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  • Writer's pictureshelenboyes

Trout in the Classroom

Updated: Oct 22, 2020

Meet Dinah. A hometown girl from Pennsylvania and the orchestrator behind the Trout in the Classroom project in Tunkhannock, PA. I was lucky enough to meet Dinah a few years back when she contacted me, asking to use a photo of mine to re-create a piece on fly fishing for her local art class. She has continued her journey as an active member in the outdoor community, focusing on her passion for being surrounded by nature and all its resources. Dinah has been in multiple hunting TV shows, is an active fly fisherman and has put the great outdoors as a center piece in her life.

Tell us a bit about yourself?

"My name is Dinah DiMeolo, I was raised in a small town in northeastern Pennsylvania by a family exceptionally active in the great outdoors. I grew up loving every moment I could spend outside with my family, whether we were hiking, hunting, trapping, or fishing. My tomboyish streak in childhood was balanced by the girlier things I loved to do such as dance, which I did for almost 15 years until graduating high school. Many days growing up, I would often sit in the woods hunting until dark, and then go home to change for dance class in the evening. I always took pride in juggling both sides of my lifestyle (and appreciated my mom for reminding me it kept me well rounded- ha!) I spent my first summer out of high school working on a dude ranch in Dubois, WY called the CM Ranch. I had the best summer fly fishing the Wind River, and making new friends from all over the country. I’m currently in my first year studying Fisheries and Wildlife Science at Paul Smith’s College in upstate New York."

When and how did you develop a love for the outdoors?

"I can confidently say that being an outdoorsman is in my blood. I’ve had a great set of role models, and all I’ve ever wanted to do was make them proud and learn as much as I can from them. As I’ve gotten older, my interest and passion for wildlife has only grown with me. Some of my fondest memories as a kid are being out on the water fishing with my dad on our little bass boat, or sitting up in a treestand anxiously waiting to see deer. My determination in wanting to pursue a wildlife related career has led me to some really cool opportunities working alongside wildlife biologists and technicians. After I tapped into my nerdy side, I immediately knew dissecting through deer brains or pulling out elk teeth was something I could do for a lifetime. Each project only got me more excited for the next, and recollected my love for the outdoors.

What has been one of your biggest challenges so far with regards to fly fishing?

"I have a funny story to answer this question… I was recently on a trip to Belize with my family, and had the opportunity to go fly fishing for Permit one day. Joining us on the trip was my uncle Matt, who is a fantastic angler I’ve looked up to ever since I started fly fishing. Matt has fished Belize several times and offered to take me out on the boat our last day of the trip. We set out early in the morning with our guide, Mike, with the Belize Permit Club, and Matt took the bow of the boat to start off the morning. After fishing the majority of the morning, letting me watch so I could understand what was going to happen, we decided to finally swap spots. Intimidated and shy as the amateur I am, I got up on the bow and started to practice my double haul on the 10 wt rod I’ve never casted. Almost immediately, the guide looked at my uncle and said with a chuckle “She sure could wreak havoc on some Bonefish with a cast like that!” … that leads me to my point, that my biggest challenge so far has probably been gaining confidence in myself and my abilities. Even fishing out west this summer I would be intimidated to cast around a bunch of people or fish where anyone could see me. It’s something I know I have to work on!"

Recently you started a program, Brook Trout in the Classroom. Can you run us through what it’s all about and tell us what the inspiration behind it was?

"Yes! So Pennsylvania is one of the many states across the US that participates in the Trout in the Classroom program through Trout Unlimited. The program is all about connecting students with their watersheds, along with learning and appreciating water resources, understanding ecosystem connectivity and stream ecology. In November of last year, we started the program in my hometown at Tunkhannock Area High School, by receiving approximately 300 Brook Trout eggs. The goal of the project is to attempt to raise as many fingerlings as possible and then release the trout in the spring to an approved trout stream. Brook trout are very sensitive to pollution and water quality, so pH, Nitrates, water temperature, etc. were all monitored daily in hopes to keep the fish as healthy as possible. Since the survival rate of Brook Trout in the wild is almost less than 1%, I was expecting maybe a dozen fish to survive. On May 30th, I had the pleasure of releasing almost 60 Brook Trout fingerlings into Beth Run, a local trout approved creek near Tunkhannock. It was honestly one of the most emotional and empowering days of my life. My friends, family, classmates, teachers and even a local television crew joined us at the stream to capture every moment of the day."

What are you hoping to achieve with this program?

"My one and only goal for bringing this program to my school was to share what I love with as many students as possible. It was such an awesome thing to see such a great turnout of not only fish, but of students actively participating for it being our first year. Although I took care of the fish mostly on my own, it was great to bring

some students down every so often and teach them how I maintained everything in the tank, as well as explaining the growth process to some actual classes such as Zoology, Animal Science and Biology. I'm really excited to see how the program turns out this year now that I’m in college...I can only hope I taught the underclassmen well enough to have another successful year!"

What has the response been from the community and other organizations since starting the program?

"I’ve received a lot of really great, positive feedback from many people in my community since taking up TIC last year. Like I said earlier, there was a local television station called PA Outdoor Live that came to capture footage and share my story about raising the trout, so it was really neat to have that episode as a keepsake to remember that day. A couple other local newspapers reached out to me after seeing the show on TV, and asked me about the program and wanted to share my story. It’s very humbling to receive a little recognition for doing things you love."

What are your future goals/plans after graduation?

"Right now my short term goals are to get an internship in the wildlife field for this coming summer. I worked for a week last summer with the Wild Sheep Foundation at a youth camp they held in Dubois, WY, and I would love to work alongside the sheep biologists next year to help the WSF, or with another wildlife conservation group.I can definitely see myself working in wildlife conservation education someday, and/or continuing on to graduate school to pursue a researched based masters degree. Whatever direction life takes me, I know it will more than likely be west-bound, and I’ll be doing lots of fishing along the way!”

Since our first interview back in 2019, Dinah has established her own Fly Fishing Club at Paul Smith’s College.

“With campus being right on Lower St. Regis Lake and in such close proximity to so many local streams in the Adirondacks, I have high hopes that students will really enjoy being part of this club. Being a school well known for wildlife science, forestry and natural resource conservation degrees, many students share common interests with hunting and fishing. We hope to take some group trips out next fall and once the club is fully up and running- it’s been hard this semester with COVID regulations to have meetings and plan events. Luckily being a small school with only about 800 students, all our classes have still been in-person, and we were able to have a couple club meetings doing casting lessons. The goal for the upcoming spring 2021 semester is to become affiliated through the Trout Unlimited/ Costa 5 Rivers Program and have some fun tying workshops with local fly fishing shops and learn from fellow PSC professors about freshwater ecology & aquatic invertebrates.”

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