At the request of a couple of campers from a previous camp we put together another Fly Fishing Camp to end the summer. Shortened by a day, it became an action packed three day initiation by fire. On the ride to camp we all agreed to treat this as an intensive course rather than the typical shenanigans of a summer camp. The result was one seriously focused group of kids.
We began the camp by squirming into wetsuits to snorkel the cold waters of Fox Creek. Learning to fish from the perspective of a fish can really change the way one approaches the hobby. We all lined up in our super hero outfits and crawled up the creek, imagination immersed in the underwater world. Along the way we observed the reds of big mouth chubs, hog suckers nestled in the substrate, darters in the riffles, and sculpin peaking their heads out between rocks. We saw white suckers, red-eyes, rainbow trout, brown trout and shiners. The most exciting part was a small shady run below a set of rapids where a variety of species darted about the water currents. Swimming across a deep pool we spooked up two 18" rainbow trout to the excitement of the inner fisherman in us all.
After some field casting lessons and sustenance we headed to the farm ponds for experience on how to set the hook, land and release the fish. As we got on the water heavy bands of rain crossed over us. Although the kids didn't mind one iota, the fish shut down. Once the rain passed the bluegill and largemouth bass returned as hungry as ever. One massive bass in particular was relentless with bluegill that we retrieved. With the fishing biting, we stayed until the light faded away. Only the promise of s'mores took them off the water. After a brief journaling session the camp went silent for the night.
The kids awoke at 6:30am and immediately went to the fly tying desk while breakfast sizzled on the grill. With a long day ahead on the river, we needed some fresh ammo for the trip. Everyone tied their best version of a leggy popper designed to be a cross between a dragonfly, frog and a minnow. This big buggy creature is a classic "terrestrial" used for smallmouth on the New River during the heat of summer.
While we ferried the raft trailers downriver the kids got a lesson in casting in moving water. Jane's first cast produced a smallmouth! The pride that she had in catching a fish with a fly she had tied was priceless. Down the river we headed, with the kids learning the ins and outs of casting from a raft, including not casting over the boat, not casting simultaneously and not trying to be Brad Pitt with twenty false casts! The day was hot and the fishing was slow but the fishermen were determined! Ultimately they brought four fish to the boat but missed a dozen more.
To cool off from the hot day we leaped into the swimming hole, again and again and again until our stomachs growled for dinner. Upon returning to camp out came the headlamps and bobbins to tie flies for the next day's adventure. They learned a streamer pattern, a never sink dry fly and a giant stonefly.
The next morning the kids were up knocking on the door of the counselors tent ready to keep tying! After breakfast we had a relay contest to learn the life cycles of three major families of aquatic insects that trout eat: mayflies, stoneflies and caddisflies.
With a bit of rain from the previous night Fox Creek was primed for chucking streamers so we headed to the house pool to try our hand at those 18" rainbows. After each kid took a shot, the counselors each tried their hand but all struck out so we moped back to camp and packed away the western style gear.
After a quick lesson on Tenkara Fly Fishing we packed the cruiser and headed up the mountain to the high elevation plunge pools of Wilson Creek. The kids tied on their never-sink caddis flies and practiced the art of stealth fly fishing. A series of missed strikes, tree snags and tangles ensued before they landed a native southern Appalachian brook trout and a wild rainbow trout! The brookie in its spawning colors was identified as "the most beautiful fish in the world". Their pride soared in the success of their tiny creations as fish after fish mistook it for the real mccoy. Navigating the boulder filled creek proved to be as entertaining as fly casting and the kids took some time to marvel in the unique landscape and continuous white noise of the plunge pools.
The camp finished with an ice cream sundae bar provided by Charlotte Hanes at the day camp site. After gorging our taste buds we had a little time to spare so we got out the seine and surveyed Saddle Creek for aquatic macroinvertebrates. In the net we saw a fish version of a sundae bar - stoneflies, hellgrammites, caddisflies, mayflies, midges, crayfish and minnows...
Upon graduation of the beginners course these kids were ready for the intermediate level but they will have to wait till summer to enroll!