11th Illinois TU Council Youth Summer Camp a Success

By Willie Beshire, OBTU Vice President and Camp Director

The 11th edition of the Illinois TU Council Youth Conservation and Fly Fishing Camp successfully returned 12 youth participants with a new appreciation of coldwater conservation, the acquisition of basic fly fishing skills, new friendships and a unique outdoors experience.

The camp–which ran July 22-27 was conducted at the RAM Conference Center in Roscommon, Michigan and on the banks of Michigan’s Au Sable River–was led by Camp Director and OBTU’s Willie Beshire with the support of a committed ensemble of nine Trout Unlimited mentors from Illinois and Michigan along with numerous external volunteers.

Camp Highlights
This year’s camp was outstanding according to Willie Beshire who noted the following highlights:

We had an excellent group of campers including 9 boys and 3 girls.  This class distinguished themselves with a high motivation to learn, genuine interest in the full curriculum, positive attitude, cooperation and respect for the mentors and each other at all times.

The weather was perfect with very acceptable water temperatures for fishing during the week.
Pre-camp Grayling temperatures near 100 degrees in early July and reports of 83-degree Au Sable River water temperatures had threatened to spoil our fishing.

The camp was led by an accomplished team of 11 mentors and a number of external faculty with all planned activities completed on schedule at a high standard.   Activities including the entomology survey led by Western Michigan University Profesor Steve Kohler; a fish electro-shocking survey on the West Branch of the Sturgeon River led by Neil Godby and his Michigan DNR crew; a stream improvement project on a section of the Au Sable main stem head waters north of Grayling led by Steve and Stosh Sendeck of Northpoint Fisheries Management (a coldwater fishery consulting firm); trout anatomy lesson led by Professor Dan Hayes of Michigan State University; a fly tying workshop; and tour of the old growth forest and logging museum at Hartwick-Pines State Park; and field studies on the North Branch hosted by Carl Hueter, Michigan TU leader and Au Sable North Branch property.  Mentors Fred Hodge and Mike Youssi showed “how it’s done” winning the crosscut log cutting competition in a landslide with an impressive time of just 14 seconds (not bad for a couple of old guys).

The “stream table” demonstration of how water interacts with the land was a successful new addition to our camp curriculum this year led by Patrick Ertel of the Michigan DNR.   The Illinois TU Council is now the proud owner of a stream table contributed to us by Ric Augustine (built by Greg Potter, a long-time leader of the Michigan TU Camp).

While the mid-summer Au Sable fishing was challenging as usual, all campers caught trout.   Four of our campers successfully completed the brook/brown/rainbow trout trifecta—a notable accomplishment.   One camper and I had the unique experience of being joined by a porcupine who watched us fish for about two hours from a nearby woodpile on the Au Sable River’s Mason Track section.

Unfortunately morning fishing on the North Branch was abandoned due to a 90% decline in recent fish counts.  Every local I talked to had a different theory regarding the population decline.  Research is underway to understand this situation.  We were able to successfully substitute extra fishing on the main stem “Holy Water”.

Camper written evaluations of the camp were very positive.   Many of the campers expressed their desire to return next year. However, a number of parents and campers were disappointed to learn of our “no repeat” policy as campers were being picked up in the parking lot upon our return to Chicago.  We need to consider how to best follow up to keep some of these families engaged with TU.  Camper evaluation highlights follow:
—  “It was one of the best weeks of my life; would love to do it again some day.”
— “TU is something I would love to stay involved in.  While it is important to bring in new people, it is also important to keep this year’s campers involved for the future so people don’t forget TU and it won’t just be that one camp when I was young.”
— “This was an awesome camp and you guys should get paid for doing this.”
— “Absolutely loved the attitude of counselors and mentors.  They help you when needed. They give amazing advice.  Loved to hear about their past experiences.”
— “This experience was awesome!
— “Lisa was my fave, and Dan (policeman), and all the mentors including the other Dan (LaFave), Nancy (Richardson) and Stan were great.”
— “Now I’m on my way home to show my dad how to fish!” (from a young lady).

