Local fly fishing legends of the past & future

Each week we will share an interview with a local fly fisherman that has done many things for the sport.




This week we highlight Steve Young. Trout Unlimited member, Director of Smoky Mountain Trout Adventure Camp, and one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet.



TU640: What was the first fish you remember catching? How old were you? 



Steve: Northern Pike. Fishing in Canada with some sort of yellow and red crank bait. Bait ran deepish but I saw the strike as it went through a sunny patch; typical Pike hit-a slashing strike from the side. So powerful for a ten-year old! Will never forget that.




TU640: What species of fish is your favorite to fish for and why?



Steve: Smallmouth Bass. Love their feisty, aggressive nature and the fight once hooked.




TU640: At what age were you introduced to fly fishing? How did you get hooked?




Steve: Can’t exactly remember but less than ten. My father loved to fly fish for Bass and Bluegills. We belonged to a club that had leased abandoned Peabody Coal strip-mine pits (Reclamation was not even a word then!). I was probably less than 10 when I started. Catching feisty Bluegills on a flyrod is addictive!




TU640: Was fishing and the outdoors a big part of your life growing up?



Steve: Yes. Both parents off farms and very outdoorsy. I was a Boy Scout (including making Eagle).




TU640: Who are your biggest influences in fly fishing and conservation?



Steve: Frankly hard to think of ‘big’ influences, but more a bunch of smaller ones. Both parents being off farms knew the value of conserving and reusing. Boy Scouts showed me how much I loved the out of doors and that lead to wanting to conserve that environment. Read Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring sometime in my teens. Chose Geology as a career which was in part based on my love of the outdoors. So when I came to East Tennessee the conservation programs of TU in which I became involved represented a culmination of all those of ‘smaller’ influences.




TU640: What's one thing every fly fisherman should know?



Steve: Patience!! It is an acquired skill. Use all resources to develop that skill (friends, TU activities, books, YouTube, and going out there and doing it!) and enjoy the journey.




TU640: What brought you to Tennessee?



Steve: Always loved the Appalachian Mountains. We saw the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as an outlet for my outdoor ‘urges’. Also came for the 4 even climate seasons (grew up in the north, spent most of my working life on the Gulf Coast).




TU640: For you, what makes angling in the Great Smokey Mountains so special?



Steve: Two things. One is that no matter how crowded the park is I know places I can go to and most likely not see anyone else the entire time I am out fishing. Second is the challenge of planning how to fish a spot, accurately making the cast, and then the excitement of getting a fish on.




TU640: Do you think organizations like Trout Unlimited and others are doing good work?



Steve: Yes. Any worthwhile project needs a committed leadership to provide organization and resources to reach the goals of that project.




TU640: How important is it to teach the next generation to fly fish?



Steve: I think the important thing to teach the next generation is conservation in all aspects of our lives. Getting them to enjoy fly fishing is one tool to open the door to the importance of conservation.




TU640: Tell us about the mission of the Great Smoky Mountains Trout Adventure Camp.



Steve: Trout Camp’s stated goal is to teach early adolescent youth (12-15 years old) about fishing in the mountains. The underlying goal is conservation; we want them to come to love mountain fishing. Once they discover that then they are going to want to preserve it. We have had many success stories; several of our campers have gone on to TU National Teen Summit Conclaves, one camper teaches fly tying at Boy Scout National Jamboree, another was an invited fly tier at the Atlanta fly fishing show. We also have had a couple of articles written for DUN Magazine about Trout Camp and how it affected their lives. You can see all this (and more!) at our website-tntroutadventure.org.




TU640: Talk about the activities that take place at camp.



Steve: Our activities center around our goal of teaching our campers how to fish an Appalachian Mountain stream. We start with basic fly-casting instruction (most of our campers have never fished with a fly rod before coming to camp) along with a presentation on the components of a fly rod and how to care for them. We have an activity on how to read a mountain stream and plan your angling strategy, another on etymology which includes wading the stream and picking up bugs and comparing them to tied flies. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park Fisheries Staff come out and lead an activity on shocking up fish from the Middle Prong Little River which shows campers the diversity of fish that live in a healthy mountain stream. Next to fishing our camper’s favorite activity is the snorkeling activity where our campers don wetsuits and snorkel the ‘Y’ of Little River and see fish (and some bugs) in their world. We also have knot tying and fly-tying activities in the evening. And of course, there is fishing; some part of every day is allocated for campers to go out and fish employing some of the skills they have learned. Camp is capped off by ‘Friday Fishing Day’ where campers spend all day fishing a stream in the Park with an experienced mountain fly fisher mentor. Again, check out our website, tntroutadventure.org, for more information along with pictures and videos of these activities.




TU640: Name one thing you can't live without?



Steve: a Fly Rod!



TU640: Name one thing that no one knows about you.



Steve: Although some of my closer friends know, I have not publicized that I am a cancer survivor. I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Mantle Cell Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma November 30, 2018. I did the 6 months of Chemo thing and have been declared ‘in remission’. (I don’t think you are ever ‘cured’). Although in remission my body is still recovering from the treatment. Hasn’t stopped me from fishing though!!




TU640: If you could go back and tell your 16 year old self something, what would you say?



Steve: Patience, perseverance, and positivity!! Life isn’t always fair, so things don’t always go your way but keep truckin’ on, be optimistic, and things have a way of working out. Also, your life is a function of your decisions not someone else’s.




TU640: You are very active in the protection of our rivers, can you tell us about your conservation efforts over the years? What was the most important to you?



Steve: Really didn’t start getting into active conservation until coming here in 2012. I lived on the Texas Gulf Coast and became a member of the Coastal Conservation Association but with work and very active children was never able to get as involved as I would have liked. I have genuinely enjoyed working with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Fisheries Staff on their projects in the park.




TU640: What is your favorite river to fish and why?



Steve: I always look forward to fishing the Muskegon River in the western Lower Peninsula of Michigan when we travel up there to see friends. Back to my Midwest roots and there are both Smallmouth Bass and Trout to fish for (also carp, but I am still working on that!) out of a kayak.




TU640: What is your favorite memory of fly fishing and why?



Steve: The getting away from everything else, the beauty of the outdoors, and the rhythm of the sport that sticks with me.




TU640: Over your lifetime of fishing, what have you seen change regarding angling and the environment?



Steve: From a fishing standpoint the rise in the technical aspects of fishing equipment from rods to reels to lines to fly tying materials among many other things. The choices become almost bewildering. The environment is more the evolution of our understanding and role in environmental quality. As a child of the 60’s I can remember the first Earth Day—was somewhat skeptical then, a full believer now.




TU640: And last how do you want to be remembered?



Steve: Was an active participate in life and tried to make a difference.


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