Thompson Valley students spawn successful Trout in the Classroom program

May 14, 2010

By Carl McCutchen • Loveland Connection

Wednesday was a new day, a day to let go as the first year of the Trout in the Classroom program at Thompson Valley concluded.

Hewson and Carlson stood by Hunter as he prepared the fish for the move, as did wildlife biologist Dan Stubbs.

Even Sharon Lance, president of the Trout Unlimited Cutthroat Chapter, who sponsored the Trout in the Classroom project with the Division of Wildlife, was on hand to see the fish move on.

Lance said that because of the program’s success, Hewson and his students showed this year, she plans on launching five more Trout in the Classroom projects in the fall.

Sustaining hunting and fishing tradition

January 22, 2008

By Lisa Huynh
Daily Press Writer

MONTROSE — Part of making a living in Mel Jensen’s youth meant going out and shooting meat in the fall to have for the winter. The memory he recalled most children wouldn’t recognize today.

Jensen’s a great-grandfather now, a retiree and hunting education instructor. He learned to hunt at 13 and learned to fish at an even younger age.

“The kids growing up they have different forms of entertainment, they watch television,” said Jensen, a Montrose Rod and Gun Club member. “Now they didn’t have television when I was a kid. Maybe I got to see a movie Saturday afternoon if I had a nickel to do it.”

Jensen and other lifelong sportsmen remember childhoods spent out in nature, learning out of necessity and accessibility to read the land and its animals. Many lived near wild spaces and grew up learning from family how to pursue, capture and shoot prey.

Increasing urbanization and fewer traditional family structures are some factors possibly contributing to a decline in the number children introduced to hunting and fishing.

A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report released in 2007 found nationwide about 10 percent fewer 6 to 19 year-olds living at home had ever fished in 2005 compared to those who had ever fished in 1990. The percent of 13- to 19-year olds who had ever hunted fell from 16 percent in 1990 to 11 percent in 2005. Declines appeared to be both in fewer participants and fewer staying engaged throughout their lifetimes.

What is viewed as promising news, however, is the rise of participation in other wildlife activities. Thirty-eight percent of Americans either hunt, fish or observe wildlife.

“It seems that people are still getting outside and recreating and enjoying the outdoors, they’re just doing it with different activities,” said Barb Perkins, USFWS spokesperson. “It’s just maybe a sign of our times that things are changing a little bit.”

A tradition

The amount of dedication hunters and anglers devote to their sports is in many respects the ultimate in wildlife interaction. Beside the fact that these two types of activities sustain the state’s conservation efforts through the sale of hunting and fishing licenses (see “The Hunter-Angler Dollar”), these sportsmen spend much of their time outside observing animal behavior.

Come hunting season, families like the Vergaminis set up camp well before the start of the season. They wake before the sun, spend all day on foot and return to camp at sundown. Sometimes excitement impedes sleep. The family’s interest is just as much about intrigue as it is about gain — behavioral insight is key in catching game.

“If you’re out there, you see how (the animals) live, you see their lifestyle, you see the moms and the babies and how they react,” said lifelong hunter Christine Gibson, whose parents met while hunting. “You see (the animals’) circle of life. It’s really amazing that that goes on and you don’t ever know about it and you don’t see it.”

The decline in youth introductions to hunting and fishing surprises few; Gibson’s father Dave Vergamini, a hunter safety educator and Montrose Rod and Gun Club member, said the drop in youth participation is part of the norm. Still, his family is sad knowing fewer kids are getting outdoors.

“If you don’t get to the outdoors, you just don’t appreciate it,”said Kathy Vergamini. “Everyone’s ‘going green’ but it seems to be a fad. If you don’t live it, you don’t really understand what all goes along with it.”

Beyond the tangible or measurable values of hunting and fishing is something perhaps words can’t express. The activities often bond generations of families like the Vergaminis.

“I don’t think we chose (the lifestyle). It’s just always been there and we’ve just always done it,” said Kathy. “I grew up that way. I got lucky enough to marry someone that enjoys it and passed it onto to our kids.”

When asked the value of activities to him, Dave Vergamini said simply, “I don’t know, you just have to be out there to experience it.” While Dave recognizes the differences between today’s and yesterday’s youth, he suspects it’s not so much the number of participants that has changed but the society around the culture. Montrose used to be filled with banners reading, “Welcome Hunters.” Not so much anymore.

Said Dave, “It used to be the big talk of the town, ‘are you going hunting?, when are you going?'”

Exceptions to the decline

Many local sportsmen believe Colorado, with its relative abundance of public lands and rural communities, is not experiencing the decline in participation happening in other states. More than one-third of Colorado’s land area is owned by the public and is available for public use, according to the Bureau of Land Management. The USFWS survey showed hunting retention rate in urban areas declined between 1995 to 2005, from 43 to 35 percent, in comparison to a decline in rural areas from 59 to 53 percent.