At the end of the strenuous camp our mentors looked “totally fried”.    While exhausted, everyone had big smiles which was evidence of a great experience and pride/satisfaction of a job well done.    A big thanks to our outstanding mentor team of TU volunteers.  Representing OBTU were Lisa Gilmore, Fred Hodge, Dan LaFave, Mike Youssi and Stan Zarnowiecki.  Other Chicago TU chapter volunteers include Randy Daniel and Mark Wortsmann (Gary Borger Chapter) and Dan Postelnik (Elliott Donnelley Chapter).  Also helping were Rick Augustine from Michigan’s West Lansing Perrin Chapter and Nancy Richardson, co-owner of Whitetail Fly Tieing Supplies, a OBTU sponsor and TU business partner. Wally Bock has also been an invaluable member attending all camp meetings and providing TU Council Executive Committee support on many issues.

Thanks is due to so many others who participated in our program by volunteering their time, expertise; and financial support. I will be personally be reaching out to many of our generous patrons.

Please mark your calendar for next year’s camp which has been scheduled for July 21 through 26, 2019. Recruiting for 2019 campers & camp staff has begun.

Financial Aid Scholarships Awarded
Personal donations plus our annual bamboo rod raffle generated enough revenue to maintain our $575 camper fee and permit three full financial aid “scholarships” for participants.

“Generous financial contributions from Illinois chapters, DRiFT, and many individuals, as well as bamboo rod raffle proceeds have enabled us to offer our camp at a cost that is affordable for our youthful campers,” said Willie Beshire. “We were pleased to provide two full scholarships for low-income campers this year. The 10 remaining campers contributed to covering a portion of the Illinois Council costs by paying a camp tuition of $575 each.”

The 2018 edition of the Illinois TU Council Conservation and Fly Fishing Camp pose in the Au Sable River.

Leadership Committee Seeking Volunteers

The Leadership Development Committee of OBTU works to identify, support, and cultivate leadership within our chapter membership. As a volunteer-led organization, it is important that our members have opportunities to participate in leadership in a variety of ways. Chapter members provide leadership by participating on committees, chairing committees, volunteering for conservation projects and our many youth education programs, and a variety of other ways.

The Leadership Development Committee deeply appreciates all the ways chapter members participate in the ongoing efforts of OBTU. We recommend you reach out to the Chair(s) of any committee(s) in which you are interested to find out how you can participate in current and upcoming activities. Committee Chairs are listed on the OBTU website Leadership page along with their contact information.

“One very important way that OBTU members can participate in leadership is by serving on our chapter’s Board of Directors,” said Lisa Gilmore, Leadership Committee Chair and Board Director.  “Our Leadership Development Committee is in the process of identifying chapter members interested in joining one of our many committees or to put their name forward for election to the Board, which includes as one of six Directors or as an Officer—such as President, Vice President, Treasurer, or Secretary.  OBTU membership voting on Board candidates occurs at our Annual Meeting which will take place during the January 16, 2019 chapter meeting. We are also interested in talking about future participation, if this coming January is not good timing for anyone interested in Board service starting in 2019.”

We have an immediate opportunity for our Financial Development Committee Chair responsible for our various fundraising activities.  This role does not necessarily need to be filled by a Board Director.  The Financial Development Committee is currently staffed by “seasoned” volunteers which would ease the transition for a new Chair.  We look forward to hearing from you via email, or more importantly, in person when our chapter meetings begin again in September.

OBTU Leadership Development Committee:
Lisa Gilmore, Chair
Ed Michael
Marvin Strauch
Jim Schmiedeskamp

2018 Conservation Fundraising Nears Goal

The mission of your Oak Brook Trout Unlimited Chapter is to conserve, protect and restore coldwater fisheries and their watersheds in the Midwest.  OBTU fulfills our mission through 1) advocacy, 2) K6–12 education programming, and 3) by providing funding and volunteers for hands-on projects to improve and rehabilitate coldwater river systems. There are no other outside sources of funding for our chapter. National Trout Unlimited membership annual dues are not shared with our Chapter.

With a month to go, the Oak Brook TU Chapter has raised $6,500 toward its $8,000 goal which will fund  ongoing and new conservation and youth education programs for 2018 and 2019.

Mission success requires that we provide cash funding to cover out-of-pocket expenses including contracting for streamside excavation, replanting, baseline studies and K6-12 classroom fish tanks. Last year’s membership solicitation raised over $6,500 for our 2017 conservation and youth education programs.

Consistent with our 2017-2020 Strategic Plan, the Chapter continues to focus on an aggressive conservation agenda which builds on our past Wisconsin Driftless Area and other Midwest stream restoration projects, adds an important new focus on the Dowagiac River watershed in Southwest Michigan and continues our commitment to youth education.

