In 2014, Costa spearheaded the TU Costa 5 Rivers Program to create fishing clubs on college campuses across the country to engage with the next generation of anglers. Today, there are 75 clubs with more than 2,500 members nationwide.
TU Costa 5 Rivers Vision: To create the most empowered, educated, and engaged generation of conservation-minded college fly anglers in history.
TU Costa 5 Rivers Values: Conservation, education, stewardship, community, fun, respect, inclusivity, growth, engagement, and leadership.
In the fly fishing world, one highly effective community building strategy is to bring a bunch of college anglers together in a little mountain town for a weekend of camping, fall fishing, good food, and small amounts of type 2 fun. 5 Rivers strives to do just that by hosting regional rendezvous events each year. At the 2022 Rocky Mountain Rendezvous, students from the Colorado State and CU Boulder 5 Rivers clubs gathered near Steamboat Springs to catch some fish, hang out with other club members, and learn more about TU’s mission.
The students rolled up their sleeves for a service project led by Ian Wilson, TU’s White and Yampa Rivers Project Manager, and spent a few hours conducting maintenance on a habitat restoration project below Stagecoach reservoir. They also visited a restoration project completed by the Yampa Valley Fly Fishers, and learned about the impact of TU’s grassroots conservation efforts in Colorado. After earning some good fish karma, they headed off to fish the Yampa and were rewarded with plenty of dry fly eats and feisty fish. While fishing, students packed out several bags of trash in an effort to leave the Yampa better than they found it. This event would not have been possible without support from Costa Sunglasses, Simms Fishing Products, and YETI Coolers, as well as Ian Wilson, the Yampa Valley Fly Fishers, and Maddie Brenneman.
We were excited to talk to an amazing student from each of these schools programs, Parker Cahill and Sofia Vakhutinsky, and ask them about their experience at the Rendezvous and TU Costa 5 Rivers.
Flylords: Would you tell me a bit about yourselves and how you got involved with 5 Rivers?
Parker Cahill: My name is Parker Cahill, I am a Colorado native and have been fly fishing all around the state since I was 12 years old. I am currently attending Colorado State University and am set to graduate in May 2023 with a Landscape Architecture degree. I joined the CSU FFC my freshman year and just recently got more involved with 5 Rivers. The rendezvous was my first big experience with 5 Rivers. It has been an awesome platform to connect with all sorts of fishy people.
Sofia Vakhutinsky: I’m a senior at the University of Colorado Boulder studying Economics and Geography. I’m originally from Boston and only started fly fishing a year and a half ago. After joining the CU Fly Fishing Club I fell in love with fly fishing, and got involved with all things 5 rivers through the club.
Flylords: What is your position at your club? How have you seen the club evolve?
Sofia: I am currently the Vice President of the club. From my relatively little experience, I would say the club was already well established, however, I think the club has become a lot more organized and inclusive as we have started to host more beginner-friendly events and trips.
Parker: I never held any executive positions within the club but was an active member for all 4 years of my college experience. Personally, I think the club has grown to be a more welcoming place that people can come to no matter their experience level. The ability to have people from all different backgrounds and different home waters is something that is evolving within the club.
Flylords: Tell us about your time at the rendezvous – what did you do? Who was there?
Sofia: I had a great time at the rendezvous. It was in a beautiful place and it was awesome to be able to meet some of the 5 Rivers people that we correspond with. A lot of the CSU fly fishing club members showed up as well, which was awesome to see, especially since we were there to clean up a section of a stream and do some trail maintenance. We got the work done efficiently so we were able to just fish the rest of the day. We also had dinner with everyone as a group that night which was a great time to share stories of the day.
Parker: My time at the rendezvous was one of the highlights of my college career. The ability to be surrounded by people you wouldn’t typically hangout with that have the same passions as you was awesome. Fly fishing, conservation work, hanging out by a campfire with fishy people, and good food just about sum up the trip. The rendezvous brought everyone together and allowed us to further connect with our own clubs. The combination of fishing and conservation work was another great feature of the trip. We had multiple opportunities to meet with leaders within the industry to further our knowledge on the critical issues faced today. We met with Ian Wilson from Trout Unlimited who led our conservation efforts for the weekend and got to interact with various other members from the community that had a vested interest in stream restoration/conservation. In addition, everyone left with some new items from the sponsors Yeti, Costa and Simms and I was lucky enough to win a Yeti Cooler.
Flylords: CSU and CU have a pretty big rivalry, Does this show on the water when the clubs get together?
Parker: A rivalry is a rivalry at the end of the day. There definitely was a competitive aspect to the weekend, but it was all in good fun. Friendly banter, and competitions were had. We had a couple competitions throughout the weekend, and from what I recall CSU won all of them… Most fish competitions and greatest club attendance were the main events. At the end of the day, we all sat by the same campfire and exchanged fishing spots near each other’s home waters, and set the rivalry aside.
Sofia: Although CSU and CU do have a pretty big rivalry, when we’re on the water together, everyone is just there to have a good time, and it’s really interesting to be able to talk to other people that are just as passionate about fly fishing as we are. Although there is a tasteful hint of slander sometimes, particularly this year it was more about whose football team sucked the most as both schools had pretty terrible seasons.
Flylords: Is there anything your club does that is interesting and unique?
Parker: I think our club is good about having events for anyone and everyone. There are multiple opportunities for people to get out on the river whether it’s the all women trip, the beginners trip led by club members or river cleanups, there really is something for everyone. In addition, we are proud to be one of 3 recipients of the TU5Rivers community grant fund. We have implemented a program titled “Take Kids Fishin’ ” that partners with the local Boys and Girls Club, to teach the kids everything about fly fishing and engages them in conservation efforts.
Sofia: I don’t have experience with any other college clubs aside from CSU, but I would say our club tries to be as beginner friendly as possible. We get so many people not from CO who want to experience the outdoors which gives us the opportunity to provide that through fly fishing. We also try to collaborate a lot with our local fly shops and give back to the community when we can.
Flylords: How have you grown from being a part of the club?
Sofia: I have definitely become a better angler, which is to be expected, but I’ve also gained confidence in my ability to help others, even when I’m not the most knowledgeable officer or member of the club. My involvement with 5 Rivers also strengthened my leadership skills, and learned that being really good at fly fishing is one thing, but showing up and being ready to help people or just help organize events really makes a difference in how people are experiencing or perceiving being part of the club.
Sofia: The club has allowed me to meet people with the same passions as me and provides me with an outlet to do what I love with some pretty awesome people. Interacting with other members has also grown my passions and reminds me why we do what we love.
Thank you to Costa Sunglasses for their dedication to the next generation of anglers and conservationists. These opportunities for students like Sofia and Parker would not be possible without their full support of TU Costa 5 Rivers since it’s inception in 2014.
Since 2012, Flylords has been a proud leader in telling the stories of anglers and guides from around the world. Through film, photography, and journalism we strive to make each story as unique as the person or place it’s based off. Our goal is simple: inspire the next generation to get outdoors and hit the water!