TU's annual Teen Summit goes full Michigan

By Tara Granke

On July 15, 1959, Trout Unlimited was founded in Grayling, Mich. Nearly 60 years later, 30 of TU’s rising leaders traveled there from all over the country to attend a five-day leadership event called the TU Teen Summit. You could say we were returning to our roots.

Just as they have for the last five Summits, the teens spent the better part of a week bonding over fly fishing, actively participating in conservation efforts, and forming a TU family called the Youth Leadership Council, or YLC. YLC members are the youth voice of TU and work with staff and volunteers year round to raise TU’s profile among their peers.

Michigan proved to be pure magic for all of us. We canoed fabled trout waters, heard from local industry leader Scientific Anglers, built bank structures to create cover for spawning trout with the Michigan DNR, chatted with local legend Josh Greenberg of the Gates Au Sable Lodge, listened to stories about TU heroes like Art Neumann and George Griffith, and we saw that there is indeed a bright future for TU.

I can’t think of a better way for the teens to have gotten a crash course in all things TU and leadership than by spending time in Michigan.

A big piece of the Summit story this year is the community we found in Michigan. It seems only fitting that in the birthplace of TU one would find a nurturing and tight-knit community, one that would not only welcome and foster this group of young leaders but recognize them as an important step in continuing the legacy that they and their friends started more than 50 years ago.

Michigan’s TU contingent epitomizes the “One TU” motto. They showed us the best spots to fish, volunteered time as fishing guides, were our experts on everything from grayling reintroduction to Au Sable river boats. And they did it all because they have an enormous, home-grown passion for their waters and fisheries.

Special thanks to Greg Potter and Kalamazoo Valley Chapter TU (KVCTU), Michigan Youth Trout Camp volunteers, Karen Harrison and 001 – Mason-Griffith Founders Chapter, Don Meyer and the William B Merson Chapter, Michigan Council of TU, and the Michigan DNR.

From nearby Midland, Scientific Anglers stepped up in a big way to support the Summit by donating to the GRTU Tomorrow Fund Challenge as a sponsor. The “Made in Michigan” company sponsored and participated in the Summit activities. The company’s history runs parallel to that of TU’s—the roots run deep here. Big props to Erick Johnson, SA Representative, for coming out to meet the teens, impart some industry knowledge, and give them some goodies.

Another local treasure is the world-famous (as far as I’m concerned) Tie-a-Thon put on by the St. Joseph River Valley Fly Fishers club, KVCTU, and tons of other contributors. This collaboration of dedicated tyers decided to donate 11,600 hand-tied flies to youth programs in Michigan including the Michigan Youth Trout Camp, The Illinois Conservation and Fly Fishing Camp, and the TU Teen Summit! If y’all have not participated in this epic annual event, you need to.

Last but definitely not least, our longtime friends and partners were as loyal as always. Headwaters Youth Program partner and sponsor, Costa, pulled through with another year of crispy apparel for the teens (in fact, the shirts are so popular many teens don’t take them off, and the cabins start to smell a little funky!).

Of course, we are indebted to our volunteer “staff” members that help every year. Some have been with us since the very first Summit in Spring Creek, Pa., (lookin’ at you Judi Sittler!), and each of them can always be depended upon to happily donate 15 hours of their time EVERY DAY for five days. A very trouty thanks to Judi from the Spring Creek Chapter, Scott Novotny of Gray Reef/Casper Chapter, Dakus Geeslin of Guadalupe Chapter and TU staffer Rob Shane.

What an amazing year for the Summit! Obviously, we couldn’t have done it without support from our friends and family from across the country. Oh we’ll be back.

Tara Granke is TU’s Headwaters Youth Program Coordinator. She is based in Asheville, N.C.

By Mark Taylor. A native of rural southern Oregon, Mark Taylor has lived in Virginia since serving a stint as a ship-based naval officer in Norfolk. He joined the TU staff in 2014 after a 20-year run as a newspaper journalist, the final 16 as the outdoors editor of the Roanoke Times. A graduate of Northwestern University, he lives in Roanoke with his wife and, when they're home from college, his twin daughters.