Grand Prize camp essay: Thomas L!

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 Thomas’ essay is the last in this series as the grand prize winner! He received a TFO BVK rod for his heartfelt essay. Thomas is from Wisonsin and attended the Wisonsin TU Youth Camp on Bluff Creek. Please read on for Thomas’ memior and reflection of his time at Trout Camp.

Do 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 may be ready to attend the TU National Teen Summit, an annual conference for young leaders in TU. Click here to apply.

TU camp is… by Thomas L.

My Camp: Wisconsin TU Youth Camp

My TU Chapter: Blackhawk Chapter

My favorite thing about being in nature is the challenge and adventure.

What I thought TU camp would be when the Blackhawk Chapter sponsored me and what it became once I arrived are worlds apart. I was very fortunate to be sponsored for a second year by my chapter. To make it even better, my grandpa was asked to be a mentor. We were very excited to be going together. On May 31st, my life changed forever when my grandpa suddenly passed away. TU camp began as an opportunity to learn more about fishing. It became a way to hold on to the memories of the best fishing partner ever. While I did not have the opportunity to share the experience with my grandpa, I enjoyed the kindness and strength of the TU community, and I learned much more about fishing.

TU camp buzzed with excitement as a community of mentors and kids who share the same interests came together. The mentors were encouraging, patient, and committed, and their love for the sport was contagious. Through the expressions on their faces, you could see their enjoyment increase as the other campers and I started to “get” the new techniques and improve. So many people that I talk to think that fishing is a solitary sport, and while it can be, it doesn’t have to be. TU Camp was all ages having fun, fishing, and learning together. It was a blend of camaraderie, instruction, and appreciation for nature.

TU Camp stressed that healthy fishing starts with healthy fish and a healthy stream. We need the fish, and they need responsible anglers and conservation-minded youth. We heard knowledgeable speakers from the DNR and mentors from across the state – all people who are helping to make positive change. I learned more about shocking the streams to obtain accurate fish population counts and habitat information. We talked about the importance of narrowing the streams and removing destructive invasives like the Buckthorn and Japanese Knotweed. The mentors explained how to get involved in building and installing lunker structures in the streams to create undercut banks. I realized that these are opportunities for me to protect what I love by getting involved more with my local chapter on work days. It also encouraged me to attend my regular chapter meetings after camp where I heard more about the issues threatening our local fishing and ways that we can protect and conserve the streams in our state.

I still don’t know if trout are truly smarter than the average fish, but I would like to think that they are as they appreciate a healthy stream. I do know that technique counts when it comes to fishing for the various trout species. Whether it is how you cast, how you present the fly, or how you match the hatch, it helps to have someone to show you the ropes. Through the help of the mentors, I improved my casting technique drastically by letting my backcast rest more. I also learned about the bugs in the fishes’ habitats, and that unlocked the most natural ways to present flies. The fly tying mentor, Bob Haase, let us in on some top secret fly tying techniques like making your own eyes out of monofilament, and using household supplies to substitute for different, more expensive materials.

At the closing ceremony, I sat excitedly with the other campers and a list of email addresses for the new friends that I made. Maybe “ceremony” wasn’t the right word because there was a lot of whooping, laughing, and high-fiving. It’s a crazy thing, but sometimes when you are laughing and joking, suddenly you realize something earth-shatteringly important. At that moment, I realized that my grandpa was there with me – in the laughter and in the enthusiasm and in the knowledge and patience of my mentors. Then, I thought back to my times in the streams with my pop, and I realized that my grandpa would always be with me there. For me, preserving the streams means preserving my best memories.

By Tara Granke.