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YES Club Fly Fishing

Blog by: Lydia Ballantine – YES Club Program Coordinator

It was a chilly fall morning up at the Catamount Center in Woodland Park, the sister organization to the Catamount Institute in Colorado Springs. Several people with fly fishing rods were set up down by the lower lake, while in Aspen Lodge some other volunteers set up vices for fly tying and in the kitchen, I was boiling water for hot chocolate. What were we preparing for on this cold October day? Around 25 4th and 5th graders and their families, all Catamount Institute’s Young Environmental Stewards (YES) clubs! (And then a whole other crew after lunch!) The clubs are studying aquatic ecosystems this semester, which includes learning about the creatures that live in and around the water. They were coming up to Woodland Park for one of our two Family Fly Fishing Saturdays, a chance for students to participate in a sport that has everything to do with aquatic ecosystems and a chance for parents to get a taste of what their students are learning in YES Club.

Volunteers from the Pikes Peak Trout Unlimited donated their time and expertise for the two days.   At the fly tying station, students tied “flies” on fish hooks using colored thread and feathers. These look like delicious macroinvertebrates (bugs) to the fish! Fly tying is a delicate process as fish hooks are very small and ditsy, but the students were up to the task, with the guidance of parents and Trout Unlimited volunteers. Many of the flies which anglers use are familiar to these students, as they learned about aquatic macroinvertebrates in an after-school club lesson during which they caught water bugs to learn about the health of the water. In fact, when we pulled a bucket of water to put out our campfire, it was teeming with aquatic macroinvertebrates!

After their flies were tied, students had the chance to use them to try to catch fish! Fly fishing is an art and can be quite difficult to master, but we had a few students have success on their first time ever fishing! A student from Queen Palmer, who had never been fly fishing before, caught 3 fish almost immediately. The guides had some success in between groups of students, so even students who didn’t catch anything were able to see a fish. Students used rods from Trout Unlimited and borrowed whatever sunglasses would fit their eyes to protect against flying fish hooks, including a rad pair of antique glacier goggles courtesy of Mr. Sam.

After fishing, students and their families headed down to the lake for a hike and then…. s’mores and hot chocolate! We hiked around the upper lake, looking for signs of animals which live in and around water. We were looking for signs of a particular mammal, which is a rodent, has thick brown fur, teeth which never stop growing, and is an ecosystem engineer. You guessed it, a beaver!

The beavers at the upper lake moved away recently, we suspect to the lower lake where everyone was fishing. Students looked for pointy, triangular stumps which had been cut down by beaver teeth and also any dams or lodges left behind. There were no beaver dams in sight, because the humans had already built a dam, but we did find an old lodge. It was well above the water line because the lake is the lowest it’s been in a long time; their entrance used to be under water and was now high and dry! This may have been part of the reason the beavers moved on and abandoned their now exposed lodge, which would be easily accessible to coyotes, foxes, mountain lions and any other hungry predators. While not looking for beaver signs and exploring old lodges, students collected firewood in order to make a campfire to warm us all up at the end of the hike.

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Catamount Institute
740 West Caramillo St.
Colo Spgs, CO 80907
Phone: (719) 471-0910
Fax: (719) 471-0910
Website: www.catamountinstitute.org
Email: info@catamountinstitute.org