TU’s Teen Summit - engaging young “conserve-angler-ists”


The 5th Annual TU Teen Summit was held ner Missoula, Montana in 2016.

By Franklin Tate

Indulge me as I borrow a page right out of David Letterman’s Late Night playbook and come up with 5-plus-5 of the Headwaters Program’s shiniest stars.

Nearly every working stiff has been asked the question, “What’s your favorite part of your job?” and that’s exactly the kind of thing that got me to thinking about my Top 10. There are SO MANY choices for the list because TU’s Headwaters program contains something for every young person: Trout/Salmon/Steelhead in the Classroom, Summer Trout Camps and Academies, 5 Rivers Fly Fishing Clubs, Adopt-a-Trout, Stream Explorers, TU Teens, the Fly Fishing Merit Badge, First Cast, STREAM Girls, Summer on the Fly…well, you get the idea. The Headwaters program is a veritable Stream of Engagement for young conserve-angler-ists.

Wearing the TU Teen Summit shirt with pride.

But no matter how I arrange and rearrange, revise and pick new favorites, one of the program’s events always makes my short list: the TU Teen Summit. Not only do I love this part of my job, I love the energy that TU’s Teen leaders bring to the river and think often of these young fly fishers taking up the wheel and steering the USS Trout into the future.

The 5th Annual TU Teen Summit landed in Montana this year, and I can attest that it was one of the best events I have attended at Trout Unlimited. TU chapters and councils and members stepped up BIG TIME and helped fund the Summit through our Go Fund Me campaign, raising more than $4,000 so far.

An approproate name for the girl’s cabin at the TU Teen Summit in Montana.

Every dollar donated went directly toward gas, food, vans and cabins. Some chapters and councils went even beyond the call and helped a teen fly to Missoula International Airport, simply outstanding! Another part of this year’s Summit that made it such a huge success was how well the event was a complete match for everything that TU stands for in this round, watery world.

The teens built a riparian fence to protect bull trout spawning grounds, toured TU conservation projects on the Clark Fork with Casey Hackathorn, planned the coming year as members of TU’s Youth Leadership Council, fished and fished and fished, tied flies, played World Cup, slept (occasionally), and got along like they had been best friends for years.

Builing a riparian fence to help protect bull trout spawning grounds was part of the activities at the 2016 TU Teen Summit.

They came from all over the country, 25 chosen out of a pool of more than 40, and they are, to a person, filled with a love for fishing and for doing whatever they can to make our country’s streams and rivers a better place for trout and salmon.

Learning to cast during the 2016 TU Teen Summit.

So for now and the foreseeable future, the Summit is likely to have a prominent spot on my Headwaters Top 10 List. TU’s teens, the Youth Leadership Council, and the annual Summit are the real deal, the true blue TU. Huzzah!

If you know a teen who would like to get involved, tell her or him get in touch: teens@tu.org And, be on the lookout for another post soon that includes the video from this year’s Summit.

The board room for a Youth Leadership Council meeting during the TU Teen Summit.

Trout Unimited has been sharing tales of the Teen Summit from participants on the national blog.

Here’s a link to them.

Reflections from the Teen Summit – Gavin

Reflections from the Teen Summit – Andrew D

Watch the blog for more.

A big thank you from Tara Granke, me and the teens, of course, to Judi Sittler, Scott Novotny, Rob Shane, Andrew Loffredo, Todd Barker, Casey Hackathorn, and all of our Go Fund Me supporters for pitching in and going the distance to make this year’s Summit so memorable.

Franklin Tate is director of Trout Unlimited’s Headwaters Youth Program. He can be emailed at ftate@tu.org

By Brett Prettyman.