Fishing is America's real pastime

By Ian Barton
Finalist in the TU Teen Essay Contest

Many people would say baseball or football are America’s pastimes. But, I would say America’s real pastime is fishing, specifically trout fishing. The wild trout is a wily creature, not easily hooked. He will spend his days hiding under rocks, chasing minnows, and occasionally rising to eat a bug on the water’s surface.

Ever since the beginning days of American history, trout fishing has been a cherished activity. Presidents like Grover Cleveland, Herbert Hoover, and Barack Obama were trout fishermen. But, not only presidents enjoy fly-fishing. Every year, millions of men, women, and children head to one of America’s many precious trout streams, which we must protect, to wet a line, with the chance of hooking a big, beautiful trout.

Conservation is important to me because I love fishing of all kinds of fish. From fly-fishing the Rapidan River in Virginia with my buddies from Trout Unlimited Camp, like Jahlil, and Serge, to bass fishing on Bare Hill Pond in Massachusetts with my uncle, to fishing a muddy old Kansas farm pond, fishing is a huge part of me. It is my passion in life. It relaxes me and makes me feel connected with the natural world, and disconnected with the constant flow of technology that we teenagers are flooded with every day at school.

That is why I feel we must protect our nation, and our worlds’ many pristine waters. It busts me up when I go fishing to unwind and relax and I see that someone has thrown a soda can into my favorite pond, or to cut open a catfish or bluegill, and find trash. But, by not littering, cleaning up after ourselves, and supporting great organizations like Trout Unlimited, we can keep all of our waters clean, pure, and free of trash.

Conservation is not just important to me, it is enormously important to trout fishing. Some fish, like bass, bluegill, and catfish can survive in dirty, muddy, trash-filled waters. But, the trout, in all his beauty, is a very delicate fish. He cannot survive in polluted waters. By cleaning up trout streams, and through conservation efforts similar to Trout Unlimited’s Gunnison River project in Colorado, where they are replacing diversion structures with structures that allow fish to move freely throughout the river-system, we can significantly improve not only the habitats of trout, but the trout fishing.

As Trout Unlimited’s founder, Art Neumann famously said, “Take care of the fish, and the fishing will take care of itself.”

So, in conclusion, conservation is hugely important to not only me, but to trout fishing. Without conservation, there would be no outdoors. No place to go on the weekends to unwind. No place to watch the sunrise from a deer stand. No bass tournaments. And worst of all, no trout-fishing.

Fishing provides an outlet for teenagers to spend their time and get away from the temptations of high school life. Fishing has certainly helped me stay away from these temptations and allowed me to enjoy the great outdoors every weekend. It is certainly the highlight of my week, even when I get skunked. As I said in the beginning of this essay, trout-fishing is America’s true pastime. So, let’s treat it like it is. Instead of focusing on saving up for the new Orvis Helios, or your next trip to fish for exotic Trevally in the Christmas Islands, let’s focus on conserving our great sport. Through conservation, our nation’s great, pristine waterways will be here for many years to come.

Ian Barton attended the Tri-State Camp in Virginia. He is a member of the MoKan Trout Unlimited Chapter near Kansas City. “My favorite stream is whichever one I’m in; I just love to be fishing all the time.”

Editor’s Note: Each year Trout Unlimited Camp and Academy graduates are invited to enter the TU Teen Essay Contest to share their camp experience or write about things they learned. This year we asked participants to answer the prompt “Why is conservation important to fly fishing?”. Of the 18 entries a grand prize winner and three finalists were selected. Prizes included a Temple Fork Outfitters BVK rod and reel, a TFO tenkara rod and a TFO Bug Launcher Office Rod. If you know a teen interested in attending a TU Camp, visit the TU Camps Page to see a list of our 25 regional camps across the country and find information on how to apply. Once teens have attended a TU Camp, they may be ready to attend the TU National Teen Summit, an annual conference for young leaders in TU. Applications are available to download through March 1, 2019 at


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