Illinois TU Summer Youth Camp a Success!

By Dan LaFave, Illinois TU Council Camp Director and OBTU Board member

The 12th annual Illinois Council of Trout Unlimited’s Youth Conservation and Fly Fishing Camp is now in the books, with another successful camp concluded. As in recent years, 12 boys and girls ages 13-18 learned the importance of conserving, protecting, and restoring the coldwater environment needed for trout and salmon survival. They also learned basic fly fishing skills, made new friends, and learned a lot about the world around them.

The camp ran from July 21 to 26 along the fabled Au Sable River around Grayling, Michigan, with campers and staff staying at the Michigan DNR’s RAM Conference Center in nearby Roscommon. The 10 boys and two girls were supported by a group of 12 mentors from Illinois and Michigan TU chapters, with numerous outside volunteers from universities, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and others who generously supported the camp with their time and talents.

Camp Highlights
The goal of the Illinois TU Youth Conservation and Fly Fishing Camp is to introduce young people to Trout Unlimited while teaching the importance of conserving our coldwater resources, and providing them an outdoors education experience which they will value for many years. Campers also learned the basics of fly fishing and had the opportunity to fish for wild brook, brown, and rainbow trout each morning and evening on different parts of the beautiful Au Sable River. Each day was filled with educational activities such as entomology (study of the insects that live in the water and are a food source for the trout), hydrology, fish anatomy, helping the DNR with an electro-shocking survey of fish population, and learning of the history of logging and how humans can affect the environment. Ultimately, Illinois TU hopes that the campers’ experiences will motivate them to become better stewards of the environment and future leaders in conservation, as well as providing a life-long love of the sport.

We had a great group of campers in 2019 who eagerly participated in and enjoyed all activities (sometimes to their own surprise!). One camper who had only fished once previously was very proud of the flies that she tied herself. All were very motivated and enthused to learn new things; at all times they displayed respect for each other and the mentors. They supported one another in their fishing and conservation successes. As in recent years, the weather cooperated throughout the week except for some brief showers during the stream restoration project. But even that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm for the restoration work.

This year’s camp began with flyrod casting instruction by guest instructor Ron Kilgren, a certified fly casting teacher with decades of experience teaching both new and advanced fly fishers. Ron taught the basic pick-up and lay-down cast, the roll cast, and feeding line, while demonstrating different techniques of the leading casting experts. More advanced techniques were taught throughout the week. Campers also learned that they can continue to improve their casting skills at home in their yards, parks, or at local ponds.

Campers also learned about macroinvertebrates and entomology—the study of the aquatic insects trout feed upon. They gathered samples from the river and identified them, while learning how the sampling reflects water quality. Past camp director Willie Beshire admirably filled in for Western Michigan University Professor Steve Kohler, who was unable to join us this year due to a conflicting meeting of the Michigan Water Resources Council. Campers learned fish anatomy and dissection from Michigan State University professor Dan Hayes, as well as water quality testing. Stream hydrology was demonstrated by fisheries biologist Patrick Ertel of the Michigan DNR. Campers also assisted the DNR with a fish count through electro-shocking on the Sturgeon River. The impact of human logging activities and the environmental impact when nature is not considered was apparent at the Hartwick Pines State Park, where one of the only original stands of Michigan old growth white pine trees remains. The crosscut sawing competition at the re-created logging camp was a highlight of the week, as always.

In addition to the fishing and stream restoration project, fly tying was a favorite mentioned on the campers’ evaluation forms. Despite the days that began before 7 a.m. and ended at 9:30 p.m., several campers expressed that they wished they could have fished later each evening. Overall, their comments reflected a high level of satisfaction with the camp (e.g., “the best camp I have ever been to”, and “camp is perfect how it is”), while also making some thoughtful suggestions (e.g. “more hands-on activities” and “giving an hour break” during the day).

