Mountain Air

Glacier Institute's Blog

Unlocking the Outdoors with Ranga Perera

Guest Blog by 2023 Intern Kaleb Ketchum

One of the highlights from GI’s summer youth programming was the Future Camp. The Future Camp, produced in conjunction with area First Peoples, was designed to get young people to start thinking forward in big and small ways–from career discussions to taking time to explore elements of character, such as gratitude and thankfulness. And of course, to go fly fishing. 

This year, GI teamed up with none other than professional chef extrondare, fly fisherman, and all-around amazing human Ranga Perera. Perera is an ambassador for Stio in addition to his primary vocation as a culinary wizard. Stio is a Wyoming based company that makes high quality apparel suited to the needs of outdoor adventure junkies, with whom Perera has been partnered with since 2019. Born in Sri Lanka, Perera is passionate about people from all backgrounds being able to access the outdoors in their own way. In the age where environmental decline is an unfortunate reality, he thinks a united effort is crucial: “These are vanishing resources, and we need all the people we can to protect them.”

Pass the Bugs Please: Jeremy Mckeen

The camp’s action started on the edge of Big Creek’s crystalline waters where Perera helped lead a lesson on macroinvertebrates and stream ecology with Lead Educator Jeremy Mckeen and Outdoor Education Specialist Joe Mckee. Campers learned to identify coldwater creepy-crawlies such as mayfly nymphs, cased caddis, and stonefly larvae. This lesson was supplemented by an introduction to the angling strategies that are used to imitate these staple trout foods. This knowledge would be tested later in the day when campers would try their luck with hook and line. 

After some casting lessons and a quick lunch, campers piled into some of GI’s buses and braved the bumpy North Fork Road to access a fishing hole on the North Fork of the Flathead River. Once the youngsters arrived at the river, they were given an important but easy-to-remember lesson on bear safety from Jeremy Mckeen and Joe Mckee. Then the excited crew headed to the river with hopes of getting their hands on one of Glacier National Park’s many treasures: the native Westslope cutthroat trout. 

The cool waters that swirled around the anglers’ ankles warded off much of the summer heat, in addition to the protection afforded by the UV resistant sun shirts provided to the campers by Stio. The campers received fishing and casting pointers on the river from Ranga, Jeremy, Joe, and Kaleb during their angling excursion. Though the sunshine made the fish a little shy, more than one camper landed their first ever trout on a fly rod with GNP’s rugged and wild terrain as a backdrop. When it was all said and done, a good number of healthy and happy cutthroat and cutthroat-rainbow hybrids were caught and released by up-and-coming fly fishers.

After a long day on the water, the campers had worked up a bison-sized appetite. Ranga, foreseeing this, quickly prepared a fantastic meal which highlighted pineapple-mint bison tacos, which were paired with a fresh homemade salsa and chips. The campers all thanked Ranga for the dinner he made, but as they demolished taco after taco, it was their silence that spoke the loudest.