Voices from the River: Why conservation matters to fly fishing

By Brendan Cook

Grand prize winner of the TU Teen Essay Contest

Over the past year or so, fly fishing has become a passion of mine. It’s a way for me to escape, relax, be one with nature and live in the moment. It has enabled me to make new friends and try new things. When I hook on to a fish, I get a rush of excitement—it makes any stress from school or daily life melt away and I am in my element. I am happy and at peace. I want to make sure I can enjoy this sport for the rest of my life and that future generations can too. That is why conservation is so important to me and to the sport of fly fishing.

When I think of conservation things like saving the environment, protecting wildlife, preserving our natural resources and above all, the enjoyment of the outdoors come to mind. I especially care about what conservation can do to help limit the impact of pollution on fish and other wildlife around the globe. The reason why conservation matters so much is everyone needs to care for, protect and preserve our natural resources to ensure a healthy ecosystem and planet. Pollution, overfishing, deforestation and climate change all have an impact on the planet, especially oceans, rivers and streams.

Although I know that my actions and efforts may not yield huge results, it’s important to me to do what I can to protect the fish I love to catch. This is what motivates me to help with conservation efforts to clean the streams. rivers and oceans. For example, when I am fishing on the Assabet River (my local trout stream) I am near the road where cars and people are passing by, Once in a while trash comes down from the street and goes in to the stream. When I see this, I pick up the trash to help out the local ecosystem even by just a miniscule amount. This is what I think everyone needs to be doing, not just for the trout, but for all living things, in order to make the world a cleaner place and to ensure that future generations can enjoy the outdoors.

Brendan Cook with a jack crevalle. Courtesy photo.


Some things that I learned while at the Vermont TU Trout Camp this past summer is that even just doing simple tasks, like weeding nursery trees, can impact how healthy a trout stream is. I learned that when we put saplings near river banks it ensures that the bank will be somewhat resistant to erosion and that when the tree grows up, its branches and leaves will add shade and a safe haven for fish to rest and hide from predators. I also learned more about catch and release fishing. It allows the fish to go back to their habitat and spawn so they can reproduce to ensure a healthy fish population.

Two of my friends and I decided to start a fly fishing club at my high school this year and we were happy to recruit other kids who actively participate in the club with us. Fly fishing is not really a popular sport among teens in my area, so it has been fun to get to know kids with similar interests. Some of them have no fly fishing experience, but my friends and I are teaching them the basics of the sport. We fish in a local trout stream, learn how to tie flies and volunteer to clean the local rivers and streams. I am hopeful if more people do their part to conserve and take care of nature, our rivers, streams and oceans will be healthy, clean and a fun place to participate in the sport I love so much.

Brendan Cook attended the Vermont Trout Unlimited Trout Camp and is a member of the TU Chapter in Boston. His favorite stream s the Westfield River and he loves being outdoors. He enjoys fishing because it is relaxing, exciting and a way to connect with family and friends. Brendan’s essay won the grand prize for the TU Teen Essay Contest.

Editor’s Note: Each year Trout Unlimited Camp and Academy graduates are invited to enter the TU Teen Essay Contest to share their camp experience or write about things they learned. This year we asked participants to answer the prompt “Why is conservation important to fly fishing?”. Of the 18 entries a grand prize winner and three finalists were selected. Prizes included a Temple Fork Outfitters BVK rod and reel, a TFO tenkara rod and a TFO Bug Launcher Office Rod. If you know a teen interested in attending a TU Camp, visit the TU Camps Page to see a list of our 25 regional camps across the country and find information on how to apply. Once teens have attended a TU Camp, they may be ready to attend the TU National Teen Summit, an annual conference for young leaders in TU. Applications are available to download through March 1, 2019 at www.tu.org/teensumit.






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