The Youth Camp could not be a success without its volunteer mentors (as well as all the outsider support!). This year we had eight mentors from the Oak Brook chapter: OBTU president and past camp director Willie Beshire, stalwart Fred Hodge (veteran of all but 1 previous Illinois TU camp), Lisa Gilmore, Carol Hennessy, camp director Dan LaFave, Nancy Richardson, John Snyder, and Dr. Mike Youssi. Also mentoring again were Randy Daniel and Mark Wortsmann of the Gary Borger Chapter in Illinois, as well as Ric Augustine and Carl Hueter, both Michigan TU leaders and longstanding supporters of the Illinois youth camp. Without the many hours of planning meetings, recruiting, fundraising, equipment care and cleaning, and other work (plus their own personal donations), we would not have a camp to bring along the next generation of conservation leaders. Many, many thanks to all involved.

Thanks for OBTU Financial Support
Thanks also to all the Illinois Trout Unlimited chapters for your support of the Illinois Council’s Youth Conservation and Fly Fishing Camp, and to DRiFT, Whitetail Fly Tieing Supplies, and to the individual donors for their ongoing financial support and by spreading the word. That financial support, plus the proceeds of the bamboo rod raffle (made possible by the generous donation of a hand-crafted bamboo fly rod by OBTU member and Youth Education Chair Marvin Strauch), have so far enabled the camp to keep the tuition fee at $575, which only covers about 45% of the actual cost of camp. It also enables the camp to make scholarships available to campers who would not otherwise be able to attend. This year we happily provided that opportunity to four campers in need of financial aid.

2020 Youth Camp
Mark your calendars now for next year’s camp which will be conducted from July 26 to 31, 2020, along the beautiful Au Sable River in Michigan. We had much interest in this year’s camp after we were already filled and anticipate a rush of early applications next year. Updated information can be found on the OBTU website on the Youth Summer Camp page. New application forms will be available near the end of this year and will be accepted beginning January 1, 2020.

Want To Go Fishing?

Want to go fishing but need someone to show you the right location, successful fishing tips and help coordinate carpooling?  Plus meet new fishing friends?

Oak Brook TU held a successful Wisconsin Driftless fishing weekend June 28-30 with six anglers paired up with three mentors.  More on this event in the following report by John Snyder.  The June fishing weekend will be followed by two Fall weekends with information below.  Look forward to more of these chapter outings in 2020.

Oak Brook TU Membership Fishing Weekend–Wisconsin Driftless Area
September 27 @ 5:00 pm – September 29 @ 5:00 pm
The Oak Brook TU chapter is hosting a weekend fishing trip to introduce members to the Wisconsin Driftless Area with lodging and carpooling coordinated by the chapter the weekend of September 27-29.

There are 12 spots open with at least three mentors. There is no cost other than for lodging and your Wisconsin fishing license if you don’t have one.  Your fishing license can be purchased online.  Visit the chapter’s Wisconsin Driftless Area Fishing page for more information including a Wisconsin fishing license.

Oak Brook TU Membership Fishing Weekend–Iowa Driftless Area
October 18 @ 5:00 pm – October 20 @ 5:00 pm

Want to go fishing in the Iowa Driftless Area?  The Oak Brook TU chapter is hosting a weekend fishing trip to introduce members to the Iowa Driftless Area with lodging and carpooling coordinated by the chapter the weekend of October 18-20.

There are 12 spots open.  There is no cost other than for lodging and your Iowa fishing license if you don’t have one.   Licenses can be purchased online.  Visit the chapter’s Iowa Driftless Area web page for more information including an Iowa fishing license.

Contact Willie Beshire to register and for more information.
M: 630-200-2532   E: wbeshire@aol.com


Fishing the Iowa Driftless Area

President’s Letter

Greetings Oak Brook TU members and friends:

OBTU has an exciting Fall lineup with numerous opportunities for members.   I encourage you to get out your calendar and enter some dates!

Please don’t hesitate to contact me or other OBTU board members if you want more information on how to get involved (refer to website Leadership page for board member contact info.)

