Stepping Stones Program Recap

Our first-ever Stepping Stones Program was off the hook this past weekend! In partnership with the Pennsylvania Fly Fishing Association, the Stepping Stones Program used fly fishing as a recreational pathway for students to learn about fisheries biology, conservation, and leadership skills development. 

On Friday night, the students got acquainted with their peers with a few team-building activities and were given an introductory lesson about the history of fly fishing. Everyone enjoyed a stream walk through the eyes of scientists and anglers – where the students discovered the relationship between a healthy forest and prime fishing locations. The evening wrapped up with Campfire Connections, a session where students were guided to share their connections to nature. The instructor connected the similarities in their stories – allowing the students to see and hear the mutual connections between each other and create a greater sense of belonging.

Stream walk through the eyes of scientists and anglers.

Saturday was packed with action! The students spent the morning learning how to use a dichotomous key and assessing stream health through a macroinvertebrate survey. They then learned how anglers replicate macroinvertebrates while tying their flies in hopes of attracting fish to bite! Each student was provided a fly-tying kit and guidance from mentors to tie their own flies. Afterward, everyone headed outside for a casting lesson to learn fly fishing techniques. They spent plenty of time casting their lines in the stream, and some were lucky enough to catch fish! 

Macroinvertebrate collections to assess stream health.
Fly tying demonstration.
Mentored fly fishing!

To top it off, on Sunday, students showcased what they learned to their families and received outreach training to prepare them to return to their home communities as Conservation Advocates! They will be conducting education, service, media, creative arts, and outdoor mentorship projects until mid-November. 

Students teaching their families what they have learned.

One student wrote in their post-program survey “I have never experienced much of the fishing world, let alone the branch that is the wonderful and culture-rich area of fly fishing. This course was absolutely what I required in order to begin my journey into fly fishing. I learned a wide variety of things that had further sparked my love for the wild.” 

We are thrilled to celebrate our first class of Conservation Advocates. Special thank you to the members of the Pennsylvania Fly Fishing Association, PA Council of Trout Unlimited, R.B. Winter Chapter of Trout Unlimited, and Spring Creek Chapter of Trout Unlimited who served as our instructors and fishing mentors for the program. Join us in casting out a big congratulations to our very first class of Conservation Advocates!