A week with TU: Adele's winning TU Camp essay

Each year, TU Camp and Academy graduates are invited to enter the TU Teen Essay Contest in which they share their camp experiences. This year we had four finalists, and Adele’s essay is the third in this series as the second runner-up. Adele is from Pennsylvania and attended our oldest Trout camp, the PA Rivers Conservation Camp, which has been around for over 25 years. She is pictured above just before a repel. Please read on for Adele’s story of her adventures at trout camp.

If you know a teen that’s ready to attend a TU Camp, visit the TU Camps Page to see if there’s one near you! Already been to a camp, you say?? Then that teen mmay be ready to attend the TU National Teen Summit, an annual conference for young leaders in TU. Click here to apply.

A Week with TU… by Adele S

My Camp: Rivers Conservation and Fly Fishing Youth Camp

My TU Chapter: Cumberland Valley, Pennsylvania

My favorite thing about outside is the close connection that’s formed with my environment when I’m outdoors experiencing nature and fishing.

TU Camp is a place to learn, grow, conserve, enjoy the true beauty of nature, and fish! When I think of the days we spent on the water at Rivers Conservation and Fly Fishing Youth Camp in Pennsylvania, my initial thoughts are not of the handful of trout I reeled in. I instead immediately think of the friends I met, the experiences we shared, and the education we gained.

The weekend I left for camp, I was at a Northeast Regional rugby tournament playing on the Pennsylvania All State team. I left as soon as I could and, without stopping home, rolled into camp in full, smelly rugby garb at around nine in the evening. The counselors bustled about to get me ready as campers began returning from their first night of fishing. I was nearly frozen with awkward fear. What if I am the only girl? What if I am the only one who came to the camp with minimal fishing knowledge? I quickly bumped into my roommate, an extremely nice but relatively quiet girl. We all settled into our seats for the night’s lecture.

The next day, my roommate and I hustled out to the river, running into the kid I had sat beside at last night’s lecture. He spent all morning with us and was ecstatic to assist me in catching my first trout on a fly rod, and then my second, and then my third. By the time we were to walk back for breakfast, the three of us were conversing jovially. My roommate and I sat together at breakfast at the only open table, with three guys and the only other girl. We remained at this table for all meals, and eventually became very close with our table-mates. That evening, the my new friend and I set out for the water, trailing the three guys we had met at breakfast. They trucked us around to all their favorite spots, taught us how to rig our own lines, and definitely released my errant fly from a tree or two. This continued on for the duration of the week, and by the end we considered ourselves knowledgeable enough to function on our own after camp. In total, there are around ten kids that I met at camp who I am still in contact with. Many of us have gotten together outside of camp to fish, eat, or just hang out.

In between fishing sessions and meals, we had lecture hours with over twenty five amazing, highly qualified conservationists and anglers with decades of experience. Over the course of the week, we learned the pros, cons, and techniques of bait fishing, fly fishing, using dry flies, and nymphing. We also learned extensively of the conservation of watersheds, best management practices, aquatic macroinvertebrates, acid mine drainage, riparian buffers, and much more. We spent nearly a full day with an older gentleman who had spent his lifetime studying trout behavior in the field. This helped us significantly when it came to picking fishing holes later on.

In the middle of the week, we completed a service project to reduce bankside erosion on the river. The girls were kept together in the second group with only moderate grumbling from our male counterparts. Partially to show off, and partially to show we could, the three of us worked non-stop pushing, pulling, and rolling boulders, logs, and rocks into place. Our laborious efforts were not nearly matched by the other dawdling campers, and we were quickly integrated into the boys’ workforce. As a now-cohesive group, we finished our project in record time, and by the end there was no doubt we were treated as complete equals. Around this time we were also brought to a fly shop and were allowed to buy or simply browse materials. Near the end of the week professional fly tiers were brought in, along with equipment for each camper. We were given ample instruction in a selection of popular flies, and then plenty of time to experiment on our own. Excluding nymphs, which I have yet to master, I have almost entirely used flies that I have tied myself since camp. I have found that it is much more rewarding to pull in trout on something you spent hours perfecting than something you spent minutes buying.

Today, I am still in touch with many friends from camp and fish frequently. I now use my late grandfather’s materials, which were passed down through the family, to tie flies and fish with. This brings infinite amounts of joy to my father and I, who both thrive in the feeling of continuing a very important legacy. I will never be able to forget the memories, friendships, and education gained at TU Camp. Tight lines!

By Tara Granke.