Data on hunting and fishing license sales in Colorado suggest participation isn’t what it used to be, but also shows fluctuations from year to year with no sharp changes. In 1985, the DOW reported 1,031,061 individual hunting and fishing license buyers; that number decreased to 961,043 by 2006. Part of the reason the number of license buyers is sustained is the sale of over-the-counter bull elk tags, which is a huge draw because hunters know they can come to Colorado and hunt elk, said Division of Wildlife Public Information Specialist for the Southwest Region Joe Lewandowski.

Participants in local fly fishing and casting clinics have also increased significantly in the last two years, said Gunnison Gorge Anglers President Marshall Pendergrass. However — as the USFWS national survey also found — most participants are middle-aged and retired, he said. Based on the survey, at least a third of both first time anglers and hunters were over 20 years old.

“People are busy and they’re finding it’s an easy way to get away and spend some time,” said Pendergrass. “It’s not as expensive as skiing and things like that. (Fishing) is not limited to just a certain time of year and most people enjoy the mountains; they enjoy the rivers, hiking and wildlife.”

In an effort to foster more youth participation in hunting and fishing, federal, state and local non-profit groups are reaching kids through programs such as DOW’s Youth Hunt, GGA’s flyfishing clinics and workshops and Trout Unlimited’s Trout in the Classroom.

Contact Lisa Huynh via email at

A little help please for Headwaters TU!

September 11, 2007

Colorado Headwaters TU is looking for a few volunteers for a couple of fun and worthwhile causes…. (1). Teach fishing to East Grand Middle School students and (2). Support BLM public land day.We need volunteers to help teach fishing to the East Grand Middle School as part of our Headwaters Outreach Initiative. Volunteers will teach the students about fish and insects, their habitat, where to find them and how to catch them. (Info on what to say is provided if you are not comfortable with the topics).
We need volunteers for Monday the 17th and Wednesday the 19th at the Fraser ponds from 8:30 till 3:00. Thursday the 27th in Rocky Mountain National Park not sure on time yet.

BLM Public Lands Day Saturday Sept 29th. Trail building from the Strawberry Road into the Fraser River Canyon. This project will enhance current trail and parking areas, add an information kiosk and revegetate certain areas.
Volunteers can meet at the trail head on the Strawberry road at 8:30am or at Snow Mountain Ranch at 7:30 with transportation provided. A Party will be held for volunteers back at Snow Mountain Ranch that afternoon with free food and beer.

Interested volunteers can call Scott for more info W 726-5652 or H 887-1657.
Please considering helping with these important projects.

Kids clinic serves up the catch of the day

July 13, 2007

“Last Wednesday, while rousing music spilled out of the Evergreen Music Festival’s big top, restless schools of young patriots cast their eyes toward Evergreen Lake’s sparkling waters, where, thanks to Evergreen Trout Unlimited, fishing rods, wily prey and summer adventure awaited.”

Spending the better part of a glorious Fourth of July lounging around in the sun listening to music may be big fun for grown-ups, but the average kid prefers entertainments of the applied variety.

Last Wednesday, while rousing music spilled out of the Evergreen Music Festival’s big top, restless schools of young patriots cast their eyes toward Evergreen Lake’s sparkling waters, where, thanks to Evergreen Trout Unlimited, fishing rods, wily prey and summer adventure awaited.

“This is the 13th year we’ve done our Fourth of July fishing clinic,” said floppy hatted Trout Unlimited stalwart John Ellis, his multi-pocketed fishing duds heavily accoutered with tools specific to his avocation. “We won a youth education award for this program, and the kids just love it. We always tie it to the music festival because, as long as they’re here for the music, they may as well do some fishing.”

That’s pretty much the way Evergreen resident Tanya Rodgers sees it, and the fishing clinic is now a big part of her clan’s Independence Day observances.

“It’s something they really enjoy, and it’s a great activity that the whole family can do together,” explained Tanya, as her kids — Sophia, 6, Moriah, 8, Addi, 11, and 12-year-old Nick — sat patiently waiting for the 10 a.m. start. “And it’s free, which is nice, because it’s getting hard to find an outdoor family activity that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.”

Last Wednesday, as on most summer mornings, an unbroken fence of fishing poles surrounded the lake, most wielded by practiced anglers with well-stocked coolers and a deep understanding of the secretive ways of fish. What chance could youthful amateurs have of snaring a prize among such company? With a little rigging by Trout Unlimited and the Colorado Division of Wildlife, a pretty darned good one. Earlier in the week, DOW had netted off the small bay just south of the Lake House and decanted some 1,500 smallish rainbow trout into the biggish fishbowl thus created. The stocking operation went smoothly, which hasn’t always been the case.

