June Meeting



“Sharing the fun of fishing turns strangers into friends in a few hours.” – Eugene Clark


When you read this, I will be very close to if not deeply involved in turning 14 young teenaged strangers into friends at the 2021 John Thurman Smoky Mountains Trout Adventure Camp. This has been a challenging year for putting Trout Camp together; COVID concerns have dictated some changes in protocols but have allowed us to keep our basic program in place. Other challenges included making the selection of 14 campers from 42 applications (about 2x past yearly applications) very challenging as well as painful (I do not like turning away campers!). Some positives have come up; we will be the only residential group at the Institute that week so campers and their TU Counselors get to stay in the air-conditioned dorms in much more comfortable beds. Being the only group there we will be able to easily follow COVID protocols. Sean Fagen has been working tirelessly to assemble the mentors for our various activities. I wish to give all of them that are reading this a big thank you in advance for making Trout Camp possible. We also have had several TU Chapters as well as the Chilhowie Women’s Club provide partial or full scholarships for deserving campers; another big thank you for that support!

Trout Camp has also produced many future leaders of TU and flyfishing. We have had at least 3 campers attend the TU National Teen Summit, one camper was invited to the Atlanta Fly Fishing Show as a guest fly tier, another has been a regular fly-tying instructor at the Boy Scout National Jamboree. As important are the many more campers who came away with the confidence that improved skills so that they were able to step out and fish mountains streams successfully. Pictures below tell it all. I am sure these successes will turn them into conservationists in the future.

All these successes can be rooted in the vision of 2 TU members, John Thurman and Jack Betschick. They spent 3 years researching how other camps succeeded or failed; they then coupled that knowledge with the ideas they developed themselves. Their vision came true with the initial Trout Camp session in 2011. I worked closely with John for a couple of years before taking over camp. What I saw was an individual with a deep commitment to educating young people in the out of doors. While John gave up the reins, his interest in camp never left him and he continued to help with staffing some of the camp activities. John left us this past fall, unfortunately in shadow of the COVID pandemic which led to Trout Camp being canceled that year. However, his vision of introducing youth to the out of doors and conservation lives on in what is now his namesake, the John Thurman Smoky Mountains Trout Adventure Camp.

Tight Lines!!—Steve Young

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