Specific 2018-2019 proposed conservation projects requiring cash funding include:

  • Weister Creek stream restoration Phase 5 in Vernon County, Wisconsin.
  • Sparta, Wisconsin stream restoration project.
  • Spring and Fall Coldwater River Watershed (Alto, Michigan) macroinvertebrate studies.
  • NEW!!! Dowagiac River stream restoration following the planned 2018 removal of the Pucker Street Dam in Niles, Michigan.
  • TU Driftless Area Restoration (TUDARE) projects.

Please review the “2018-19 Conservation and Stream Restoration Programs” for more details on these important efforts.

OBTU is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and your donation is tax deductible and may also be matched by your employer. Our Employer Identification Number (EIN) is 38-1612715 and a download PDF of the IRS 501(c)(3) Determination Letter for 501(c)(3) non-profit documentation is available on our website’s “Donate” page.

You can donate by sending your check payable to Oak Brook Trout Unlimited to:
Oak Brook Trout Unlimited
P.O. Box 5046
Oak Brook, IL  60522-5046

Or you donate via PayPal by visiting our website “Donate” page.

Marvin Strauch To Discuss “Trout in the Classroom” on August 26 Radio Program

Marvin Strauch, OBTU Youth Education Chair, will be the featured guest on Mike Nowak’s 1590 AM Sunday morning radio show on August 26. Marvin and Joe Lentino, a Burroughs Junior High School teacher whose class has participated in the program since the 2013 school year, will discuss the chapter’s “Trout in the Classroom” program and Trout Unlimited’s coldwater conservation mission during the show’s 10:15-11:00 a.m. segment.

Conservation Foundation Speakers Kick off Fall Meetings September 19 at 7 p.m.

The Conservation Foundation saves land and saves rivers, and they’ve been at it for more than 45 years. We welcome Brook McDonald, President/CEO, and Steve McCracken, Director of Watershed Protection, as our guest speakers at our September 19 membership meeting, at 7 p.m. at the Oak Brook Recreation Center Central Park West Building.

Messrs. McDonald and McCracken will provide an overview of Conservation Foundation activities with emphasis on Watershed Protection and an update of the Salt Creek Graue Mill dam modification project.

Founded in 1972, The Conservation Foundation is one of the region’s oldest and largest not-for-profit land and watershed conservation organizations dedicated to preserving and restoring open space, protecting rivers and watersheds and promoting stewardship of the environment in northeastern Illinois.

The Conservation Foundation focuses their work in DuPage, Kane, Kendall and Will Counties, but have also had the honor of working on significant projects in Cook, DeKalb, Grundy and LaSalle Counties.

Fly Fishing Author Jason Randall To Speak October 17 at 7 p.m.

Ever wonder what it would be like to take a fishing trip with the country’s best anglers? Author Jason Randall fishes with fly fishing giants such as George Daniel, Landon Mayer, Lefty Kreh, Ed Jaworowski, Ed Engle, Gary Borger, and Joe Humphreys and shares their top nymphing techniques, flies, and tactics in his latest book “Nymph Masters: Fly Fishing Secrets From Expert Anglers.”  The book is currently available on Amazon.com.
Jason covers everything from rigging flies, reading the water, casting, and fighting fish as he travels the United States, from Pennsylvania to Alaska, in his quest to learn the methods of the masters.
“Nymph Masters: Fly Fishing Secrets From Expert Anglers”  is currently available on Amazon.com.

Chicago Life Magazine Features “Trout In The Classroom” Story in Their Summer Issue 

The Chicago Life Magazine Summer issue features a three-page story on our “Trout in the Classroom” program written by the publication’s conservation writer Chris Johnson.
The Chicago Life magazine was included in all home deliveries to subscribers of the Wall Street Journal and New York Times Saturday papers on June 23 in the Chicago metropolitan area. The combined circulation of both papers is 102,000.  It is not available at newsstands.

Free Introductory Fly Tying Workshops

OBTU is sponsoring a series of free introductory fly tying workshops for both its members and the general public on Tuesdays at 7 p.m. at the Bass Pro Shops Bolingbrook store on the following dates:
October 9
October 23
November 6
Fly tying equipment and materials will be provided.  There will be 12 participants per class.  Sign up today by contacting Lisa Piggott, Bass Pro Shops, at 630.296.2702
Bass Pro Shops is located at 709 Janes Avenue, Bolingbrook.