“One year they stocked it before they put up the net, and all the fish swam out,” Ellis said. “Then they put up a net, but restocked it on the wrong side of the net. They wound up stocking it three times.”

At 10 o’clock sharp, the first group of 20 kids mustered for a brief tutorial on subjects like fishing pole mechanics, proper casting techniques, fish identification, fishing etiquette, and the ethics of fishing. The Trout Unlimited volunteers also recommended catch-and-release tactics, and not just because they’d rashly volunteered to clean any trophies the children opted to keep.

“It’s mostly rainbows, but I’m sure I saw a tiger muskie in there,” grinned Ellis, pointing to a dangerous-looking torpedo on a full-color fish chart. “You’ve got to be careful if you catch a tiger muskie. They’ve got really sharp teeth.”

Like her brothers, 6-year-old Isaac and 4-year-old Ian, 8-year-old Isabella Mohr listened politely, but was plainly eager to begin the hunt. Though new to the sport, her powers of exaggeration were already formidable.

“I caught a rainbow last year, about 2 feet long,” said Isabella, patriotically decked out in a glittery shirt reading “America Rocks” and a pretty red-white-and-blue hair ribbon. “We ate it. It was really good.”

“This teaches them respect for wildlife,” said the trio’s dad, Rich. “And it gets them outside, away from the TV. They have fun, but they have to use their minds.”

At 10:15, the children were marched down to the Warming Hut access road, issued fishing poles and set loose. What followed was a very entertaining 45 minutes of combat fishing that would discourage any Columbia River salmon-run veteran. About two dozen Trout Unlimited volunteers ran up and down the 150-foot line of waving fiberglass baiting hooks, unsnarling lines and trying to keep their excited charges from snaring themselves or each other.

Though technically unsophisticated, Isabella fished with zest. After each cast, she’d peer down her line into the gloomy depths with terrible concentration, almost willing the fish to bite. Isaac’s style was more energetic: cast-and-reel, shock-and-awe. For his part, young Ian took an almost Zen-like approach to the sport, seemingly content to watch his bright red float bob gently on the surface.

An enthusiastic fisherman with a reliable 10-yard cast, Nick Rodgers brought every weapon in his small arsenal to bear.

“I started with worms, but I switched to Power-Bait,” Nick explained. “It doesn’t smell very nice, but the fish like it. And you have to be patient. A lot of these kids just throw it out and pull it in. You have to give the fish a chance to smell it.”

For no obvious reason, the teeming rainbows appeared impervious to every style and subterfuge. Volley after volley of mouth-watering worms and pungent “fish eggs” sailed into the water, only to be reeled in a few minutes later, utterly unmolested.

“I think they’re all on the other side, over there,” said Isabella, waving vaguely off toward the Lake House.

“They might be scared of all the noise,” offered Nick, “or they might not be used to the bait.”

At last, after some 15 minutes of furious effort, Isaac’s vigorous approach paid off with the day’s first catch — a handsome 10-inch trout. “I threw the hook where the fish was,” explained Isaac, generously sharing the secret of his success.

A long moment later, 7-year-old Nino Delany hauled in a nicely speckled rainbow, which he gladly surrendered back to the lake. “I don’t really like fish,” Nino admitted. “I just like fishing because it’s relaxing.”

In fact, that foot-long trout must’ve looked kind of puny to Nino, considering the scaly monster he described catching last year on Upper Bear Creek. “It was a ‘river pig,’ ” he said, in dead earnest. “I think it was about 6 feet long.”

The hourglass had nearly run out on the 10 o’clock anglers when 8-year-old Jamie Schultz, dropping her line hard up against the net barrier, snared a surprisingly contentious 7-inch rainbow. The waist-length string of blue beads around her neck swinging and rattling wildly, Jamie managed to reel it in while simultaneously jumping up and down and screaming with excitement. Then she watched in complete satisfaction as a Trout Unlimited volunteer netted the annoyed creature, removed the hook and sent it back to the depths.

“I think it was my technique,” Jamie explained later, with all the animation that an 8-year-old girl can summon, which is a lot. “I picked a big worm, (I let my mom put it on the hook) because I thought, ‘Something will bite on that, for sure.’ Then I saw the fish sitting there and I thought, ‘Why is it just sitting there?’ Then I thought, ‘Oh, it’s on my line!’ ”

And then it was 11 o’clock and time for the next round of hopefuls. If only a handful of the 10 o’clock kids caught fish, there was nothing to prevent them from signing on for another session. By day’s end, maybe 200 kids had checked into Evergreen Trout Unlimited’s Fourth of July fishing clinic, dozens had landed rainbows, and all went home feeling much better for the experience. Ellis’s threatened tiger muskie must have been attending a holiday barbecue in another lake, somewhere.

