“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s
peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.
The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms
their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”

— John Muir

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The mission of Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve is to advance New York’s ‘Forever Wild’ legacy and Forest Preserve policies in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks, and promote public and private land stewardship that is consistent with wild land values through education, advocacy and research.


ARTICLES
You got It!

Engaging Students: Adirondack Wild Engages with
Students from Green Tech Charter High School in Albany

Trout on the Line
by David Gibson, Partner

Dan Plumley introduces fly fishing at Marcy Field
©2011 Susan Bibeau/Adirondack Explorer

Dan Plumley introduces fly fishing at Marcy Field
©2011 Susan Bibeau/Adirondack Explorer
brother_yusuf
Brother Yusuf ©2011 David Gibson
yusuf_students
Brother Yusuf and Green Tech students ©2011 David Gibson
©2011 Susan Bibeau/Adirondack Explorer
Dan teaching on the West Branch
©2011 Susan Bibeau/Adirondack Explorer
Tying the fly, West Branch Ausable
©2011 Susan Bibeau/Adirondack Explorer
"You Got It" ©2011 David Gibson

What follows is a story of some young men from Albany learning to fly fish on the West Branch of the Ausable River who for the first time experience the pull of the river, its rocks and pools, a trout on the line, and in their hands. I start with some background.

When Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve organized one year ago, we decided to seek out non-traditional allies and educational partners in our efforts to broaden aware, informed support for wild nature. One of those partners is Brother Yusuf Burgess of Albany.

For many years, Brother Yusuf has been helping young urban youth to discover discipline, teamwork, self-awareness and self-worth in the great outdoors. As often as time and funds allow, Yusuf brings youth from Albany to the Adirondacks, Catskills, Hudson Valley and beyond to learn outdoor skills such as boat-building, fishing, skiing, camping. He understands young people and the streets. He has walked their walk. A former counselor at the Albany Boys and Girls Clubs, Yusuf is employed as Family Intervention Specialist with Green Tech Charter High School. He is an experienced kayaker and fisherman, founder of the Environmental Awareness Network for Diversity in Conservation, and is also New York’s representative on the Children and Nature Network. For several years, Yusuf worked for the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation to recruit more children and families of color into DEC’s Summer Campership program. His successful efforts to create teen “eco-clubs” in urban America have been noticed at home and internationally, and he is widely sought as a speaker. Some of the young men and women whom Yusuf influenced have gone on to professional careers, and some have returned to help Yusuf mentor today’s teens.

Yusuf and his students are featured in the acclaimed 2010 documentary film, Mother Nature’s Child (Fuzzy Slippers Productions, Burlington, VT), which explores nature’s powerful role in children’s health and development. To quote from the film’s promotional materials, “The film marks a moment in time when a living generation can still recall childhoods of free play outdoors; this will not be true for most children growing up today.” For more, go to www.mothernaturesmovie.com.

Recently, Yusuf brought six young men from Albany’s Green Tech Charter High School to learn fly fishing from Adirondack Wild’s Dan Plumley, to apply what they learn on the West Branch of the Ausable River, and to camp out at Dan’s oak grove in Keene, the Adirondack High Peaks Region. Yusuf had each boy equipped with fly rod, poncho, and camping gear. Dan worked tirelessly to improve their casting technique, where the thumb and tip of the rod work together to drop the fly where it wants to be – right where the hatch is rising and the fish biting. Few other sports require the wrist and shoulder to be so still. Slowly, with Dan’s careful guidance some of them got the feel for it.

On the river, Dan explained about the Forest Preserve and its significance, and taught the boys that this particular section of the West Branch was a “no kill” conservation area, where fish are “catch and release” only. He showed them how to tie a fly, how to hold the hook to avoid being punctured, and how to read the river for the best places to fish.

One boy got in the waders, took Dan’s favorite rod, and immersed himself in the life of the West Branch. Completely absorbed, he moved upriver to an unoccupied pool, casting by himself. About 2 pm, we heard him. He had a trout on his line! His friends joined him as he unhooked a nice brown trout, proudly held it for the cameras, and released it. This was one of many special moments where these young men exchanged self-consciousness for independence as they explored a completely new and challenging outdoor world.

As other fishers left a pool unoccupied, Dan moved the group to that very spot and found that within minutes the trout were rising to a hatch, perhaps the black flies which were beginning to harass us on the bank. Dan positioned the young men for success, but their casts were just falling short of the constantly rising fish. Finally, Dan took his rod and practice-cast upstream, and then dropped the fly perfectly. After several attempts, he had a trout on the line. He called for one the boys to bring it in slowly and very soon in their hands was a handsome, small brook trout which tolerated a photo-shoot, and then shot from their hands back into the river: a magical conclusion to the afternoon’s “edventure,” a term Yusuf uses frequently.

Back at their camp in Dan’s oak grove, the boys settled in to tend and watch their camp fire, joke and laugh, and also to think on the day and what they had accomplished. “I am thinking about how far I am from home right now,” said one young man very quietly as he stared into the fire’s light. I knew he was not merely referring to road miles, but to inner miles. Next morning, Dan asked another about his overnight experience. “It was my first time camping, and it was extremely fun!”

It is remarkable to see how Yusuf works with these young men who, without the guidance and opportunities for growth he provides, might easily fall under many negative influences close to their homes. Yusuf participates in their camaraderie, knows these young men, and knows how to bring out their best qualities, put them to work, and to earn their respect. I am pleased we are playing a small role in Yusuf’s determined campaign to transform the lives of several generations of urban youth through exposure to nature in the wild Adirondacks.


Note: Many thanks to Susan Bibeau and Adirondack Explorer for the wonderful photographs.

Posted 07/05/11
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2016
04/20/15 Engaging Students with their Teachers
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2015
04/20/15 Celebrating Earth Day in the Adirondacks
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08/18/14 Expedition Learns Where Wilderness Preservation Began read more >
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06/11/12 Students Visit a Wilderness Retreat; Discuss Why Wilderness Matters read more >
05/03/12 Fifty Years of Caring for the Upper Hudson River read more >

2011
10/28/11 St. Lawrence University’s Adirondack Semester read more >


07/05/11 Trout on the Line read more >
02/10/11 From the classroom to the Park with Green Tech School read more >
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11/22/10 Engaging Students: Adirondack Wild works with Pace University Law Seminar read more >

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The mission of Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve is to advance New York’s ‘Forever Wild’ legacy and Forest Preserve policies in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks, and promote public and private land stewardship that is consistent with wild land values through education, advocacy and research.

Top left, Trail Head; Stewardship banner image, Pace Law Students; Links banner image, St. Regis hike © Ken Rimany

ADIRONDACK PARK REGIONAL
Peter Brinkley, Honorary Chair
pbrinkley@frontiernet.net
Daniel R. Plumley, Partner
dplumley@adirondackwild.org
Home Office: 518.576.9277
David H. Gibson, Partner
dgibson@adirondackwild.org
Mobile: 518.469.4081
Kenneth J. Rimany, Partner
krimany@adirondackwild.org

Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve    Founded 1945   PO Box 9247 • Niskayuna New York 12309 | ©