Here’s a preview of upcoming events. Our September 18 and November 20 meetings will at the Oak Brook Recreation Center Central Park West Building.  The October 16 meeting will be at the Oak Brook Recreation Center Main Building in the Canterberry Room.  Guests are welcome.

September 18 Chapter Meeting at 7 p.m. featuring Robert Thompson, fly fishing film producer, on his most recent fly fishing films: “Spey Daze” (Great Lakes steelhead) and “Summer Haze” (on Midwest warm water species).

September 27-29 OBTU Wisconsin Driftless Area Fishing Weekend. Visit the website “Fishing Trips” page for more information and how to sign up.

October 8 Fly Tying Workshop at Bass Pro Shops in Bolingbrook.  This 7-9 p.m. introductory class is hosted by OBTU members.  Participants will be provided with fly tying equipment and materials.  There is no cost.

October 12 Coldwater River Entomology Survey Work Day in Alto, Michigan.  See the Conservation Projects web page for more information.  Plan on including some local fishing in the Grand Rapids area.

October 16 Chapter Meeting featuring Jake Lemon, TU Eastern Angler Science Coordinator on “Stream Monitoring Technology and Angler Science” and Aaron Snell, Co-founder of Streamside Ecological Service, on “Coldwater Watershed Habitat Strategy”. In addition, OBTU’s recent investment in stream monitoring technology on the Coldwater River will be highlighted.  (OBTU has been assisting with the Coldwater River Watershed in the Grand Rapids area for many years.)

October 18-20 OBTU Chapter Iowa Driftless Area Fishing Weekend

October 26 DuPage River Cleanup work day at Pioneer Park in Naperville.  This local cleanup day is being held twice a year as part of the “Adopt-a-Stream” program.

November kickoff of the OBTU 2019-2020 Trout-in-the-Classroom program with the fall delivery of fertilized brown trout eggs to participating schools.

November 12 Fly Tying Workshop at Bass Pro Shops in Bolingbrook.  This 7-9 p.m. introductory class is hosted by OBTU members.  Participants will be provided with fly tying equipment and materials.  There is no cost.

November 20 Chapter Meeting featuring Nicole Watson, Michigan State University PhD Student, on the reintroduction of Graying into Michigan.

December 11 Annual Holiday Party and Fundraiser at Arrowhead Park in Wheaton.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to OBTU’s spring fundraising drive. We are wrapping up a successful campaign with results to date that are similar to recent years. (See related story below).   OBTU could not continue making contributions to coldwater conservation and education programs in our region without your generous on-going support.

Hope to see you soon.

Willie Beshire
President, Oak Brook Trout Unlimited Chapter
M: 630-200-2532  E: wbeshire@aol.com

 

We Have A Great Fall Meeting Speaker Line-up

Our monthly meetings resume on Wednesday, September 18 at the Oak Brook Recreation Center at 7 p.m. in the Central Park West Building.  Guests are welcome. Please note that our October 16 meeting will be in the Canterberry Room in the Oak Brook Recreation Center Main Building. We will return to the Central Park West Building for our November.

September 18, 7-9 p.m.
Speaker:  Robert Thompson on Great Lakes steelhead and conservation issues as well as his latest film-“Summer Haze” on smallmouth fishing in Illinois and Wisconsin. Robert will be showing video highlights from “Spey Daze” and “Summer Haze”films which will be available for sale as DVDs. The meeting will in the Oak Park Recreation Center Central Park West Building.

Come early from 6-7 p.m. for a special LOOP fishing gear preview by Javier Guevara of In the Loop Outfitters, a U.S. authorized online dealer of LOOP gear and clothing from Sweden.  LOOP is a global premium brand of fly fishing gear and operator of fly fishing lodges around the world. Javier has donated a LOOP rod/reel outfit for our 2019 Annual Rod Raffle.

Film Producer Robert Thompson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 16, 7-9 p.m.
Speakers: Jake Lemon, TU Eastern Angler Science Coordinator on “Stream Monitoring Technology” and Aaron Snell, Co-Founder of Streamside Ecological Service, on “Coldwater Watershed Habitat Strategy”. The meeting is will be held at the Oak Brook Recreation Center Main Building, Canterberry Room.

