Boy Scouts of America - Swamp Base High Adventure Program
Before reading this article, please take the time to watch this short video on the Boy Scouts of Americas (BSA) Swamp Base High Adventure Program:
On April 2nd, 2013, my local newspaper published an article that outlined the BSA - Evangeline Council's Swamp Base High Adventure Program, www.bsaswampbase.org.
The BSA Swamp Base's 65 mile kayaking/fly-fishing high adventure is designed to be a regional "high adventure" program for boy scouts from across the country. The program is designed in the same vein as the BSA's other "High Adventure" Bases, specifically Philmont Scout Ranch - hiking at the large, rugged, mountainous ranch of northern New Mexico; Northern Tier - wilderness canoeing through millions of acres of pristine lakes, meandering rivers, dense forests and wetlands in Northern Minnesota, Northwest Ontario and Northeast Manitoba; and scuba and sailing tall ships at Florida's Sea Base.
On April 15th, Tom Jindra (MCI and past-President IFFF) and I traveled to Lafayette, LA and met with Swamp Base Director - Ben Pierce. We discussed the program and how it might be used to introduce boy scouts from across the country to fly-fishing. We offered for the Gulf Coast Council (GCC) and our members and clubs to assist with this "high adventure" by supplying fly rods/reels/lines, vises, tying tools, tying material, fly boxes, flies and instruction for the BSA Swamp Base employees and volunteers.
Even though Ben had never fly-fished before, early in this conversation, he quickly saw the opportunities offered and was soon finishing our sentences.
As Tom explained how to teach casting to Ben, we decided to retire to the lawn where Tom gave Ben a casting lesson. We were soon joined by the BSA Evangeline Council President, who was very excited about this opportunity. He asked if the GCC would work with the BSA Evangeline Council and Swamp Base to design “fly-fishing camps" to open additional opportunities for the boy scouts, utilizing the BSA Evangeline Council's facilities in the Atchafalaya Basin at times when the BSA Swamp Base's kayaking "high adventure" program was not in session. He said that the BSA Evangeline Council plans for Swamp Base to be known throughout the scouting world as scouting's premiere "fly-fishing destination."
For the 2013 Swamp Base session, 160+ scouts and scout leaders from across the country took this "high adventure”, with scouts coming from Minneapolis, Chicago, Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, Houston, Baton Rouge and Lafayette. In 2014, Swamp Base plans to enroll several hundred scouts from across the USA, and in a few years, Swamp Base hopes to expand to include close to 2,000 boys and leaders from across the country each summer.
Larger than the Everglades, the Atchafalaya Basin is renowned for its bounty of bluegills, red ears, crappie, bass and other freshwater fish. In the Basin, it takes 2.5 years for a bluegill to mature as a “bull bream,” whereas it takes 6-8 years to attain that size in southern Missouri and more than 10 years in Wisconsin/Minnesota. These are “fish of a lifetime” for many of these scouts who participate in Swamp Base, and the Atchafalaya Basin in full of ‘em!
It is our belief that a large percentage of the scouts and leaders who "fly-fish their way through the Atchafalaya Basin" will become fly-fishers and will take these memories and skills with them back to their homes and local scout troops and councils, where they will then teach the fly-fishing merit badge to the other boys in their scout troops.
The Federation's motto is “Conserving, Restoring, Educating through Fly Fishing”. As an IFFF Council, the goal of the Gulf Coast Council is to see to it that each boy scout and leader who participates in Swamp Base has the opportunity to learn to fly-fish, has the opportunity to experience the fly-fishing opportunities of the USA's largest river driven swamp, has quality equipment to utilize and returns home a fly fisherman.
The GCC made the following commitment to the BSA Swamp Base Program in 2013:
1. Donate at least 50 rods/reel/lines.
a. These are the “Temple Fork Outfitters' Youth Education Rods”, each with a $200 retail value. Reel bags and rods socks were included for each five rods donated.
b. These rods come with a lifetime guarantee, and therefore are “perpetual rods” to Swamp Base.
c. On May 7th, the GCC Board of Directors voted to purchase ten (10) rods/reels/lines with rod socks and reel cases, and these rods were soon delivered to Swamp Base.
d. The GCC then asked our GCC clubs to donate rods/reel/lines/cases. The Magnolia Fly Fishers, Mississippi Coast Fly Fishers, North Louisiana Fly Fishers, Red Stick Fly Fishers, Cane Country Fly Casters, and Acadiana Fly Casters all rose to this challenge by donating rods/reels to the BSA Swamp Base High Adventure Program.
e. Rick Pope, CEO – TFO, has agreed to raise donations to buy additional rods.
f. After the GCC Fly Fair, the council has committed to purchase ten (10) additional rods/reel/lines/cases.
i. This in less than a year, the GCC will meet its commitment to BSA Swamp Base of a minimum of 50 outfits with a retail value of over $ 10,000.
2. The GCC supplied a fly box and flies to each Swamp Base participant, scout and adult leader. These boxes will become "keepsakes" for the scouts andthe basis for their start in fly fishing
a. Each two-sided mufti-compartment, plastic fly box has the BSA Swamp Base logo on one side and the Federation of Fly Fishers name, logo, and web site on the other side.
b. 216 boxes were purchased in 2013 by the GCC
c. The GCC placed six (6) warmwater flies in each box. The flies (almost 1,000 flies in less than 40 days!) were donated by Federation tyers from the GCC.
d. Flies are currently being solicited from GCC and other Federation tyers for next year.
3. In 2014, the GCC will set up fly tying stations on the Swamp Base houseboat and camp.
a. We are currently working on a possible donation of quality vises.
b. The Washington Council - IFFF has generously donated ten (10) pair of bobbins and whip finishers to this project.
c. We have already begun requesting tying material be donated, and at the Cane Country Fly Casters Show in May, the GCC received our first generous donation of materials from the Crazy Angler Tackle.
d. Over time, we plan supply tying instructions, books, DVD’s, etc. to each location
4. Keith Richard, Master Casting Instructor (MCI), instructed the BSA Swamp Base staff on how to teach the roll cast and overhead cast, which are the two casts required for the BSA Fly Fishing Merit Badge. Keith has generously committed to continue to teach the Swamp Base staff each year.
5. In the coming months, the GCC will work with the Evangeline Council of the the Boy Scouts of America to assist to establish BSA fly fishing camps utilizing the BSA Evangeline Council's facilities, staff and equipment.
6. The BSA Evangeline Council Trading Post is evaluating adding a small “fly shop” to offer rods, reels, lines, nippers, tippet material, flies, forceps, zingers, stringers and other "necessities" to the participating scouts. Thus, this endeavor would become a profit center for BSA Swamp Base, and the scouts would have the opportunity to return home with fly fishing equipment and supplies so that they may continue to fly fish at home… (F.Y.I. - Scouts who attend these camps usually bring cash with them to make such purchases.)
Our goal is that scout troops who sign up for a high adventure trip at Swamp Base will first link to their local IFFF councils and clubs for instruction on casting and tying prior to embarking on their trip to Louisiana. Thus, these scouts, their leaders and families may learn of the educational opportunities afforded by the IFFF, its councils and clubs .
This program is an ongoing commitment by the Gulf Coast Council, which we will continue as BSA Swamp Base grows. In 2014, the GCC will solicit the assistance of the International Federation of Fly Fishers and its member councils and clubs to make this into a national commitment to assist in promoting this “High Adventure” experience for scouts from across the country.
I am available to further explain this program to any Federator or club member in any IFFF Council. As always, please contact me at home: 225-343-0867 or at Bowfin47@gmail.com.
President - Gulf Coast Council
International Federation of Fly Fishers