“Every Scout ought to be able to fish in order to get food for himself. A tenderfoot [beginner] who starved on the bank of a river full of fish would look very silly, yet it might happen to one who had never learned to catch fish.” – Robert Baden-Powell in Scouting for Boys
In Utah, there are so many beautiful places, near and far, to take Scouts fishing. Whether you want to try a simple pond or explore a wild river, the options are almost endless. In this article, I explore what I learned at the University of Scouting this year about the many ways to get Scouts actively involved in a fishing trip, in order to earn their Fishing Merit Badge.
Fishing in Utah
One of the most popular fishing spots in Utah is the Provo River. Running through the Provo Canyon, it rises in the Uinta Mountains and flows about 70 miles southwest to Utah Lake. The river is divided into three distinct sections, upper, middle and lower. It consists of an upper, middle and lower river.
The upper stretch of the river flows from high mountain streams to Jordanelle Reservoir. This section of the Provo does not get fished a lot, possibly because much of the river flows through private property or because of the smaller fish and numbers that are characteristic of the upper stretch. Either way, it’s hard to find another fisherman on the river, which might make an ideal spot for Scouts to practice their technique without disturbing others.
In the middle stretch, close to Heber, local fishing experts say you can find up to 5,000 fish per mile. However, because the middle and lower stretches are fished much more frequently, the fish in this area are smarter and make catching something more difficult. This could be discouraging for a group of Scouts new to the sport. The lower stretch faces a similar problem and is heavily fished.
Another popular option is the Green River, in southeast Utah. This could be a good spot for Scouts in the area, but might not be worth it for those out of the area. The Green River flows through a scenic, steep-walled canyon. It is surrounded by a rugged terrain, allowing access in only three areas: just below the dam, Little Hole and Browns Park. You can drive to those locations and fish your way up or down the stream. The river is also a popular destination for recreational rafters and can be busy on summer weekends.
There are many other great spots in Utah for fishing. Utah Lake is a great spot for practicing casting and other techniques. White Bass are numerous in the spring for catch and release fishing. If you can get Scouts catching a fish and throwing it back every few minutes here, they will be hooked on fishing.
Get Parents Involved
A universal Scouting problem is motivating parents to get involved with activities. Are you often wondering how to get moms and dads to go fishing? Are you often stuck with just two leaders and a bunch of youth? Here are a few ideas that might help:
- Make sure parents know they are more than welcome to come to activities and that Scout nights are not just free-babysitting nights.
- Others in your ward might be interested in fishing and could be willing to assist Scoutmasters at an activity. Make announcements in advance of the activity to ask for volunteers.
- Try not to cancel events because excited Scouts could miss out. However, a canceled event due to lack of parent involvement may inspire parents to get involved next time.
Get Scouts Involved
There are a lot of fun ways to introduce Scouts to fishing. Whether they are new, nervous to try or not excited about this activity, there are ways to get them involved.
The best way to get kids involved is to have activities be youth-led. Kids are more likely to engage other kids, so have a Scout with some aptitude for fishing help teach and lead. Have Scouts tie their own knots and lines and help their peers when they become familiar with it.
Scouts also love to fish for guppies. Hold a competition for who can catch the largest or the smallest. You can find guppies and small fish in many warm springs in areas like Mantai and Tooele. Small-pool fishing keeps the cost low, and the stakes even lower, making it easy for Scouts to learn basic skills without any pressure.
For youth, fishing is the most fun when you make sure its what they want to do. Have them help pick where you go and decide what part of fishing they want to focus on. Do they want to get their Aquatics or Fishing Merit Badge? Do they want to try fly fishing or pole fishing? Do they want to learn about bugs and bait? There are so many opportunities to make fishing trips their own. So, enable them to lead and choose what they would enjoy.
And just because Scouts are fishing to get the Merit Badge, it doesn’t mean it has to be boring. Merit Badge work doesn’t have to feel like a school lesson. Knock out requirements on the car ride to the activity while you have a captive audience. Have Scouts quiz each other or make games out of the requirements.
A Scoutmaster’s Minute
A wise Scouter shared this Scoutmaster minute with me once. It is the perfect little lesson to slip in while Scouts are quietly fishing away.
Remember the scripture Moses 1: 33,35, he told me. It reminds us that “worlds without number” were created by the Son. We can become witnesses to these worlds without number simply by looking across the river. The river itself contains many different worlds, ones we cannot exist in. But, for insects, plants, fish and other creatures, this is their world. There are little ecosystems or “worlds” all throughout the river where only specific creatures can live. This little anecdote helps me better understand the concept of worlds without number. There are little “worlds” all over the place, all created by the Lord’s hand. It is only a small reminder of the endless worlds He has created.
DWR Youth Exemption Form – Use this online application to get a group fishing license. Only the leader needs to have a valid permit, and with this form, youth can fish without a license under the leader’s name. You are not required to submit this form to the DWR, but you must have it in your possession during the event.
Eddie Robinson’s Fly Shop Classes – Eddie is a renowned fly fisherman and offers comprehensive fly fishing classes. His most popular class is the river tour, but he also offers many free, in-shop classes about fly fishing basics. He is located in Orem, Utah.
Heber Valley Fly Fishing Festival – Take your Scouts and enjoy a day of free fly-fishing festivities. Anglers of all levels can attend clinics, classes and demonstrations. Compete in the Fly Fishing Derby and win prizes for your catches.
There are so many great resources and opportunities to get Scouts (and parents!) involved in fishing. Try some of these ideas and share your thoughts about what has worked for you in the comments below!
Author: Madison Austin | Marketing Associate, Utah National Parks Council