Jake Lemon, TU Eastern Angler Science Coordinator


Aaron Snell, Co-Founder of Streamside Ecological Service


November 20, 7:00 pm – 9:00 p.m.
Speaker:  Nicole Watson, Ph.D Student, Michigan State University, on “Michigan’s Grayling Reintroduction”.  Nicole will review the history of Michigan Grayling including their extirpation from Michigan waters and multiple failed attempts at reintroduction.  However, with a successful Montana reintroduction, there is renewed hope.   The meeting will be in the Oak Brook Central Park West Building.

Nicole Watson, Ph.D Student, Michigan State University

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See our new online Calendar for all OBTU meetings and events including directions.

Chapter Website Visits on Record Pace

The OBTU website saw an increase in unique pageviews of 63% through June 30, 2019 compared to the same six-month timeframe in 2018. Total 2018 12-month unique pageviews were 10,737 which was a 27% increase over 2017 visits.

The new website was launched in August 2016 after a major rebranding and strategic communications program implementation.

“Our legacy website in 2015 featured only six pages and was not mobile-responsive,” said Jim Schmiedeskamp, Oak Brook TU Communications Chair. “Today we have over 60 pages of content featuring our conservation and youth education programs as well as relevant and timely fishing information for six Midwest states–llinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin.”

Visitors can find information on area guides, fly fishing shops, lodging, and restaurants as well as real-time USGS river flow and weather information and state fishing license links.

The website’s most popular 2019 web pages after its home page are the chapter’s youth fly fishing classes, annual summer youth camp, Wisconsin Driftless Area and Michigan’s Dowagiac, Muskegon and St. Joseph Rivers.

The website’s newest feature is a rolling 12-month calendar featuring all chapter meetings and events, including Google map location information and the ability to save specific events to your online Google and Apple calendars.

Check out and book mark the OBTU website at: obtu.org 

First Driftless Weekend To Remember

By John Snyder

After a few weeks of planning, we kicked off our OBTU Summer Driftless Area fishing trip with an evening “pre-meeting” hosted by Jeremy Spaccapaniccia at the DuPage Fly Fishing Co. shop in Naperville where he is the store manager.  As our weekend guide, Jeremy provided an overview of what to expect and supplies along with a cold beer.

Fishing the Driftless Area is more than just fishin’—it’s a real adventure to a somewhat wild and remote area of valleys, hollows, and hilltop hay farms that seems like another world in a different time.  Abundant wildlife, birds, ripe blackberries and wildflowers abound along with local cheese purveyors and craft beer.

We kicked off our trip Saturday morning on June 30, meeting mid-morning at the Citgo station in Monfort, Wisconsin—about 20 miles west of Dodgeville on Highway 18, and a three-hour drive from Chicago’s western suburbs.  We were in the southwestern portion of the Driftless Area with our focus on the Blue and Green Rivers and Castle Rock Creek. The primary fishable areas were secret pockets, hidden bends and undercut banks that stretched along the rolling valley floors.

Our Driftless Area fishing first-timers were Rich Tworek, Jim Moravak, Steve Schmidt, Mark Wandtke and Dave Dial along with his son Dave Jr. and grandson Noah.

We carpooled about five miles to the Cohaut farm on Castle Rock Creek to set up for some basic angling instruction and “fly fishing 101” tips.  Careful not to hook a Holstein on the back cast, everyone tested and honed their flyrod casting skills before learning how avoid snagging flies in streamside foliage.

Jeremy and his associate Dan helped everyone get their rods and flies rigged.  All just really took ownership and hit the water . . . occasionally followed by dairy cows and horses. It was quite hot, so all fished in shorts or long pants.

The water was muddy from recent local rains and therefore the fishing was slow, although Dave Dial did manage to land a few brown trout.  Dave noted that this was the inaugural grandfather, son, grandson fishing trip ever they shared.

