The first day of travel usually begins out of our purview: the campers rendezvous with the On River Time team at their final destination. This year, we were able to connect sooner, placing two of our junior board members, Martha Lee Hawkins and Brian Downing, on the flight out of Birmingham with the kids around 8:00 a.m. They reported that 5 of the 8 campers had never been on a plane at all, and most had not left the state of Alabama. Now the end of the evening, we now attribute the group’s apparent shyness to some apprehension about flying (noise levels are rising). One young man had some comical trouble exiting the Denver airport’s moving sidewalk. He made two full rounds on it, while waving sheepishly at the rest of group as he passed. The turbulence out of Denver rattled everyone a bit.
In Idaho Falls, the group climbed aboard a van to finish the journey to the Lodge at Palisades Creek. The Lodge is about 40 miles from a Target or a Wal-Mart. The land is high and flat rolling plains surrounded by alpine mountains. There is more snow than usual in the mountains, but it is also melting faster than usual. Temperatures are soaring into the 80s. At around 3:30, Steve, Jeana, and the Lodge staff greeted the group. This year is especially exciting because 6 of the 8 campers are staying in the new On River Time cabin with Mr. John and Mrs. Theresa Croyle. One of the peer mentors is in a close-by cabin with one of his house brothers.
There was scarcely time to unpack and look around before the fly fishing preparation began. Bags full of hats, buffs (to keep sun off of neck and face), long-sleeved t-shirts, and other gear were handed out. Orvis came through for us again and made sure that each camper received a brand new rod and reel for keeps.
The challenge of teaching those who have only pond-fished how to fly fish is adjusting the range of their cast motion. A spinner cast is hurled from around 3:00 or a 90 degree angle. the weight of the lure and sinkers send it heaving through the air, and a follow through all the way to 9:00 is fine. On the other hand, fly casting is best performed in a much narrower range, around 12:00 to 10:00. The distance of the cast is determined by line speed and rhythm, not strength. Justin and Shayde from the Lodge are able to quickly assess and address various tendencies that campers have. They give them simple cues to remember. Then they introduce the concept of “mending” the line so that fly floats naturally beneath it. By dinner time, all the kids could assemble the rod and reel, cast effectively, and understand how flies and mending related to catching trout.
Dinner of short-ribs was served with a side of blue-book. Jeana explained the many facets of our camp manual: detailed daily schedules, contests, activities, reflection questions, code of conduct, inspirational quotes, and even jokes. Teams for the yearly fishing contest were assigned. Each camper will pair with an adult mentor to compete for 3 team awards and one group award. Naming the teams has become an important part of the bond of the duos (e.g. “Jesus, take the reel”). This will have been one of the more abridged evenings. Fishing starts early, and we are all exhausted. See you at 7:00 for a cowboy breakfast.