Written by Mark Gangi, CalTrout member
I am an angler from Glendale in Southern California, but I spent every summer at Camp Gangi, our cabins in Idaho’s northern panhandle at Priest Lake. We fished everywhere we could, with my older brothers and my uncles, and explored every piece of water we were near or could travel 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 repairing a backlash on my reel as a hornberg streamer dragged in the white water. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a time where kids were allowed to roam free and explore. At 9 years old, mom would drop me off at the
river and I would meet her back at the highway in the afternoon. I fished and became a student of fish behavior. I invented underwater fishing with a mask, snorkel, and a small rod called a pocket fisherman where I noted how fish take, and how they behave when another is hooked. Times not fishing were absorbed in the hobbies surrounding fishing. I learned how to build rods, and tie flies. My little out cabin in Priest Lake looked like a war room with pinned maps, insect collections and fly-tying desk.
I am a self-taught fly fisherman. Ted Leeson wrote “There are advantages to being self-taught; the quality of instruction is not one of them.” Every lesson was hard won. When I started fishing with Randy Renick and met CalTrout, I had my first experience fishing with guides, and a new world of learning opened to me and continues to. I met people who were totally dedicated to fly fishing and spend 10x the amount of time I get each year on the water.
The fishing trips we take are about more than the fishing. There is also the time we get to spend with Craig Ballenger, and the TroutCamp. He envisioned a place where you spend your time connecting to the outdoors, and it has become sacred ground to me. It was an honor to be invited to design the TroutHouse as well as another cabin there. 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 application for elevation to fellowship at AIA, and I am very proud of the work that we did, as well as the work that Craig and his team did building it.
What I appreciate most about CalTrout is their inventiveness followed by their optimism. Their inventiveness allows them to conceive of solutions that solve multiple problems for all the disparate interests involved. This approach allows progress and the ability to move the needle. CalTrout operates both systematically and scientifically, the Nigiri Project is a good example of this. This optimism is built from experience; a river system repairing itself when allowed to. We’ve seen this firsthand from the banks of the Upper Sacramento River.
CalTrout taught me that I’m not the last generation of angler in California. I’m confident the future holds healthy waters to explore and fish to pursue because of this organization.
Thank you for the wonderful article about a fascinating fisherman and great supporter of CalTrout.
I hope to meet Mark one day. My kinda guy!