Following an H20 break and a sandwich, we set off over the ridge for the Green River—heading west through Fennimore and onto Green River Road and down past Wherly, Wisconsin (don’t blink our you will miss it!)

The difference in water quality was amazing with clear, cold and good flowage indicating a number of spring feeder streams.

We split up at three different bridges and all anglers found brown trout rising to small dries or emergers.  This was really the first experience for most to see actual water conditions, and read water currents and holding spots for trout.

We finished up our Saturday fishing around 6:30 p.m. (we had to drag these guys off the water), and headed for the Fenway House Hotel in Fennimore.  We were greeted by wonderful folks who were waiting cheerfully for us with cold beer, cheese and sausage and lots of local lore—including the locally preferred bug spray—Absorbine, Jr.  Yep, the bug repellant preferred by farmers and locals and, of course, sold out at the local grocery store.  The Fenway House Hotel gave us a bottle, and boy the stuff worked wonders for all of us. Jeff, Renee and Sheri run the Fenway House Hotel and they were really a joy. We recommend using this place again.

At dinner, I suggested breakfast at a local restaurant at 8 a.m. on Sunday, and was roundly voted down.  Instead, we got an earlier start with coffee and donuts, boiled eggs and fruit at 7:30 a.m. and hit the water sooner.  There was no slowing these new guys down!

Now experienced and aware of cows and trees and high streamside grasses, surgeons knots and 6/7x tippet , almost all caught at least one nice brown trout.  Rich Tworek put on a #14 pink squirrel below the second bridge, mastered “high sticking” his line with a nymph, and landed a fat and beautiful 14” brown.

I drove back through a beautiful rolling hail storm about 10:30 a.m. Sunday morning after Rich caught his brown.  I drove south through the old mining and tourist town of Mineral Point where I stopped at an art gallery and picked up a growler of Mineral Point Brewery ale.

Only a few know the best locations in Wisconsin’s Driftless Area, like where exactly those three bridges are located on the Green River.

The best of friendships are often made on the water.

Tight lines and God Bless.

John Snyder
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In the Driftless Area you may have to share a stream bank

Smallmouth Fly Fishing Available Within 60 Miles of Chicago

If you haven’t gotten hooked on smallmouth fishing yet, give it a try this Fall.  Pound for pound, a smallie when hooked never wants to surrender, providing great fight and sport, especially on a fly rod.  Streamers and topwater poppers imitating frogs and damsel or dragon flies work best.

Area waters supporting populations of smallmouth bass include:
Kankakee River, about 60 miles south of Chicago.  Preferred guide Will Winans fishes the Kankakee River exclusively from a drift boat.  Visit Big River Fly Fishing for more information.

Northern Illinois rivers and tributaries.  Preferred guides Mike Allen and Kurt Nelson fish several rivers with their rafts including the Kishwaukee River, DuPage River, Fox River and tributaries with private property access.  Visit their Midwest Waters Angling website for more information.

Fox River tributaries 30 miles west of Chicago which are easily wadeable.

DuPage River West Branch which runs through Warrenville and Naperville and is wadeable.

If you don’t mine driving 90 miles, you can fish Michigan’s St. Joseph River with guide Jay Anglin.  See Jay’s website Anglin Outdoors for more information.  

Jim Schmiedeskamp with a Kankakee River smallmouth (top left), Dan LaFave with a Northern Illinois River tributary smallie (bottom left), and Dave Calson with a Fox River tributary smallmouth.

OBTU Chapter Graduates 11th Year of “Trout in the Classroom” Students

 

The Oak Brook TU Chapter has successfully completed its 11th year of “Trout in the Classroom” (TIC) with over 700 student participants.  TIC is a program that allows participating schools to raise trout from eggs to juvenile trout in a classroom from an aquarium tank and release them in a northern Illinois trout stream or Lake Michigan.  This year OBTU supported 12 school programs.  Students from these schools released their trout during the week of May 6.

