One of the greatest programs TU has going is the Trout In the Classroom program.
The Kanawha Valley chapter had eight programs running in elementary schools during the 2008-2009 school year. We were asked to pick up and haul fish for two of the schools in our area. Our chapter had recently purchased two new hauling tanks and they needed to broken in, so we jumped at the chance.
These two schools had raised these trout from eggs over the last 7-8 months, quite a task in itself.
I was very nervous going into this, I was concerned something would go wrong during the transfer and we would be left to explain to the students what happened to their fish. I knew these students had taken ownership and responsibility of these little guys but I had no idea of the magnitude. These were not just fish in the tank, they were classmates and there were some strong emotions.
We were to transfer the water from the fish tanks to our hauling tanks, then transfer the fish. Transferring the water was the easy task, catching those trout without a fly rod was another story!
The first load of fish successfully transferred to the hauling tank, the bottles of ice were applied and the water was holding at 52 degrees. Now it was off to classroom number two to repeat the same.
Again, the transfer of water was easy but chasing down those little trout was quite a task. We were able to successfully transfer all trout without a casualty and tank number two was holding at 48 degrees. The tanks were then secured for the hour-long ride to their new home.
Once at the stream, we checked the tanks for temperatures and fish condition. The fish were doing just fine and our insulated hauling tanks were still holding at 52 and 48 degrees, respectively.
We had approximately 45 trout to be released by over 100 proud students. The students were on their best behavior and each took their turn releasing one or two fish to every three or four students. The entire process went off without a hitch!
I will reiterate, this program is the best thing TU has going and I look forward to getting more programs started in the area next year. Ensuring a healthy future of coldwater fisheries for our youth is why I do what I do in TU....
...Now, I couldn't go to the edge of "trout country" and not wet a line. Besides, I had not been fishing with this particular friend in three years!
A little background: this guy taught me how to fly fish, we have fished all up and down the east coast - from New York to North Carolina, and we took our first trip to the Rockies together back in 2002. I believe we used to fish two or three times a month together but none since March 2006. I can probably count the times I have outfished him on one hand so I was psyched to get another "lesson".
We also had my new fishing partner in tow, who had been with me in the Smokies and on my first outing of the year.
I had fished this stream seven days earlier and did quite well in the short period of time I was on the stream, but these two had never fished this particular brookie stream.
We split up right out of the truck, but I went with the old friend. This day, I didn't care if I caught a fish, I just wanted to fish with an old friend. On the short distance to the water I found a morel in the trail, so our first order of business was to scour the hillside for more. We found five or six of these wild, edible delicacies but he would inform me later they had been up too long to eat.
Back to the stream, he started with a dry and I started with the old reliable small, olive woolybugger. This pattern would be "the ticket" again on this day as I caught this guy on the first drift.
We continued to fish upstream, I would let him hit each hole with the dry then I would follow him - dredging the bottom.
I picked up this nice specimen while an overhanging branch was held out of my way with a dry fly. Thanks for the assist!
I mentioned, while I was fighting this guy, that he was fighting harder than just about any brookie I had ever caught - and I've caught a few. When I finally landed him, I saw the reason for the struggle. I had foul hooked him just above the gill plate and I was told I could not "count" this one. Regardless, it was a beautiful specimen!
I continued to pick up the occasional brookie while my old friend refused to switch from the dry. All the time we reminisced on how when we started fly fishing I refused to use anything BUT a dry...how things change.
My old friend finally picked up one on a dry. I don't think it was the first of the day, but I'm pretty sure I was up on him.
Eventually, all three of us were together on the stream and we alternated holes between the three of us and eventually all three of us were fishing sub-surface flies. Everyone continued to pick up the brookies and all things were good.
It was like seeing a transition in life happen right before my eyes. Work and personal schedules have separated my old friend and I, while the same schedules allow me to fish more with my new fishing partner. Some things never change though, as I was the butt of ridicules from both guys.
I finally caught what would be my last fish of the day.
My old partner finally caught what would be the final fish of the day for him - he had successfully knocked the rust off. The task then would be to put my new partner on his last fish of the day....one more pocket, one more pocket and he would have his last fish of the day - on a woolybugger.
What an incredible day, probably the best in recent memory - a combination of the past, present, and future!
I don't know how many I caught (I don't count) but I'm pretty sure I finished up on my old partner. I still don't think I am counting on my second hand yet!