Emily McLean has been in the sports pages before. She’ll be a senior at Lawrence High School in the fall, and she’s a starter on the softball and field hockey teams.

When she talks about fishing, though, she’s talking about her passion. She speaks more quickly, her eyes get bigger, her sentences get longer. It’s been like that since she started fishing at age 4 or 5.

“We used to have a camp on Pattee’s Pond, and we used to ice fish every weekend,” McLean said. “I just loved catching fish. It wasn’t necessarily catching the fish; it was the surprise of what you’re going to catch each time. So my dad just really lured me right into that.”

So when a family friend named Jeremy Caron told McLean about the Maine Trout Unlimited Trout Camp, McLean was immediately interested. The camp was held last week at Evergreens Campground in Solon and was open to applications for students ages 13 to 17. Each student needed to apply with an essay and a teacher recommendation. The deadline for submitting the application was April 15. McLean sent out her packet in mid-March.

“My grandfather, John McLean, he had given me his fly rod, thinking I knew exactly what I was going to do with it,” Emily said. “He bought this fly rod, but he thought that I would end up teaching him. I told him, ‘I have no idea.’ I thought this would be a great opportunity to go and learn, because nobody in my family has ever really fly fished before.”

Shortly after the application deadline, McLean learned she was one of the 12 students selected. About half were from Maine, but there were also campers from California, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

For a self-described outdoorsy girl like McLean, this was nirvana. Fishing in the morning, seminars from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and more fishing at night. McLean enjoyed herself so much she never missed her cellphone.

“I didn’t even have time to think about anything else,” she said. “This schedule is filled. We woke up at 5 every day, and we fished. You can either fish until 7, because breakfast was at 7 every morning, or you could fish until 6:30, go take a shower, and then go to breakfast. Most of us fished right until 7, because that’s what we came for, is to fish. Later that night, we would fish right after supper — people would just shovel down their supper because we wanted to go fish. Then we’d fish until dark.”

As McLean told her grandfather, she didn’t know anything about fly fishing before attending the camp. By the end of the week, she brought home about a few dozen flies she tied herself.

“I was just so shocked that there is so much to know,” she said. “It’s really such an art and a sport, combined. You have to know where the trout are hiding, so that you can cast that way, or let the line float downstream so it can hit all these spots. There are so many things that you needed to learn, (like) what fish bite what flies. We also learned how to tie flies, which everyone was so hooked on, because it’s so arts and crafty.

“Every day, we had to fish with a Maine guide. How much do Maine guides cost? Like 200 bucks, maybe? I got to fish with a different guide every single day, learning new skills, and ways that they thought were better fishing.”

McLean didn’t realize until just before leaving for the week that she would be the only girl at the camp. She said it was never an issue.

“Being there, I don’t even know. It was like the best thing of my life, and I’ll never forget it — just because it not only taught me how to fly fish, but it taught me so many life lessons other than fly fishing,” she said. “Like when you build friendships fly fishing, they last forever. Being with those 11 other boys, each kid had a different sense of humor. It was just awesome to laugh with them the entire time. I don’t think I didn’t laugh one minute being there.”

For a while, the laughing was at McLean’s expense. She caught four fish during the week, but she was the last camper to catch a fish.

“I ended up catching four chub,” McLean said. “I thought I was going to get skunked the whole week, because I didn’t end up catching a fish until the third day. There was this funny thing. We were all eating lunch, and I had a coffee. I had poured my sugar in, and all I had was a knife. They’re like, ‘You can’t stir with that knife, because then you’re gonna be cursed.’ I ended up stirring with that knife the first day. After that, I didn’t catch a fish for three days. I was like, ‘Oh my God. It must be the knife. The knife cursed me.’ I was the only one who didn’t catch a fish that whole time, but then that third day, I started catching fish.”

McLean plans to teach her grandparents how to fly fish, and she’ll stay in touch with the other campers. Further down the line, she plans on staying in nature.

“For the longest time, I planned on going to Unity College, and just being outdoors,” McLean said. “But I’m also a CNA now, so I was thinking about going into more nursing. This woman came in (at the camp), and told us that we could sign up to help them. I think you would fish, and then you would report to them what you caught in that area. So I think that I might sign up for that. If I’m going to be a CNA, I definitely have to do something with fishing now.”

McLean also plans on convincing as many people as she can to try the camp for themselves. Each camper had to fill out an evaluation sheet at the end of the week, and when McLean got to the question about how she would improve the camp, she wrote, “Make it longer.”

“Just two more days, it would be awesome,” she said. “There was literally nothing else I would change. It was the best thing in my life. I would do it a hundred more times if I could. I just want to tell so many people about it, because it’s such a good experience to not have your phone for a week, and just go learn about nature. It was the best thing ever.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

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Twitter: @Matt_DiFilippo