To be a good fisherman — or at least a happy one — requires a certain philosophical turn of mind. Although Nick’s best efforts and subtlest stratagems failed to net a trout, he took it on the chin and remained unbowed.

“I didn’t get so much as a mosquito bite today,” said Nick, bravely. “Some days you catch ’em; some days you don’t. But I’ll be back. They’ve gotta eat sometime.”


May 1, 2007

Youth a Focus of GVA & Western Colorado Fly Fishing Expo

 Through the efforts of an enthusiastic team of GVA members which is headed by Jon Gartz, over the past three years our youth program has seen a 700 percent increase in participants.  Activities include fly tying and casting classes in this areas’ District 51, parochial, and private schools and encompasses lower, middle and high school students.  We are now receiving requests to also teach these classes to troubled area youth in their after school tutorial programs.

Youth are also a focus of the Western Colorado Fly Fishing Exposition, held at the Doubletree Hotel in Grand Junction on the last Friday and Saturday of March.  The Expo typically features fifty of the Western States top fly tyers. In addition, we have fly tying, guide presentations, and outdoor equipment manufacturer casting theaters in full swing all day.  Over the past three years, we have added many new Expo events that include all day youth participation.  We have found that multiple activities during the day keep the kids excited and engaged from 9:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M.  As every parent knows first hand, that is a rare occurrence!

In 2005, we had 30 kids participate in the Expo; this number has grown to over 200 youth participating this year.  We now give free t-shirts to all participating kids and it was quite a sight this year to see 200 sapphire blue, fish fronted t-shirts racing around the hotel grounds!  A feature youth activity at the Expo are a series of fly tying tables that are set up and staffed just for kids.  In the past two years, in addition to adult instructors, an enthusiastic group of youth tiers have become the lead tying instructors at these tables.  As the day progresses, it is great fun to see newly “expert” kids showing their parents, grandparents, and friends how to tie some very innovative patterns!  The success of these tables would never be possible without the tremendous donations of materials, vices and time by area wide residents and businesses.

Outdoors, equipment manufacturers and fishing guides from a four state region provide youth casting instruction using their newest equipment.  It’s often hard for an adult to get their hands on a rod with all the kids who are casting at one time!  The casting instruction culminates with a youth casting competition divided into multiple age groups.  Because of the generosity of many donors, we are able to award prizes such as complete fly rod sets, fly tying vices, fishing vests and boxes of flies to all the participants. This year we had an eleven year-old boy with his fly rod in hand, come up to me to proudly show the fly rod he won at last year’s Expo.  It turns out that the rod is never far from his dad’s car as they now fish together all the time!

Jon has dubbed our youth program “Kids Teaching Kids,” for which he and his team was awarded CTU’s “Exemplary Youth Education Award for 2007.”  Thanks to CTU for this honor and we look forward to sharing ideas regarding youth education with other CTU Chapters.

Help Needed for Third Way School Fishing Day at Sawhill Ponds – May 15, 2007

April 30, 2007

Larry Quilling will be assisting Kristin Weinberger, Boulder Open Space & Mountain Parks, in conducting a 2 hour fishing program at Sawhill Ponds for 6 to 10 students (ages 15 to 18) from Third Way School in Denver. In Larry’s own words, “Third Way School is an alternative high school where many of the students live at the school due to many difficult social service circumstances. These kids deserve a couple of hours of joy.”Larry needs 3 to 4 chapter volunteers who would like to help the kids fish and some fly donations to catch bluegills and crappie.

If you want to get involved & I hope you will, please contact Larry ASAP.

Larry V. Quilling
720-684-3277 or

CTU Youth Camp

April 26, 2007

I wanted to pass along a quick update on the youth camp.  Things are coming together well, thanks to the tireless efforts of Larry Quilling, strong support from the Beattie family at Peace Ranch, and with a tremendous assist from members in the local watershed.  A big “thank you” to the Ferdinand Hayden Chapter and the Roaring Fork Conservancy, who have really stepped up to the plate in helping with this event.  Their support will go a long way in making this year’s camp a major success.

Since we last sent out reminders, we’ve had a number of additional qualified kids apply for the camp and we are nearly at capacity.  If your chapter is still trying to recruit any young people for the camp, please urge them to get their applications in (BY EMAIL) to me or Larry as soon as possible … as we have already begun providing “at large” spots in the camp, the guarantee of one kid per chapter cannot be assured for late applicants, rather we are now on a “space available” basis — so kids who still want to take part should apply as quickly as possible.

I’ve attached the application form with this message.  Emailed applications can go to David Nickum ( or directly to camp coordinator Larry Quilling ( 

Thank you!

David Nickum

Youth Camp 2007 Application