Fly Fishing and Freshwater Ecology Camp
by Jeffry Gottfried
First trout ever! He caught 22 more that week!
Through Educational Recreational Adventures, a non-profit organization that I founded in 2003, I conducted a week-long Fly Fishing and Freshwater Ecology Camp for kids 9-15 this August at Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center just East of Salem, Oregon. On day #1, we met the kids at the trailhead for a 3 mile walk to "Jaw Bone Flats," the center of operations for Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center and the base camp for Fly Fishing Camp. I carried seven tenkara rods around my neck in cloth sheaths as we walked along the Little N.Fork of the Santiam River toward Jaw Bone Flats.
We stopped and picked huckleberries and marvelled at a pacific giant salamander in the crystal clear waters with 20+ visibility. We hiked under trees that were 500 years old and older. After about an hour, we stopped for lunch at a beautiful pool, right below a waterfall.
By the time that we left that pool, all 7 kids, and the Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center counselor assigned to work with us, had caught their first trout on a fly using using our tenkara gear. With the exception of the next day, when using western fly rods and reels was required in order to teach casting skills, etc, the kids fished tenkara all week by choice and landed over 75 native rainbow trout. The fish were small but plentiful. The kids were hooked and the Opal Creek staffer bought one of my tenkara rods from me before I left camp.
This same scenario of kids with no previous fly fishing experience catching wild fish on their first fly fishing outing has been repeated time again in all of the 6 camps that we have run this summer. After the Opal Creek program, we took students from the Japanese Immersion School's Summer Camp on a tenkara fishing trip on Willamina Creek in the foothills of the Oregon Coast Range and caught 26 fish, resident coastal cutthroats, over the couse of the day.
Small creeks, kids and tenkara fishing: this is a sure formula for a joyful day filled with success for kids and guides.