Nature Nerd Keith Withersteen convinces two city kids they will like nature.

Nature Nerd Keith Wintersteen convinces two city kids they will like nature.

Taking a city girl into the country can be a bit of a challenge. My 17-year-old daughter doesn’t like nature. She doesn’t like fish. And she doesn’t like the outdoors.

So why does she want to go fly fishing? Because she got a yummy taste of it at Outdoors Campus West in Rapid City, South Dakota.

Truth be told, I’m not much of a nature girl myself. I like being outdoors, but generally that means sipping a glass of wine on my front porch. Not hiking through the woods where there are birds and bugs and God only knows what else.

But a couple of hours at Outdoors Campus West and I, too, am convinced that fly fishing could be fun.

Outdoors Campus West

This beautiful, $12 million facility, opened in 2011, offers a full schedule of nature classes. Classes change quarterly. Summer offerings ranged from programs that teach preschoolers to recognize which animal made which footprint to outdoor survival classes for teens to family programs that teach everyone to canoe.

And then there’s the fly fishing class, which we tried on a gorgeous 80-degree summer morning with the sun blazing overhead.

fly fishing 1

With a little help from a friend, the author actually catches a fish.

With a little help from a friend, the author actually catches a fish.

Our guide, the funny and charming Keith Wintersteen, is a guy who clearly loves his job. He was downright giddy at having the chance to teach a bunch of city slickers to fly fish.

When he handed the poles to us, Evan, my 19-year-old, jumped up to give it a try. He quickly reeled in his first fish. Hubby Scott was next, but had less luck. Keith blamed the lure and headed inside to find a lighter one.

I offered to let Tess go next, but she demurred. So I stepped up somewhat reluctantly. Childhood memories of my few fishing forays swirled in my head. Boring hours spent watching a bobber do its bobbing thing, but rarely doing anything more.

Learning to Love Fly Fishing

But, fly fishing! It’s so much more…. everything. Involved. Interesting. Exciting (a word I never thought could be associated with fishing).

After a few practice tries, I sent that lure floating across the Outdoor Campus West pond and slowly pulled it back, the tip of my fly rod near the surface of the water, just as Keith taught me. The lure danced along the top of the water, just like the fly it was designed to imitate. And–yes–a fish was following it.

I reeled in that rainbow trout, Keith and my family cheering me on. OK–that tiny trout didn’t exactly put up a fight, but catching it was nevertheless satisfying. I did feel a little bad, though, that the fish had swallowed the hook so deeply that it appeared he wasn’t going to survive, which is part of the point of this catch-and-release program.

“It happens,” Keith said in an attempt to assuage my feelings. “When it does, we do a quick a ‘clean and cook’ class.”

Fortunately, after a few stunned moments, my trout flipped back over and swam away.

Free Classes

A proud family shows off a first catch.

A proud family shows off a first catch.

Unlike that trout, I may be permanently hooked on fishing. And that’s exactly the point of Outdoors Campus West. Fishing and hunting enthusiasts tax themselves as a way to ensure future generations are just as excited about nature as they are.

The free classes–that’s right, all of the classes at Outdoor Campus West are free, although a few of the adult programs charge a small materials fee–are offered throughout the year and change by quarter. Check the website for the latest and if you know you’ll be in the area and want to give your kids a little nature lesson before heading off on a big adventure, register for the classes you want. They tend to fill up, especially in the summer.