bioblitz to create a resource for students and staff, fostering the passion for nature of those who come long after we graduate.

After three years of coordinating TIC and the Bioblitz, enrolling in high-level biology courses, and serving on the YLC, I am confident I have gained invaluable experience in leadership and conservation. Each day I look forward to seeing my fish, talking and working with friends from near and far away, and simply going fishing, all of which was made possible by taking opportunities and following my passion.

By Tara Granke.