The program helps students learn the complexities and fragility of coldwater stream ecosystems, and hopefully to develop a conservation ethic through the TIC program.  TIC is a nationwide but highly localized program where teachers and their students raise trout from eggs to fingerlings over the course of one school year.  They learn to care for their fish and trout habitat, and the program culminates with a field trip where the students release their trout in a northern Illinois trout stream, or in Lake Michigan.

These release field trips are the culmination of a year’s activity for these students, as they visit the trout stream, test the water quality for comparison to their school tank, and seine and survey for aquatic nymphs and organisms that are part of the trout’s ecosystem.  And of course, they release their trout fingerlings.

This program could not have been successfully completed without the support of OBTU volunteers.  In fact, this year between the April entomology presentations at TIC schools and the release week, 25 OBTU volunteers worked a total of 400 volunteer hours.

For the 2019-2020 school year, we will see the return of Burroughs School in Chicago, as well as two new schools–Percy Julian Middle School in Oak Park (recipients of Oak Brook TU’s annual TIC grant) and Gower Middle School in Burr Ridge (recipients of the Illinois Council TU TIC grant).

“This is a healthy and growing program,” said Marvin Strauch, OBTU Youth Education Chair.  “Of course, the day to day work of TIC is conducted by the individual teachers and students, who without exception, take serious ownership of their troutlings. These young people are very concerned for the health of their fish, and excited to release them in their natural home.”

The program could not continue without the participation of OBTU volunteers and financial support of the chapter’s fundraising efforts. These volunteers help the schools set up the 55-gallon aquariums, and prepare the water for the arrival of the trout eggs. They deliver the eggs in November and visit the schools periodically during the school year to ensure that the trout remain healthy. The program kicks into high gear in mid-April when OBTU volunteers, along with retired entomologist Dean Hansen, present a very hands-on entomology program which is called our “Wet Bugs” program. Twenty-three OBTU volunteers brought this program to more than 450 students over six school days. Three weeks later, the program culminated in the release field trips. Ten school groups released their brown trout in a northern Illinois trout stream. The other schools conducted releases of rainbow trout in Lake Michigan. The stream releases were assisted by 21 OBTU volunteers, who helped students seine for stream insects to learn what their trout will feed on, conduct water quality tests to compare the stream conditions to their aquarium results, and understand what makes a healthy trout stream.  And of course, to release their trout.

Special thanks go to the following OBTU volunteers: Miguel and Mirella Alvarez, Ted Bernhard, Willie Beshire, Steve Carlson, Dave Carlson, Art Cottrell, Lisa Gilmore, Fred Hodge, Ken Krueger, Dan LaFave, Mike Lesiak, Dave Lunardini, Dale MacDonald, Phil McCluskey, Ed Michael, Jim Schmiedeskamp, John Snyder, Bill Thoms, Walter Wahlfeldt, Tom Wilhelm, Phil Young, Stan Zarnowiecki, Frank Zbylski.

Marvin Strauch discusses the “Trout in the Classroom” program with students at Prairieview Middle School in Tinley Park.
John Snyder (left) helps students identify macroinvertebrates during a “Trout in the Classroom” session.

 

A Prairie View student gets up close and hands on with a hellgrammite.
“Trout in the Classroom” students release their brown trout fingerlings in a northern Illinois stream.

 

 

An Interview with Jeff Hastings on TU’s Driftless Area Restoration Success and Challenges

Jeff Hastings is one of the world’s most knowledgeable experts on coldwater steam restoration and upland watershed management. He has been the Project Manager for TUDARE (Trout Unlimited Driftless Area Restoration Effort) for over 10 years.

Jeff spoke at the OBTU’s March meeting on the planning and construction of stream restoration projects, the many benefits of habitat improvement and what projects TUDARE is working on now. He also shared an update on the damage to many Wisconsin Driftless Area streams as a result of the heavy rains in August 2018 and subsequent changes to some stream restoration practices.

Read an-depth interview with Jeff as a follow up to his March presentation including the potential for Illinois Driftless Area streams supporting trout.

Jeff Hastings, Project Manager for Trout Unlimited Driftless Area Effort