Written by CalTrout Member Mark Gangi
I’m a fisherman from Glendale in Southern California, but spent every summer at Camp Gangi, our cabins in Northern Idaho at Priest Lake. We fished wherever we could, with my older brothers and uncles, and explored every body of water nearby or that we could get to.
Fishing has always been a passion. I got my first fly rod when I was 7, and the first fish I caught on it was by accident while fixing a slack on my reel while a hornberg streamer was hanging out in white water. I was lucky to grow up in a time when children were allowed to roam free and explore. When I was 9, mum would drop me off at
river and I met her on the highway in the afternoon. I fished and became a student of fish behavior. I invented spearfishing with a mask, snorkel and a small rod called a pocket fisherman where I noted how fish catch and how they behave when another is hooked. The moments without fishing were absorbed by the hobbies surrounding fishing. I learned to make fishing rods and to tie flies. My little cabin at Priest Lake was like a war room with pinned maps, bug collections, and a fly tying desk.
I am a self-taught fly fisherman. Ted Leeson wrote: “There are advantages to being self-taught; the quality of education is not one of them. Every lesson has been hard earned. When I started fishing with Randy Renick and met CalTrout, I had my first experience fishing with guides, and a whole new world of learning opened up for me and continues to open. . I met people who were totally dedicated to fly fishing and who spend 10 times more time than I spend on the water each year.
The fishing trips we take are not limited to fishing. There’s also the time we spend with Craig Ballenger and TroutCamp. He envisioned a place where you spend your time connecting to the outdoors, and it became sacred ground for me. It was an honor to be asked to design the TroutHouse as well as another cabin. The TroutHouse won a design award from the American Institute of Architects and was built from trees that were on site. It was an exhibit in my scholarship elevation application at the AIA, and I’m very proud of the work we did, and the work Craig and his team did to build it.
What I appreciate most about CalTrout is their inventiveness followed by their optimism. Their inventiveness allows them to design solutions that solve multiple problems for all the disparate interests at stake. This approach allows for progress and the ability to move the needle. CalTrout works both systematically and scientifically, Project Nigiri being a good example of this. This optimism is built from experience; a river system repairing itself when allowed to do so. We saw this firsthand from the banks of the Upper Sacramento River.
CalTrout taught me that I am not the last generation of anglers in California. I am convinced that the future holds healthy waters to explore and fish thanks to this organization.