Emma Brown (@EmmaBrownTrout on Instagram) has been fishing since she could walk.

“Well, I’d stand in the river next to my dad, anyway” she says. “I was always outdoors, always near the river.”

Emma didn’t pick up her own rod and reel until she was eight years old. Of course, it was a fly rod.

“I learned to fly fish before I learned to spin cast or anything else,” she says.

Although she had her dad for guidance, Emma largely taught herself to fly fish. Colorado’s Big Thompson River was her schoolroom.

“I learned to fly fish long before I could drive,” she said. “But the first thing I did after I got my license — on my 16th birthday — was head out to the river on my own and fly fish all by myself.”

For Emma, who’s attending the University of Colorado at Boulder, fishing is a way of life, but represents much more.

“I love it. Fly fishing is amazing,” she says. “You can take it to such beautiful places, like Rocky Mountain National Park.”

But Emma also sees her fly fishing skills as an opportunity to give back to the greater community. She works with The Greenbacks, an organization dedicated to restoring Colorado’s coldwater fisheries and protecting the state’s native trout population.

She started as a volunteer and is now working as an intern with the program.

“It’s this incredible feeling,” Emma says. “I get the opportunity to share what I love with inner city girls. When I started volunteering, I was the same age as they were. It was awesome putting a rod in their hands, teaching them to fly fish, helping them to learn about conservation and to understand all the awesome resources Colorado has to offer.”

Another organization that’s close to Emma’s heart is The Mayfly Project. The project uses fly fishing “as a catalyst to mentor children in foster care.”

“I was adopted at birth,” Emma says. “Working with the kids and teens in The Mayfly Project makes me grateful for the opportunities I have to give back to the community. It also makes me grateful for all that I have because I see that these kids are going through so much more than I am.”

Fly fishing is not the only thing Emma picked up from her father. Her dad is a firefighter, and during her first year in college, Emma completed her EMT training. Now she, too, is an EMT and firefighter with a local department.

“I guess I owe everything to my dad,” she says.

And like her dad, fly fishing is how Emma escapes from the stresses of work and school.

“Being outside and fly fishing,” she says. “It’s therapy. I get away from everything: College and the stress of the things I see and do at work.”

More than therapy, fly fishing offers something transcendental for Emma.

“In a way, it’s like playing god. You take a trout out of its habitat, and then you’re entrusted to put it back,” Emma says. “It teaches patience and gratitude.”

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